For whatever reason, you’ve come to the conclusion that your horse needs to go. He’s fancy enough to pack around the A circuit or be an upper-level contender one day, so instead of trying to highlight his talents and campaign him yourself, you’ve chosen the route of handing over the reins to a professional.
There are a lot of reasons why selling your horse via consignment at a show or sales barn, or with a reputable trainer, makes sense. For one, a professional can play up your horse’s talents with their own expertise in the show ring. Their reputation can cast a wide net when it comes to attracting buyers. But consigning a horse can be involved and expensive. In some ways, sellers have to be willing to give away some of their rights as the horse owner, and of course pay additional fees (usually a percentage) for the services.
Here’s what you need to know about the consignment process before deciding whether it’s right for your situation.
How it works: When you decide to consign a horse, you are hiring a trainer, or a sales barn, to market and sell your horse. An owner and trainer will usually sign a legally-binding contract which should outline what that team or person is actively doing for your horse during the sale period. Some farms charge full board and training or a flat training board, on top of a standard 10 percent or more commission fee. Some trainers may offer a sale guarantee to have the horse sold within a specific time frame (say 90 days) or they will refund some money paid up front for their services. Other farm businesses may offer different tiers of care or consign amenities. Ultimately it is up to the seller to vet and decide which type of program is best suited to their budget and the horse’s needs.
Why it works: This business model can be a lucrative one for trainers who have the time to dedicate to a handful or slew of temporary sale horses. For amateur riders, think of consignment sales as a way to get the best possible performance out of your horse to attract the right kind of serious buyers. It can be difficult for junior and amateur owners (or even professionals, let’s be honest) to have the proper funding and time set aside to market the horse online with advertisements and videos, schedule times to show the horse to multiple prospective buyers and compete across circuits for results and added exposure. Consignment is one way to pay for the convenience of having a professional do the work for you.
Some unconventional perks: Some trainers say they’ll offer discounted rates if the seller is willing to pay for current X-rays and a standard vet check to have on file for the trainer to share with prospective buyers. This avoids any “unpleasant surprises” at the last minute, and gives the trainer a full picture of the horse they’re selling for you. Other trainers will absorb the extra expenses of showing, and routine care (like vet and farrier appointments or even travel costs) into their commission rate or as outlined in the contract. But plenty of others require that the seller pay those fees in addition to a commission and/or board.
Where it can get funky: As with anything else that involves horses, there is some risk involved with consignment agreements. There have been documented and prosecuted cases of fraud where trainers have purposely sold a consignment horse for more money than the owner knew about. Laws for this kind of fraudulent activity vary by state, but the rules are more strict in places like Florida and Kentucky, where horses more frequently sell for larger sums of money. Some trainers will agree with an owner to sell a horse for a specific price, but reserve the right to sell it for more than that and can pocket any additional funds made in that arrangement. For example, say a trainer agrees to sell a made A-show hunter horse for $30,000 per a contract with the owner. However, the trainer secures a buyer for $45,000, and is able to pocket the additional sum above the agreed upon price (sometimes in addition to a commission). It’s also worth noting that there are usually other paid parties involved: a buyer could be using an agent to help find suitable horses for sale, who will also make a commission on a sale.
Owners who are considering consignment as a way to sell their horse should have a good understanding of their contract (perhaps by having an attorney look over it with them) and feel like they can trust the trainer they are working with. It’s also important to note that the owner should feel like the trainer will have the best interest of their horse in mind during this period. Owners could request or pay for a few training rides before entering into any binding sales agreement to make sure the trainer and horse are a good fit for one another.