Selling Horses During the Pandemic: A Must-Have Contract Clause

The pressures placed on all of us in the midst of COVID-19 can lead to having to make tough decisions. Lindsey Partridge of Harmony Horsemanship offers advice on how you can achieve some peace of mind if you have to sell your horse.

It’s been one year since my first blog post on Horse Nation. During that year you’ve come with me across a continent from competing in Ontario all the way down to Texas for the Extreme Cowboy Association’s World Championships and in between to Kentucky at the Thoroughbred Makeover, Georgia and Wisconsin for Mustang makeovers, and many more expos and events. Even having my first child.

Coming out of February from Florida and to the Horse World Expo in Pennsylvania I was so excited for the things I had planned next: Competing at Equine Affaire in Ohio in the Mustang Challenge and Versatility Challenge, traveling out to the Western States Horse Expo in May and then north to Oregon to choose my very own Mustang out of holding (normally I’m assigned my mustang for the challenges).

Kaibou, one of my Mustangs. Photo by Lindsey Partridge.

2020 was going to be my year for travel. For the first time I’m not confined by vacation time or school. I’m on maternity leave with one child, so travel is relatively easy compared to my (hopeful) next maternity leave when I’ll have two kids, which would be more difficult for traveling with horses.

Things have definitely taken a turn for the worse. Coronavirus first came on my radar in January. My husband is a bit of a prepper, so he showed me articles, and he surfs the deep web, so he knew that China wasn’t being accurate with the numbers. I bought myself one reusable mask and some protein powder meal replacement jugs just in case.

Things really hit in March. Horse events were being canceled all over, including EquiFest in New York. I was supposed to be part of their evening show and a featured clinician. At Equine Affaire I was supposed to be a competitor. At the Western States Horse Expo I was a featured clinician. A bunch of clinics and events scheduled for July and August are being canceled or tentatively rescheduled.

Clyde. Photo by Lindsey Partridge.

A state of emergency was called, lessons had to be canceled and boarder restrictions were imposed. People are told to stay at home. This meant our farm needed to refund thousands in canceled lessons, but the horses still need to eat and be cared for.

I recognize the impact of coronavirus is huge, it is unknown and it’s not over. That, compounded by one of my horses (Kaibou) presumably getting kicked in the face and needing surgery to remove a cracked tooth (a hefty bill of around $5000 including his follow up appointments) meant I had some tough decisions to make.

I decided to sell some of my horses. With reduced income, a massive vet bill and an unknown future, I had to consider that if this goes on much longer I may not be able to afford the care I pride myself on giving my horses. I’d also been thinking of selling a couple horses because I find it hard to train more than two horses a day with juggling being a new parent.

I ended up selling Kaibou, Clyde and Fairly. All of them went to incredible homes, with people that have the means to give them the best. I also made a tough decision to lease out Dreamer for the summer. Dreamer is my movie star… he’s not for sale, but I wanted to take an opportunity for him to trail ride all summer and be taken care of so I can focus on keeping the farm running back at home with fewer mouths to feed, hooves to trim and vet costs.

Selling horses can be a tricky thing — emotionally for sure — but it is possible to have peace of mind knowing your fur babies are going to be well looked after. There are steps that I take to ensure my own peace of mind.

It is common to ask for a first right of refusal. How do you enforce it, though? What happens if the horse ends up in a bad situation?

One of the hardest things to do with a contract is to enforce it. Court systems can be expensive, should it ever come to that, and you have a much better chance going through small claims court. To have an easier court case, it needs to be crystal clear what is agreed and what the penalty is.

Fairly. Photo by Lindsey Partridge.

In my contracts I include a clause with a defined penalty of $10,000 for failing to offer me a first right of refusal, not providing me with the next owner’s information if I don’t take the horse back, and for a rescue fee if the horse ends up headed to an auction, slaughter or in need of rescue due to starvation, etc.

By defining a penalty amount, it helps the new buyer recognize you’re serious about your horse’s welfare and it gives you more peace of mind knowing that there are relatively easy consequences you can follow up with if you have to.

The best step to ensuring a good future for your horse is to advertise your horse honestly, with videos that show the real personality and potential. This will help attract the right buyer for your horse. If a horse is the right match for a buyer, they are much more likely to have a long happy life together.

Circumstances for people can always change and, even if they are a great match, they may need to sell in the future. That’s where having a contract comes in. Too many horses end up in rescues, at auctions, shipped for slaughter or passed around from home to home. It can be difficult to keep tabs on them. That’s where having a buyer understanding it is their responsibility to notify you if/when they plan to sell can really help.

Clyde. Photo by Emalee and offered courtesy Lindsey Partridge.

Sometimes simply keeping tabs on a horse can help make sure they stay in a good home. Buyers knowing that someone is looking out for them is sometimes all the difference.

My heart goes out to anyone else who needs to rehome horses during this difficult time. We have no idea how this season will go. I’m hoping that my fall events — Equitana USA (September), Thoroughbred Makeover (October) and Worlds Championships in Texas (November) – will happen. However, I’m bracing myself for more events to announce cancellations over the summer.

If you are rehoming your horse, consider adding a contract with a defined penalty in the event your horse needs to be sold or rescued.

Stay safe, stay healthy, be smart. To leave you all on a happier note, check out this video from liberty at the beach from when I was in Florida with my coming three-year-old OTTB.

Editor’s Note: When drafting contracts, we recommend seeking the advice of an attorney who is well versed in equine law in your state or province.