The selling process was interesting. We were lucky enough to sell Willo to only the 2nd person to view – possibly due to the fact that he was advertised at a very reasonable price given his ability and jumping record, because he was not anyone’s ride, and the right home really was most important. The first to view was a complete mismatch; they say horses choose their riders and Willo was certainly not a happy bunny! He behaved very well, but just didn’t perform for her; he was very behind the leg, and unhappy in his mouth where he wasn’t getting a very still and constant contact. I quickly advised them that this combination would not work, and they left before we even put any fences up.
The second was a Hampshire based male show producer who had won HOYS 3 times. Willo being a showjumper and an eventer, this was a shock to say the least! He assured me that Willo’s jumping talents wouldn’t be wasted as they could always do Workers with him too. I was a little unsure not knowing anything at all about the discipline, but one thing was sure; at least he’d be going to a home where he’d need to be in tiptop condition, and these people would have to know their stuff.
They came to see Willo, on a horrible evening where it was blowing a gale and peeing it down! He never actually rode him, but watched me ride him instead, looking carefully at his movement and paces. He didn’t put a foot wrong, not so much as a spook, and there aren’t many horses who would have been so good in those conditions! The prospective buyer inspected him thoroughly from head to toe, and pointed out a slight ‘capped hock’ which he said he could get treated for £3-400. He liked him very much and we negotiated a deal, and after some to-ing and fro-ing, we agreed that we would deliver Willo on Sunday; at least this would give us the chance to see Willo in his new home and make sure he was ok. We did so, and he was put in his new stable and seemed to settle instantly with plenty of other horses around him. The new owners said we could go and see him compete, and he would be out in the next few weeks with a view to qualifying for HOYS. I wasn’t sad, surprisingly, just pleased that Willo would have a new career and we even potentially go and see him at HOYS! Everything had all gone very smoothly really.
Then it all went downhill...the following day I received a call from this person, saying the horse had failed a vetting on hind flexions, and he wanted to bring him back that evening. Firstly I was shocked, as Willo had been a very sound horse whilst we had him and I couldn’t understand there being anything wrong, (although not beyond the realms of possibility given he was nearly 11 and had been jumped heavily most of his life) and secondly, why was he going to bring him back? We had completed the sale, so how was this possible? I spoke to the vet keen to find out what had happened; she confirmed he failed hind flexions and was showing 1/10th lame. She advised it could’ve been that he was feeling a hock, or it could have been to do with the fact that he was very puffy on all 4 legs – something that had come about as a result of having been out 24/7 with us since the start of May, and then changing to 24 hours in a stable. Without further investigation it was impossible to say.
This person continued to call and text, asking when he could bring Willo back. At this point, I said no. The horse was sold as seen, as per the receipt I had written him, not subject to vetting; he had even pointed out that he was imperfect and had a capped hock! Whilst I was sorry about the situation, I had no idea that he would fail a vetting, and it was up to him to have him vetted prior to purchase – something that a professional should have been well aware of. He insisted that he needed a 5 stage vetting for his insurance, and the horse was no good to him, and whilst I felt for Willo, if I refunded his money, I was then left trying to sell a horse with a failed vetting...extremely difficult in the current climate. After many texts and calls, and even threatening to bring the horse back regardless and take me to court, or charging me livery for the duration of Willo’s stay, I sought advice from a solicitor, who confirmed this person had no grounds to reject the horse, I had made no false statements about him and even stated the he was open to any vetting, and the onus was on him to have this done or not. I emailed a formal letter to his person explaining everything, and have since heard no more.
My learnings from this awful situation? Never bow to pressure; he bombarded me with texts and calls, told me I was dishonest and had agreed that sale was subject to vet, and threatened to take me to court, report me to BE, BD, BS etc as well as bringing the horse back and leaving him on my yard. These bullying tactics didn’t work, I knew I had a clear conscience, evidence to prove it, and my solicitor has confirmed that he had no grounds for complaint. It may not be over yet, but if needs be I will go to court over it, out of principle if nothing else.
Secondly, I am just shocked and appalled that someone who is supposed to a professional in the industry could act in such a way. I assumed that given his standing he must be reputable and trustworthy. Unfortunately this has not proved to be the case. I would never take for granted in future that just because someone was a so called ‘professional,’ it meant they would conduct business in a professional manner. Always get copies of everything, including receipts, and ensure everyone is in no doubt about decisions taken on vetting; document that the buyer declined to have the horse examined by a vet.
Thirdly, my only reticence about the situation is for poor Willo. What does the future hold for him now? Has the buyer decided he can still do his showing without having that level of insurance, or will he sell him on? In an ideal world I would have taken Willo back to safeguard his future, but in reality, I just couldn’t take him back knowing I’d then have to sell with a failed vetting certificate, and his value would be significantly less. My budget towards a new horse is already very limited, but this would have made things impossible! If money was no object I'd have him back in a second. The term caveat emptor means buyer beware, but from my experience, I would also like to say sellers beware; really make sure you do all you can to vet the buyer, don’t be afraid to get references, and never take for granted the fact that they will be going to a good home. I really hope that Willo will still be able to go on to do his showing, and make a success of it, so I will be keeping my eyes and ears peeled. Here's hoping the buying process is less traumatic than the selling has been too...