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Equine Exchange In The Press

This article was originally published in Noelle Floyd’s Fall 2016 issue.

You can view the original on their website, or just this article

Setting a Higher Standard for Horse Transactions

Horses are a passion, but buying and selling them is big business – a multi-billion dollar industry. An investment in a sport horse is comparable to purchasing a luxury car, a college education, or even a house. For most of us, it will be one of the most significant purchases we make in our lives – not to mention the long-term commitment to care for a 1,200-pound animal that requires a small army to stay in top condition and perform in the show ring.

Yet, when it’s time to buy a horse, it’s common industry practice to wire funds with little to no documentation, as if it’s nothing. If the buyer receives a bill of sale, it is often the functional equivalent of the receipt you get for your coffee at Starbucks. Those experienced in investing in other contexts, real estate, for example, know this is absurd.

Not surprisingly, with no standard process nor documents and a steep disparity of power and knowledge between amateur buyers and professional trainers, the market is rife with bad deals. A recent cover story of The Chronicle of the Horse, “Shady Sales and Secret Commissions – How They’re Impacting the Industry”, examined the issue of secret profits in horse transactions and provided several case studies and other examples, as well as an overview of the laws in place that regulate horse sales (but are widely disregarded by the industry).

We won’t restate that article here, except to say the experiences described are not isolated incidences and the statements in the article are not hyperbole – we’ve spoken with hundreds of equestrian professionals and owners and collected countless examples of lawsuits and expensive mistakes among horse owners. Based on this research, we estimate that buyers are deceived in well over one-third of all horse purchases.

Horse sales go awry in a multitude of other ways: the trainer believes the agreed upon commission was fifteen percent when the buyer thought it was ten percent, the horse turns out to have been secretly drugged or injected prior to being tried and sold, the horse’s records (delivered after the sale) aren’t in order, the horse suffers a career-ending injury during transport to its new home, the horse turns out to have a behavioral or health condition that was known to the seller but not disclosed; the list goes on… and a bill of sale cannot provide recourse in any of these instances.

The industry is suffering as a result of widespread unethical and illegal shady dealings and lack of transparency and documentation in horse purchases. While a small minority of trainers may be profiting from these dishonest deals (at least for the moment), most trainers feel intensely frustrated and trapped by the unfair behavior of their peers.

But the demand for change is reaching an all-time high among professional and amateur equestrians, alike. Regardless of whether one thinks transparency in horse sales should happen, it’s happening. We live in an era dominated by technology, and with the proliferation of technology and information comes transparency. The Internet age of Facebook, message boards, and sites like mean that hidden profits are less likely to stay hidden. But as long as stories of disappointment and mistrust overshadow conversations among horse owners, the growth of equestrian sport will be limited. Professionals in the industry are faced with a choice: embrace change and be recognized as a leader, or ignore it and be seen as out of touch, or worse, part of the problem.

Regardless of a person’s wealth, no one likes to be cheated. It’s infuriating, and it is everyone’s problem: owners are the reason the industry exists at all. When they drop out of the sport after being taken advantage of for the last time, we all suffer.

We Can Do Better

It’s up to each of us to insist upon a basic level of customer service and transparency we expect in all other aspects of modernday life. This isn’t solely an ethical issue, it’s also a business and a financial issue. Transparency drives investment. Real estate exemplifies a strong and direct correlation: the top ten most transparent real estate markets attract 75 percent of investment globally, and markets that become more transparent attract more investment.

As lifelong equestrians, experienced in business law, real estate, and investments, we grew tired of hearing the stories of horse sales gone wrong and knew we could offer a commonsense and comprehensive solution to make buying a horse a more transparent and better experience for all involved: Simply put, it’s a better way to buy a horse.

Equine Exchange facilitates the horse transaction online among the buyer, seller, trainers/agents, and veterinarians in a streamlined, professional way. It’s an open and honest way to buy a horse, conducted through a standardized process, similar to real estate. If you’ve ever bought a house, you had a contract with your agent, a disclosure from the seller, a home inspection, a purchase contract with a flow of funds. Equine Exchange provides this familiar and proven system in the context of horse purchases.

Buyers have increased confidence in their investment and in the suitability of the horse, sellers know who they’re dealing with and how their horse will be treated, and professionals are protected from financial and reputational risk. All parties benefit from setting clear expectations in writing, the efficiency of a mobile and paperless process, and doing business with professionalism and integrity. Moreover, the horse benefits when its new owner has all the details of its specific maintenance needs, is contractually committed to its welfare, and has an online veterinary record for future reference.

We’re often asked, “But isn’t a bill of sale enough?” A bill of sale simply documents a change in ownership. It provides minimal information about the horse and does not address any risks in buying a horse. Without direct interaction between buyer and seller, it’s quite possible the bill of sale may not even be legitimate. The Equine Exchange process uncovers information and documents issues that otherwise wouldn’t be addressed, reducing risk for all parties involved, including the horse.

Buying a horse is a major decision and a big investment, and it should be treated as such. The status quo has persisted because a better solution wasn’t available, but it’s here now. Be smart about your next horse purchase. We’ve created Equine Exchange to make it easier – for each of you, as well as for ourselves. The path forward is clear.