I didn't write this. This was an anonymous Craigslist post that was sent to me - but I agree with it! You do have to be careful. I am sure we can all tell horror stories all day long about selling (or adopting out) horses to people who didn't make the payments/gave a bad check, horses who disappeared while on trial, horses that were stolen, etc. I thought this was a really good, common-sense post that bore repeating. If you are the original author (and can prove it by sending me the Craigslist e-mail you got when you posted this, or a screen cap of your Craigslist account page showing the post), I'd be happy to credit you.
Here are a few rules that I abide by when it comes to selling horses:
1.) Your first meeting with the person interested in the horse should be in a public place OR make sure you have several people there at your place. You just can't trust people these days, so take every precaution to keep yourself safe.
2.) Vet checks should always be welcome to prospective buyers, but YOU take the horse to THEIR vet if they want to use a vet different from yours. A prospective buyer should NEVER be able to take your horse anywhere - if they want to ride the horse on trails, you trailer the horse there and go for a ride with them (have other people come, too). If they are not the horse's owner, they should not be allowed to do anything with/to the horse without you being there.
3.) Have a Liability Contract that holds you NOT responsible if that horse hurts someone trying him out. That should be signed before they put a single finger on that or any other horse on your property. Again, you can't trust people these days and lawsuits are sometimes a scam that the person set-up. I don't care if it's a weanling, or the "perfect" horse, or a wild one you can't put your hands on: the point is that ANY horse can hurt someone, whether on purpose or on accident; You CAN get sued... and you CAN lose.
4.) If you are taking payments on a horse, HAVE A CONTRACT. The horse stays on YOUR property until ALL payments clear. It's okay to still take checks, cashier's checks, or money orders, but make sure you utilize the full 10 days it will take for the payment to clear the bank. That way you don't have a bad check, and they have a "free" horse. Make sure the contract includes a plan for if something happens to the horse while it is still being paid for. (I make a person sign that they will fulfill the contract even if the horse dies, or they get insurance on the horse in YOUR name. That way, you still get paid for the horse. Of course, you should still be taking excellent care of them - don't pull them off feed and toss them in a pasture! Be responsible - after all, they should be paying that feed bill now.)
(FHOTD in: This is a really good point. I think the temptation, especially when times are tough, is to take payments and let the horse go so that you don't have to feed it anymore. This is just ASKING to get scammed though. It really is. Ask your friends how many people default on payments. Happens ALL the time, on cheap horses and pricy horses, makes no difference. People default all over the place and either don't return the horse or return it so f'ed up and skinny it costs you months of time and plenty of money to even get it back to where you can sell it again.)
5.) If the horse is on a payment plan, have the buyer sign a boarding agreement saying they are responsible for any bills the horse incurs while staying with you (feed, hay, farrier, VET, etc.).
6.) The day the new owners come to get the horse, again have people around. Now you're not so much worried about safety (unless they buy the horse and take it the first time you meet.), but rather you want witnesses that the horse is loaded in the trailer and leaving your property sound and healthy. You ALWAYS want witnesses! This way they can't come back and say that the horse was hurt before they got it home... if something happened in their trailer, you are NOT responsible for that horse once it left the tip of your driveway!
7.) NEVER let someone come see the horses or enter your property to see the horses while you are not there. Let a person know that up front - if they cannot coordinate a time to come see the horse while you are there, there is something fishy going on. If they REALLY are interested in that horse, they will FIND the time to come see it. Even if it takes them 2 weeks, they will find the time. If you give the person your address once an appointment is set, make sure your gate stays locked at all times unless you are there. You don't want to come home and find an empty paddock...
Those are my rules of thumb for selling. Hope they are helpful! Scammers are everywhere and they get smarter and more cunning as their tricks are found out.
I have an Equine Sales Agreement and Liability Release Contract that I use if you are interested. I would be happy to email it/them. Just send me a quick note.
Very good advice. I think it's also helpful just to convey the image that a lot of people are at your property (even though it may be a private barn). It dissuades theft, not only of horses, but also of equipment. Nobody comes to steal at Grand Central Station, but your little barn back in the woods with only you there? (And especially if they've established you work away from home during the day?) Jackpot, for a thief!
Always remember: Lots of people LOOK nice who aren't. Remember MeSue, Mrs. Claus? Just be careful and keep yourself and your horses safe.