Equip Yourself for Horse Buying Success The vast majority of amateur equestrians rely on their trainer or horse sales agent. Find out what to do before the pre-purchase exam to protect yourself.

Equip Yourself for Horse Buying Success

Before the Pre-Purchase Examination

 

by Robyn Ranke, Esq.

What are your expectations when you are buying a horse? Are you relying solely on the opinions of those advising you to reach your decision to buy? The vast majority of amateur equestrians rely blindly on their horse trainer or horse sales agent.

As attorneys, we encourage horse buyers to embrace the pre-purchase examination with eyes wide open, in order to consider factors beyond your advisor’s opinions.

Considering these factors allows a common sense approach to the decision-making process much like that of buying a house or a car.

 

Horse buyer protections

Be aware, the difficulty with a horse transaction is there is no statutory law that exists specifically to protect the buyer in a horse sales transaction.

By comparison, there are specific statutory laws enacted to protect buyers in real estate and automobile transactions. In general, these statutory laws were enacted to protect buyers from fraud, nondisclosure, and hidden defects. Additionally, the laws set forth provisions such as fiduciary responsibilities, the seller’s written disclosure statement, buyer’s rights and remedies, and the like. We don’t see that with horse sales transactions (with the exception of the dual agent statute which mandates a written bill of sale and commission disclosures, however, the statute is limited in scope and not exhaustive. California & Prof. Code section 19525)

Crucial to your understanding is at the time of the pre-purchase examination the prior history of the horse, medical history, and other factors, are not considered. Rather, the exam is a “snapshot” of the horse’s condition on that day — at the time the exam is being performed.

The veterinarian’s objective is only to identify current factors that affect, or may affect, the soundness for the horse buyer’s intended use. So a buyer needs to ask themselves what does this mean exactly to my ultimate decision to purchase the horse? Consider if your pre-purchase veterinarian was equipped with the horse’s prior medical history your veterinarian’s opinions and findings of the horse’s suitability for your intended use may change – without which the opinions and findings are limited. By analogy, if the foundation of the house is cracked and goes undisclosed, you, the buyer, are making a decision to purchase based on a solid foundation.

As attorneys, we view the case after-the-fact – after a horse is purchased and turns up lame. We legally dissect the horse sales transaction in reverse. Buyers should get thoroughly informed about what additional information to ask for before you make a decision to purchase.

Unfortunately, experience has taught us that a common practice in the industry is to mask the truth of the horse’s prior history of lameness, prior injury, or medical condition with half-truths about the horse’s more ‘current’ suitability, performance, and soundness.

You, the buyer, have a right to make an informed buying decision. How does the buyer get informed other than through their hired professional?

The quandary is if your hired professional is not crystal clear with you about the process or what they find during the process, or what they actually know, then how can you, the buyer, make an “informed decision” about whether to buy or not? In fact, you, the buyer, are relying upon the hired professional to do their job and leave no stone unturned in the process.

Here’s what your horse sales agent or trainer is getting that 15% commission to do at a minimum. Are they earning it?

 

Before the pre-purchase vet exam

Although not exhaustive, here are things you, as a horse buyer, should consider before ordering that pre-purchase veterinary exam. 

•The American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) has not adopted a uniform standard of practice for equine veterinarians when conducting a pre-purchase exam. This means veterinarians perform the exam with clinical and diagnostic procedures according to their own protocol. Therefore, no one veterinarian performs the exam exactly like another;

The pre-purchase exam is but a “snapshot” of the horse on that day at that time the exam is being performed.

What does this mean exactly for you, the buyer? The horse is good today when the pre-purchase exam is done, although it isn’t a guarantee of soundness or what tomorrow will bring.

•It is not up to the veterinarian to ‘pass’ or ‘fail’ a horse (this is a red flag) but to identify current factors affecting soundness for the horse’s intended use.

•Prior written medical history from seller or seller’s agent is typically never asked for or considered.

•Prior pre-purchase records and radiographs are typically never asked for or considered.

A pre-purchase exam offers a snapshot in time.

•Prior equine insurance records on the horse to consider policy exclusions is typically never asked for or considered.

•Equine insurance carriers do not share medical coverage information or prior claims with one another when a horse owner changes insurance carriers.

•A copy of the horse’s show record is typically never requested. And even when the show record is obtained, a thorough analysis of the show record is often not done.

•The horse buyer in many instances is not present during the examination. Is this blind trust in your hired professional to leave no stone unturned?

If your hired professional is not crystal clear with you about the horse buying process or what they find during the process, or what they actually know, then how can you, the buyer, make an “informed decision” about whether to buy or not?

In fact, you, the buyer, are relying upon the hired professional to do their job and leave no stone unturned in the process.

Here’s what your horse sales agent or trainer is getting that 15% commission to do at a minimum. Are they earning it?

 

Before buying a horse

When buying a horse, it is advisable to request and obtain the following before you make an offer to buy:

•Prior written medical history

•Prior prepurchase exam records and radiographs

•Equine Insurance Records, Claims and Policy Exclusions

•Show Records

•Registration Papers (confirm age, identity, and breeding)

•Written Disclosure Statement signed by Seller and Seller’s Agent

Clear ethics conflicts with your pre-purchase veterinarian.

You should ultimately select the veterinarian rather than your advisor. When in doubt, ask for multiple recommendations.

•Discuss with your veterinarian before the exam in detail what the examination will encompass and what recommended procedures are available that they may not be performing

Any veterinarian that works for or with your horse trainer or sales agent must disclose their relationship to you. 

•Pre-purchase drug screen and test results

•Be present during the vet examination

•Discuss with your veterinarian their findings in private. 

•Don’t be afraid to ask questions or request further information about your veterinarian’s findings, regardless of who’s involved in the transaction.

This list of information, alone, is not exhaustive of the pre-purchase examination process conducted by your veterinarian. However, is information that, if available, places you, the buyer, in a much better position to make an informed decision and can make or break the sale.
Your veterinarian should consider this information in conjunction with their own clinical and diagnostic findings and opinions because equipped with the horse’s prior history, your veterinarian’s opinions and findings may, in fact, change.
This article was updated April 2018

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