So you want to import a horse from Europe, but you’re wondering how the Europeans do business? Here’s the inside scoop, based on interviews with a number of riders, trainers and dealers. First of all, it’s amazingly difficult to get information about how the process works. People are reluctant to talk about commissions, dealers, and who gets what for doing what. In some cases, the buyer knows little about the details because she has turned over a lot of the decision making to her trainer. But one thing is very clear: you must have an advocate in Europe who knows the ropes and will be looking out for your best interests. It’s crazy to take the leap by yourself without a knowledgeable person you can lean on and trust.
Another big thing I learned is that there are very few, if any, guidelines regarding commissions. While the 10% rule is pretty much the norm here in the USA, that’s not the case in Europe. Over there, anything goes. Many of the more expensive horses are considerably marked up. And when a sale is imminent, a lot of people who may be only remotely connected to the horse will come out of the woodwork, looking for their share of the loot. Dealers go around scouting out horses — they even visit the farmers — and assemble a group of horses at a sale barn for buyers to try. Currently the market is tight because the Asian countries are buying up a lot of horses. So I repeat: find an advocate. It can be a trainer who knows the ropes, or a reputable dealer you can trust. But don’t go it alone if this is your first foray into horse-trading abroad.