Buying horses and ponies – practical tips and the law

by Tim Bishop on July 18, 2013

  • SumoMe

If you are buying a horse or pony you need to be aware that private sellers are not under a legal duty to disclose non-obvious deficiencies with the animal. However the situation changes if you are buying a horse or pony from a registered breeder. They are classed as selling the animal in the ‘course of business’. This means that they have a legal duty under the Sale of Goods Act (1979) to make sure that the horse or pony is of:

• Satisfactory quality; and is

• Fit for purpose

If you buy a horse or pony from a registered breeder and it turns out to have a vice which was not disclosed at the time of purchase (as long as this vice would not have been revealed upon a reasonable inspection of the animal) you should be able to return the horse back to the dealer and get a refund.

In light of this, if you are buying from a private seller you need to be extra vigilant. You must make sure that you are 100% happy with the animal before purchase.

Here are a few tips to follow when you are buying a horse or pony from a registered breeder or private seller:

• If you do not know a lot about horses then take a knowledgeable person with you to the sale

• Always take another person with you to witness the discussions you have with the seller and the sale itself, this can be a friend, family member or business partner

• Get the horse or pony examined by an independent vet before buying (this process is called ‘vetting’)

• Tell the seller what you will be using the horse or pony for and what experience you have as a rider. Ask the seller whether they believe that the animal will be suitable for this purpose and your level of experience

• Highlight any discrepancies between what was advertised by the seller and what you can see

• Ask the seller to describe any characteristics or vices that the horse may have. Ask him/her whether or not these vices will interfere with your intended use

• If the seller informs you that there are no vices, ask specific questions about the horse’s handling in the stable, getting it into a box, travelling and whether it is good to clip

• Take a look at the horse’s passport and make sure that it is has been kept updated

• Check the horse’s vaccination records

• Find out if the horse is insured? If it is, ask the seller how many claims have been made against it?

• Ask the seller if you can ride the horse. If they agree, try to ride it around a field/paddock, but also where possible take it on a road

• Ask the seller if you can change the horse’s tack and groom. In doing this you will see any behavioural traits

One major rule is never buy a horse or pony unseen.

If you’re spending thousands, or even tens of thousands of pounds on buying a horse, don’t take a risk – make sure that the sale is clearly documented using a written contract drafted by an experienced commercial law solicitor. The does not need to be excessively or expensive, but it should at least provide for the key terms of the sale. If the seller guarantees anything or can offer you a warranty over the animal, then these can only be easily enforceable if they are written down.

Tim Bishop is senior partner of Salisbury Solicitors, Bonallack and Bishop – for legal advice on all aspects of commercial law, contact their business law solicitors on Salisbury [01722] 422300 or visit their website at


Tim Bishop
Having qualified as a Solicitor in 1986, Tim Bishop is a legal entrepreneur who owns law firm Bonallack & Bishop. Find out why you should choose the commercial solicitors at Bonallack & Bishop: Visit
Tim Bishop

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