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Another Sale Tale of Woe

By Cindy Hale

Friday, September 24, 2010

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Remember the story about the woman who fraudulently misrepresented horses she sold to online buyers? I heard yesterday from an acquaintance who shared their version of a horse deal gone wrong. Since it ultimately provides wise advice to future horse shoppers, I thought I’d share some of the details. Naturally I’m going to change a few names to protect the innocent… and those currently facing both criminal and civil charges in court.

My pal Carlos put his wife’s show hunter, Sparky, up for sale because she graduated to a more competitive division where the jumps are too high for Sparky. Unfortunately, the market is bad and Sparky doesn’t sell for several months, despite some well-crafted online ads. But a horsewoman from upstate (we’ll call her “Mary”), contacts Carlos and says she operates a consignment barn. For a flat fee, she’ll board Sparky as well as keep him groomed, professionally tuned-up, and also promote him to buyers. In return, when Sparky sells, she’ll take 10-percent of the selling price as a commission. Carlos figures he’s got nothing to lose, so Sparky hops on a van and gets shipped to the sales barn.

A few weeks go by and Mary contacts Carlos—who’s been paying that agreed upon monthly fee on time—and claims she has a buyer: a nice young gal who’d provide a good home. Carlos does the happy dance. But alas, even though Sparky passes the pre-purchase exam, the family finds it cannot muster up the full price. So Carlos comes down on Sparky’s price, feeling that horse is going to a good home.

When no money arrives, Carlos begins questioning Mary. She says there’s a hitch. Now the girl’s family wants reimbursement for the $1,000 vet exam because they’re still short on cash due to some unforeseen expenditures. Carlos, unfortunately, has gone out and purchased his wife a new horse, so he has no choice but to groan and take yet another reduction in Sparky’s price.

More time goes by, though, and still no money arrives. Now Carlos is beginning to get concerned. He demands a bill of sale, contact info on the buyer, and money. Tomorrow. Like via FedEx. Mary says that’s on its way. But several days later, well, you guessed it: No moolah.

Mary literally claims “the check must’ve gotten lost in transit.” So she says she’s going to the bank to get another check and will overnight that one.

Yup. Days go by, no check, no bill of sale, no Sparky. And Mary stops all communications with Carlos.

Amidst days of fuming and contemplating legal action, Carlos is surprised to find an envelope has come from Mary. Inside is not the amount he was expecting, even after he’d agreed to numerous reductions in Sparky’s sale price. Instead, it’s an even much lower amount, by thousands of dollars, along with an invoice deducting various everyday services for Sparky’s care. These were services that were supposed to be covered by the nominal monthly fee Carlos had been paying. Poor Mary has to answer to the legal authorities now, because Carlos is a force to be reckoned with.

I’m sure that you, like me, have developed scenarios for what happened. Let’s see. Did Mary sell Sparky for the original asking price, clear back at the beginning of this soap opera, but then spend most of that money on her personal expenses? Was she literally banking on another horse in her consignment barn selling so she could make up the difference in what she owed Carlos, and when that sale fell through, found herself short on cash with a furious Carlos? Was Sparky involved in some kind of convoluted horse swapping deal that Mary brokered, and when the fandango went bad she ended up without the money to pay Carlos? We may never know the whole truth, because Mary is claiming that her ex-boyfriend and business partner made off with most of the paperwork that dealt with all the recent horse sale transactions.

So, what have we learned? First, if you’re going to send your horse to a broker, make sure you get numerous firsthand references. Times are desperate in the horse world, and in a tough economy it’s hard to sell even nice horses. But rather than gambling on a horse dealer who contacts you unsolicited, ask reputable professionals in your area for recommendations. Second, try to place your horse in a sale barn nearby, where you can physically go and inspect the horse unannounced. You know, just to make sure it wasn’t sold weeks ago while you think it’s still on the premises munching hay. Finally, always get a contract in writing that stipulates the fees that you will be paying and how much the dealer is getting for acting as your agent in the transaction. Typically you will be paying a commission off the top of the sale price. But have that spelled out. And remember that legally the horse’s selling price cannot be reduced unless you have been notified and agreed to the negotiations.

Such bad horse dealing has gone on for centuries. Wacky horse sales are part of folklore. But horse owners are becoming more savvy and aren’t willing to settle for being taken for a ride anymore. And that can only be a good thing for horse lovers everywhere.

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CINDY HALE    HORSE CHANNEL, CA

10/15/2010 12:21:53 PM

YES, JULIE AND KAITLYNN, CARLOS SHOULD'VE DONE A LITTLE MORE RESEARCH BEFORE SHIPPING SPARKY OFF TO A STRANGER TO SELL. A FEW FIRST-HAND REFERENCES WOULD'VE BEEN NICE, ATTESTING TO THIS WOMAN'S BUSINESS ETHICS. I'M GUESSING THAT, IN THE CURRENT HORSE MARKET, CARLOS AND HIS WIFE WERE VERY VULNERABLE: THEY NEEDED TO SELL SPARKY (ESPECIALLY ONCE A NEW HORSE WAS PURCHASED) AND VOILA! THIS WOMAN OFFERED TO DO THAT FOR THEM.

Julie    rural, MN

10/2/2010 6:24:14 PM

I guess what concerns me most is the sellers willingness to send his horse off to someone who he didn't even research? It seems people are so desperate to sell that they will do almost anything. We are looking at a horse that my daughter found on line. we will go and see and try the horse in person, but that doesn't guarantee a good outcome either. It's a bit of a gamble either way.

Kaitlynn    San Tan Valley, AZ

9/29/2010 9:37:13 AM

Too bad carlos had to send the horse away to be sold. Seems like that was the start of the problem as he had to trust that woman. Makes me glad that I am not looking to buy or sell a horse!

CINDY HALE    HORSE CHANNEL, CA

9/28/2010 9:38:19 PM

THANKS FOR THE COMMENTS.

I DON'T KNOW WHAT HAPPENED TO "SPARKY" AND NEITHER DO HIS PREVIOUS OWNERS, "CARLOS" AND HIS WIFE. THEY OWNED SPARKY FOR OVER 5 YEARS AND TRULY WANTED TO KNOW WHERE HE WENT SO THEY COULD KEEP IN TOUCH WITH HIS PROGRESS WITH HIS NEW OWNER. BUT THAT'S ALL TIED UP IN THE CURRENT COURT CASE. IT ALSO HASN'T BEEN DETERMINED JUST HOW MUCH SPARKY ACTUALLY SOLD FOR, AND IF CARLOS IS OWED MORE MONEY THAN HE RECEIVED.

PERSONALLY, I'VE HAD BOTH GOOD AND BAD EXPERIENCES WHEN BUYING AND SELLING HORSES. IT SEEMS LIKE THE MORE PEOPLE THAT ARE INVOLVED IN THE TRANSACTION, THE MORE THINGS CAN GO HORRIBLY WRONG.

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