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, as well as 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.

• Has the horse been worked (lunged or ridden) prior to your arrival? If so, why?

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

• Why is the horse 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.  Make a note of any previous owners who may be happy to provide further information.

• Ask about any previous injuries, health issues, medication or treatments, shoeing requirements or issues, vices etc. Request copies of the veterinary records or speak to the farrier.

• The horse should be observed being handled – in and out of the stable.

• Ask how it behaves in different environments?

• What is it like to rug up, load, shoe and clip? Ask for this to be demonstrated e.g. ask them to get the clippers out.

• Watch 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.

• Until you are certain you wish to proceed, do not pay for the horse or put down a deposit. Any deposit, no matter how small, can be legally binding.

What if?

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

• A grade A showjumper is only fit for flat work and hacking out due to an undisclosed condition.

• 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.

• Notify the seller and discuss these changes or any other issues as soon as possible.

• It is always an idea to keep a note of the conversation for future reference.

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

• Seek appropriate legal advice.

• You will need to prove the following:

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.

• 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 if a breach of contract can be proved.

• 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.

• The Consumer Rights Act 2015 and the Sale of Goods Act 1979 protects you when the seller is a business. 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.

The British Horse Society provides some very useful information on their website. This includes:


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Please note that for the Christmas holidays we will close at 12 noon on Friday 22nd December and reopen at 9am on Tuesday 2nd January 2024.

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What our clients say..

We recently had cause to take legal action to recover a debt relating to the purchase of a horse which had been mis-described/mis-represented by a private seller, we had to take the legal action to reject the horse because the owner went to ground and would not respond to our reasonable requests. For our family, purchasing our first horse, this was a disaster and we didn’t really know how to go about returning the horse and getting our money back from the private seller.

We were put in contact with Hannah Salter of Waddington Turner Wall/Michael Bower Equine Law and she was able to quickly grasp the circumstances that were relevant and helped us to devise a plan to put the situation right, this involved building a strong case from the available information that we provided and then embarking on the execution of the plan.

Hannah was available to us all the way through our recovery process and advised us well, eventually we succeeded at obtaining a County Court Judgement and we took that to the High Court and then enforced the instructions of the Court resulting in us recovering most of the costs associated and the horse was at last returned to the seller.

We greatly appreciated Hannah’s way of dealing with us as novice horse owners and she was able to build a very strong position for us to follow through the Court system-something that we had never experienced before.

I would recommend Hannah to any person who might find themselves in a similar position to ours-I am sure that you would appreciate the support and expert knowledge that Hannah has and then use it to good effect.

Steve & Rebecca Rees 17.06.2022   

We would like to pay tribute to the team at Michael Bower Equine Law who helped us secure justice last week in a misrepresentation case.

A top horsewoman with a string of event horses sold a Connemara with chronic behavioural issues as a ‘mother/daughter share’ with ‘no vices or issues’, for a 14 year old child, despite the pony’s history of bronking and rearing.

Having been warned of its history she sold it on then turned the tables when it was returned and refused to negotiate for 2 years.

In the Small Claims Court Michael Bower’s team won the case and secured the return of the purchase price, all associated losses and 50% of the costs, which is pretty rare for small claims.

We are so grateful and feel vindicated for returning this pony when it was so clearly wrong.

Thank you so much Michael Bower Equine Law for your great advice and support throughout.

Helen G G 31.05.2022   

The term ‘horse trading’, which came into usage around 1820, owes its origin to the notorious shrewdness of horse traders who bought and sold horses. Unfortunately, the term is still applicable as buying horses is as much a mine-field now, as it was two-hundred years ago.

Having fallen victim to a duplicitous trader, an expert was needed to resolve the ensuing dispute over return of the horse and refund of payment. In these situations, only the best will do and the recommendation to equine lawyer, Michael Bower, was a great blessing.

Through his extensive knowledge of equine law, Michael Bower applied his legal expertise to the circumstances of the sale and within a matter of weeks, the case was brought to a satisfactory conclusion.

In offering a professional service, Michael is direct and at the same time very personable which is greatly appreciated when dealing with a potentially stressful scenario.

I will be eternally grateful to Michael Bower for resolving my case and would not hesitate in recommending his excellent legal practice to anyone who falls victim to a twenty-first century horse trader, sadly, of whom there are many!

Alex A 26.05.2022   

We are so glad we rang Michael Bower Equine Law and spoke to Hannah Salter as from the first conversation she was very knowledgeable and easy to talk to, and she told us exactly what position we were in and what she recommended we did next.

She very supportive through a really tough and emotional time for us and always at the end of the phone to listen to any questions. Myself and my daughter can’t thank her enough for resolving our issue and would highly recommend her.

Jane and Milly Shaw 17.06.2021   

Thankyou for your time and assistance. I found the service offered by Hannah to be exceptional. The response to my initial request was prompt and pertinent with all follow up actions prepared in a diligent way. I would have no hesitation in using Hannah again and would fully recommend the service provided.



Christine Lilly 04.06.2021   

Thank you so much Michael and team for providing such fantastic advice and support, and for successfully securing a positive settlement. I highly recommend Michael; he is so knowledgeable and approachable. I felt very comfortable asking questions, nothing was too much bother. I was expertly guided through the whole process, being informed, advised and consulted the entire time.

Jo Fox 10.05.2021   

Michael put me at ease straight away. He was so approachable and welcoming from the the first minute I spoke to him. He had so much knowledge and gave me such fantastic advice. He really helped to clarify my position and ways forward. I would highly recommend Michael Bower for anyone wishing to seek legal advice and representation.

Mrs Young 26.10.2020   

Thanks again for going above and beyond to get that contract drawn up. We are very pleased with it!

We really are so happy with the work done and all your advice has been taken on board. Its been a great experience.

Ms Black 23.10.2020   

I asked Michael Bower to assist me on a potential property issue concerning our boundaries and rights of access.

I was very glad of his competent help and practical advice. He immediately came to view and discuss the site in question, and followed it up with detailed and rigorous research, document search of deed and land registry. His responses were detailed, clear and prompt. He was always easy to contact and gave realistic appraisal on the problem of pursuing the issue without adequate back up – including potential costs.

I would strongly recommend him for attending to enquiries of this kind

Nigel Young PhD. 16.09.2020   

I would like to thank Michael for the expedient, efficient, and professional manner in which he assisted me with a personal legal matter surrounding my horse.

His courteous, down to earth attitude and his ability to grasp the seriousness of the situation was indeed a great comfort to me. The matter has now been resolved and I can only thank Michael for his time in helping me sort the issue to its favourable conclusion.

I would have no reservations in recommending Michael and WTW solicitors to anyone.

Sue Williams 27.04.2020