A North Carolina dressage trainer is accused of selling his client a dangerous and unrideable mount instead of the investment horse she thought she purchased. Plaintiff Ann Reilly, Ph.D. is seeking monetary damages in excess of $250,000.
Reilly is suing her former trainer, Jules Nyssen, in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia alleging fraud, misrepresentation, breach of contract, and breach of fiduciary duty. The horse’s actual owner, Jennifer Brinkley, is named as a co-defendant. Brinkley also owns, Stonegate Farm, the same facility where Nyssen operates his sales and training operation, Jules Nyssen Dressage.
The filing states Reilly told Nyssen she wanted to spend $30,000 on a horse she could sell for a quick profit. Reilly had confidence in Nyssen as she shopped with him in 2009 which lead to a successful purchase of a horse for $180,000.
In 2012, the trainer encouraged Reilly to purchase the seven-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding named Ascari. Nyssen allegedly told her the unconfirmed 4th Level horse was worth $150,000, but was underpriced at $60,000, because the horse was being sold by the owner’s estate after his death.
Nyssen assured Reilly of having extensive knowledge of the horse. He reportedly brokered the original deal for Ascari back in 2010, when the horse was imported to the U.S. Additionally, he was the trainer of the equine for two years.
Reilly traveled to see the horse, but when asked about riding the gelding, Nyssen purportedly told her “there was no need for her to ride him, he was fine.”
Nyssen also handled the pre-purchase exam for Reilly, but reportedly failed to ride the horse for the veterinarian and have blood pulled, per her request.
Reilly wired $60,000 to Nyssen’s bank account, but never received a Bill of Sale. Court documents state Nyssen gave Brinkley, the alleged owner of Ascari, a payment of $30,000 – meaning the horse was not priced at $60,000, as Nyssen claimed.
Unaware of any issues that would prevent an ethical sale, Reilly had Nyssen put Ascari back on the market. Nyssen allegedly called Reilly and said a 16-year-old boy was coming to look at dressage horses and if the teen looked at Ascari he would be priced at $125,000.
About two weeks after purchasing the horse, Reilly arrived at Stonegate Farm with her horses to train. Reilly states she was greeted by a groom named Jesus, who told her that Ascari was “loco,” according to the complaint. The horse “flipped over backwards when he and Nyssen were attempting to get Ascari in the wash stall, and hurt himself.”
Nyssen reportedly did not disclose the accident to Reilly.
Four days later, Nyssen told Reilly for the first time, after she bought the horse, that Ascari was “mentally unstable.”
“… approximately seven days later Nyssen informed Reilly that Ascari had a ‘mean buck’ and bolting tendency where he frequently would rear straight up and leap in the air then buck. Nyssen also informed Reilly that Ascari may be an unstoppable runaway horse.”
Reilly soon removed her horses from Nyssen’s training program, including Ascari.
Ascari was retired in October 2012 after he was deemed too dangerous to ride after evaluation by Dr. Stephen Soule. He opined the horse’s pain is due to a spinal condition that developed at least a year prior to Reilly’s purchase. Dr. Soule rechecked the horse in September 2014 and stated “after over 2 years of rest, since there has been no improvement in ‘Ascari’s’ spinal injuries he is not safe to be ridden and must be permanently retired.”
Reilly states she unsuccessfully tried to resolve the matter with the defendants before bringing suit in federal court.
The defendants are asking the court to dismiss Reilly’s amended complaint. They allege the court does not have personal jurisdiction over them since they are North Carolina residents. Nyssen and Brinkley also contend the plaintiff failed to state a valid claim.
Ascari was shown three times, all by Nyssen, in November 2010; December 2010; and March 2011. The horse was only competed at Training and 1st Level.