These situations are frustrating, and they happen rather often. The solution is 'being a better mind reader', LOL.
Randy said 'you don't get your down payment back', etc.
With horses, Randy, actually downpayments are handled rather differently from what you might think. Where it IS unusual to get a down payment back, is with major appliances.
I'm going to suggest the OP made one of two mistakes:
1.) Not scheduling the prepurchase exam to happen quickly enough. Your time frame was too long....OR.....
2.) Being the kind of customer who gets a prepurchase exam done...at all....(see below)
In this sale, I would not have put down a deposit. I think people feel it will prevent the horse from being sold, but frankly that is not what happens most of the time and a deposit winds up giving people a false sense of control of the sale.
Horse sales can be conducted in quite a few different ways. But the economy has brought some really serious stresses into horse selling. More than before, average small sellers are not taking deposits, and are not holding horses, even when they suggest they might or will. I've heard a lot of complaints like yours recently.
With large sale stables selling a lot of expensive horses, the seller has more to lose if a customer is unhappy. The seller (well, most of these bigger dealers) is more motivated to keep to his agreement, as he gets a lot of return business and references from past customers.
However, the prepurchase exam takes place very quickly - within a day or two of the tryout. And quite often, no deposit is put down at all, to avoid arguing over getting it back and if the prepurchase exam really was a 'no go' or not. This is related to the fact that most vets won't PASS or FAIL a horse these days, they will only make a 'recommendation' and 'you make the decision, not them'.
With less expensive horses, especially someone who only has a horse or two to sell and is selling out of their small home stable, any arrangements that put in a delay, are more likely to fall through.
I'm going to make a suggestion as to why this seller didn't hold the horse for you or not show it.
Of course, it can be that the seller thought you were not moving ahead quickly enough. And since there was such a large delay in the scheduling of the vet I don't entirely blame her if she did.
I'm going to bet the other buyer was not having a veterinary exam done.
I'm going to bet that the seller felt she was more likely to get the horse sold, if she gave first priority to the person who was not having a prepurchase done.
If you catch my drift.......
The key with selling horses is that you feel out the seller very carefully. You get a sense of the seller's level of urgency and desperation, and just casually ask a few questions to find out where that person is at.
If you propose putting down a deposit and having a vet exam done in 2 weeks, and the seller's reaction is - 'Oh then don't put down a deposit', you know you don't 100% understand her mindset...or the condition of the horse....or something.
My guess would be that if it doesn't work out, I would not be upset.
My recommendation is to not put down deposits on this type of horse, to schedule veterinary exams to occur within a day, and to come with the vet and a horse trailer - and if you are comfortable with the vet's exam, buy the horse and take him right then and there.
Before you go to look at the horse - call your vet, see what his/her availability is, and plan the tryout around that.
Don't try to kid yourself - the more you delay, deposit or not - the more you lose control of the sale. Acting quickly to get the information you need, and being decisive is how you win.
Edited by welsummerchicks - 3/5/11 at 9:15pm