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Buying a Horse

Buying a horse

What do you want you horse to do?

When buying a horse you can avoid some of the common pitfalls by following the practical steps provided below. If you have issues with your new horse we have provided some advise on what you can do next.

Practical steps before you buy:

• Be clear about what you expect the horse to do, and the temperament and physical ability required to do that. Also, be honest about your own ability.

• Take someone you trust, has the appropriate expertise and will be able to see through any sales pitch as well as assessing whether the horse is right for you.

• If you arrive and the horse is being worked (lunged or ridden) or is in its stable but is obviously warm or has sweat marks, then ask yourself why?

• Ask about the horse’s background, experience, temperament and its age.

• Find out why the horse is being sold. If it is being sold by a dealer ask why the horse came to them.

• If possible ask to see the passport so you can compare the details and make a note of previous owners who may be happy to provide further information.

• See the horse being handled in and out of the stable. How does it behave in different environments? How is it to rug up, to load, shoe and clip? It doesn’t do any harm to ask for this to be demonstrated e.g. ask them to get the clippers out.

• See the horse being trotted up without any tack to get a feel for how it behaves and how it moves without human intervention.

• Monitor how the horse behaves and reacts to being tacked up.

• It is strongly recommended that the owner or their jockey rides the horse before you do. You should see it worked through all its paces and if you are looking to jump the horse this should be demonstrated at a level appropriate to the horse’s age and experience.

What next

• Always arrange to see the horse a second time and if possible take the horse on trial for a short period of time (be clear about the terms of that arrangement before taking the horse).

• Arrange for your vet or an independent vet (not the owners’) to complete a pre-purchase examination or 5 stage vetting. Ensure that the vet understands exactly what type and the regularity of work the horse will be undertaking. This will enable the vet to provide an accurate assessment based on the horses confirmation and health.

• If you are considering purchasing the horse ask the seller to provide a written description of the horse and all the information that they have given to you verbally e.g. history, temperament.

• Keep a copy of the advert, any invoices and agreements.

• Do not pay for the horse or put down a deposit until you are certain you wish to proceed with the purchase. As any deposit, no matter how small, can be legally binding.

You get your horse settled in its new home and then the nightmares start e.g.:

• Your bombproof hack won’t go beyond the end of the drive.

• That perfect showjumper or eventer has an underlying condition that you weren’t told about and means that he is only fit for flat work and hacking out.

• The seller didn’t classify your horse eating its way through its stable and wind-sucking as a vice.

• That “first pony” your children were so excited about is losing its appeal as they spend more time on the floor than on its back.

• You double check the passport and the details don’t match the horse you purchased.

Always remember…

• A change in a horse’s environment, routine, feed and owner/rider can be extremely stressful and this in itself can cause changes in their behaviour and temperament which may resolve themselves in a few days.

• It is always advisable to notify the seller and discuss these changes or any other issues as soon as possible. Keep a note of the conversation for future reference in case matters aren’t resolved and legal action is required.

Buying a horse from a private individual – if a dispute arises:

• Seek appropriate legal advice.

• You will need to prove that:

o The seller didn’t make you aware of a problem that they knew about or should (in their position) have known about.
o They misrepresented or described the horse inaccurately.
o As a result you have suffered a financial loss.

• If a Breach of Contract can be proved then you may have the right to a full refund of the cost of the horse, any expenses that you have incurred e.g. keep/livery, vets, travelling costs.

• You need to be aware that these cases can often be very complex and as a result can be expensive to pursue. In some cases, it will be possible to agree a settlement avoiding the need to incur the expense of going to court. You will need to consider the price you paid for the horse and any expenses incurred against the cost of the litigation.

Buying a horse from a dealer or professional – if a dispute arises:

• Seek appropriate legal advice.

• A professional horse seller or dealer shouldn’t have any issues in taking a horse back if it has behavioural or health issues. Normally they should offer a more suitable horse or refund the full amount of the price paid.

• If they offer to sell the horse on your behalf, politely refuse as you would be responsible to the next purchaser if the horse continues to display behavioural or health issues.

• When the seller is a business then you are protected under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 and the Sale of Goods Act 1979 this means that the horse must be:

o As described e.g. “8 yr old Irish Sport Horse mare” or “Quiet to load, shoe & clip”.
o Fit for purpose e.g. “first pony” , “top eventer”
o Of suitable quality for the required usage e.g. no physical or health problems that would prevent the horse performing at the level you require.

Further useful information about various horse related topics including:

can be found on the British Horse Society website. Just go to:



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Free Initial Enquiry

The Equine Law team would be delighted to explain how they can help. For your free, initial enquiry, please:


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What our clients say..

Thank you so much Micheal for the solid advice you gave me on the abandonment issue I had at my yard recently.

Great guy and really helpful, with a true understanding of the horse world.

Highly recommended.

Michelle C – 28.02.2018   

Just wanted to write to thank Michael for his good advice today - no messing around, you listened and gave me sensible advice which actually prevented you from gaining a client! You told me what was what, talking in plain English not “solicitor speak” and directing me through my options.

I listened and did exactly what he advised, and I’m pleased to say I have successfully agreed an amicable compromise with the other side. This has saved me a small fortune, but more importantly made me realise that I needed to draw it to a conclusion rather than dragging it through the courts.

I would recommend anyone worried about being led down the path just to pay solicitors fees, speak to Michael. He can give you free advice, and that’s all I needed today - thank you.

Janice Dunphy – 27.02.2018   

Michael Bower is very prompt, and also extremely thoughtful about the client’s situation. When providing my wife and I with advice on an equine legal matter, he stepped us carefully through the options in a simple-to-understand way with only limited call on legal jargon. A very refreshing experience.

Jack Rickard – 25.02.2018   

Mr Michael Bower has been extremely knowledgeable and very helpful in a matter which could have been exceptionally difficult. He advised me sensibly how to handle the situation in the most effective and efficient way. I am very grateful for his help and would have no hesitation in recommending him to anyone with a complicated situation in both the property and equestrian sphere. I cannot thank him enough.

Ms Sally Eastwood - 14.02.2018   

Recently seeked some advice following the sale of a pony to an established organisation. Replied both via phone and email within 24 hours. Highly recommend.

Charlotte S   

Michael is a highly knowledgable very helpful person. Nothing is too much trouble. Would highly recommend him. His knowledge of horses and the law is extensive. Thank you for your advice today it's much appreciated.

Elaine S   

Great man and gets the results, thank you for our win in court, couldn't of done it without you.

Tracy W   

Thank you very much for your helpful advice, so nice to speak to someone who knows the law and has a passion for horses. Highly recommend!

Natalia T   

Thanks so much for your very helpful advice much appreciated highly recommended.

Dawn S   

Fantastic service from someone who understands horses and the law. Extremely personable and very easy to talk to. Would wholeheartedly recommend him.

Julia H   

Our family sought advice in relation to an equine insurance claim from Michael Bower earlier this year. His response was very helpful and precise at a very difficult time .

Mrs L, Skipton 08.12.2015   

***** went back to (the seller's yard) on New Year’s Eve - we are beyond grateful to Michael for everything he did - over and above the call of duty, and during his Christmas break - to make things happen in the timescales they did. I can’t speak highly enough of him, he was a total star. Practical and pragmatic, focussed on a solution/resolution, pleasant and cheerful to deal with and I’m sure (the seller) would say the same.

Mrs M, Grassington 07.01.2016   

Very helpful and was very pleased. Nothing was too much trouble. Lovely person to deal with! Highly recommended.

Tara M