Selling a horse in this economy can be tough and you may not be quick to receive any offers upon putting a horse up for sale. Regardless of the reason for selling, whether you cannot afford the horse anymore, you've lost interest in riding, your child has outgrown their pony, or it's simply your career to train and flip horses, there are many factors to consider before putting a horse up on the market.
Oftentimes, you'll find that potential buyers are interested in buying your horse under one condition: they can have a trial period. A trial is a period of time where the potential buyer takes the horse on a "trial" to their barn to see whether or not it's a good match. The financial details vary from case to case but usually there is a refundable deposit put down on the horse for the full asking price that will be returned upon the horse's return. Trial periods can become very complicated and it's important to think long and hard about the risks associated with trials. If you decide that a trial is okay, then it's important to involve a lawyer who has experience with equine law to help you work out the details regarding the contract and finances.
The agreement between you (as the seller) and the buyer should limit your liability, and hers, to the selling value of the horse. Many things can happen in a few weeks' time – for example, if a horse becomes injured or, worse case scenario, colics and dies, incidents such as these should be covered in the contract drawn up by you and your lawyer.
Some things to consider include the horse’s age, the level of training the horse has, the distance from you he will be going, the level of experience the buyer has and the availability of references. As the seller of a horse, allowing the buyer to take possession of the horse for a two week period may make it easier to close the sale but it obviously holds potential risks, as mentioned above. If you're uncomfortable with the idea of the horse being taken out from under your care, another option would be for the buyers to do a trial period on your property where they are welcome to come out and ride for the horse any time they want. This is more comparable to a half-board or lease agreement, where the potential buyer would pay a certain amount of money, whether it's half or full board, in exchange for riding time.
There are pros and cons to letting a horse go out on a trial period and it's important to outweigh both before making a decision.