Buying a horse is an exciting venture, but to avoid heartache and potential financial loss, you want to get it right.

Trawling through the adverts in Horse & Hound is a great place to begin, but how do you read between the lines?

“When a seller describes a horse in an advert, or in conversation with a buyer, such descriptions are ‘representations’,” says Jessica Evans, solicitor at Penningtons Manches.

“If these representations are untrue — for example, a horse is described as being a schoolmaster or bombproof and turns out to be anything but — then the buyer may have a claim for misrepresentation under the Misrepresentation Act 1967 if he can demonstrate that he was induced to enter the contract to buy the horse because of the untrue representation.

“Watch out for mere ‘sales puffs’ too, such as general, unspecific praise of the horse, which are not binding,” adds Jessica.

“When you eventually speak to the seller, you want to get a good idea that the horse meets your specific requirements,” says Gloucester-based producer Hayley Marsh.

“Tell the seller what you want to do with the horse and ask whether they feel the horse is suitable for the job intended.”

Other questions to ask include:
➤Why is the horse being sold and who is he being sold by, if not by the owner?

➤Ask about the horse’s health and history such as ailments, vices and lamenesses

➤What has he done work and competition-wise?

➤What are his good and bad points?

➤What tack is he ridden in and what is he fed?

➤Is there anything specific about where the horse can live? For example, does he turn out with mares or can he live out?

➤Ask if you can see videos and photos first, especially if you have a long way to travel

➤Look up a competition horse’s record on the relevant discipline’s website

The proof is in the pudding
When the day arrives to try out the horse, make sure you are prepared and have a list of further questions and things you want to see the horse do — and take someone experienced with you.

“Ask to see the horse being caught and tacked up if possible,” says Hayley.

“And always ask the seller to ride him first so you can see what he does and how he reacts.

“Once onboard, ask everything from him that you would want to do later on, within reason.

“If you are buying a jumper to compete at foxhunter level, pop him over 1.20m, or if you want a medium-level dressage horse, ask it to perform half pass and walk pirouettes.”

Before coming to a final decision, ask to see the horse again on another day and if possible, in a different environment such as a local venue to see what he’s like away from home.

The full article about trying a horse to buy was published in Horse & Hound magazine (24 July 2014)

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