While some horse owners will keep their horses from purchase into old age, others enjoy the experience of buying a young or project horse with the intention of selling it on, ideally for a small profit, at a later date.

Equally some individuals will kindly offer to help out a friend with the process of selling a horse that either hasn’t worked out, or is no longer suitable for whatever reason.

But before you go ahead and book that advert, have you considered whether you are a private or business seller in the eyes of the law? ‘Of course I’m a private seller’, you might think. ‘After all, I’m no horse dealer…’

While you might not be a horse dealer, you might be surprised by when the law views a person to be a business seller. It’s very important to understand this because business sellers have to work within the restrictions of the Sale of Goods Act 1979.

Who is a business seller?

Most people think that if they do not class themselves as a ‘horse dealer’, then these legal obligations do not apply to them. This is not the case. There is no official legal definition of a ‘horse dealer’. What is important is whether you are ‘selling the horse in the course of a business’.

This does not mean you must be in the business of selling horses. If you are selling with a view to making a profit, or have a history of regularly selling horses, then section 14 of the Sale of Goods Act, which relates to ‘implied terms about quality and fitness for purpose’, may apply to the sale.

Factors that are often taken into consideration by the courts when determining whether someone was acting in the course of a business, or not, include how many horses the seller has sold in the past few years and how long they have owned the particular horse in question prior to the sale as well as whether the horse was sold for a profit. So if you sell horses regularly, or have only had the horse for a short period of time and are looking to make a profit from the sale, you may be considered a business seller.

The Sale of Goods Act 1979 requires that all horses sold by business sellers must be fit for the purpose for which they were sold and also be of a satisfactory quality. This gives buyers the opportunity to return horses and demand refunds after purchase if a problem arises. If this leads to a dispute, they may then choose to pursue legal avenues to get financial recompense.

Legal obligations of anyone who is selling a horse

  • You must have the legal right to sell the horse or have the authority from the legal owner to sell the horse.
  • Ensure that any description you give of the horse both in the advertisement and orally to any potential purchaser is accurate.
  • Do not make any statements or give any representations about the horse which you know are untrue or you are unsure whether they are true or not.
  • If the horse you are selling is not owned by you and you are selling the horse on behalf of the owner then make this clear from the outset to any potential buyers. If you do not do this you could become personally liable to a buyer if things go wrong.

Extra legal obligations for business sellers

These are additional obligations for business sellers, which apply to a sale by virtue of the Sale of Goods Act 1979.

  • The horse must be fit for the purpose for which it was sold.
  • The horse must be of a satisfactory quality taking into account the description, price and other important factors.

How to protect yourself as a seller

So once you have decided whether you are a private or business seller in the eyes of the law, whether you are selling a horse on your own behalf or for someone else, you need to bear the following in mind to ensure that you are protected if things go wrong.

  • Ensure you have ascertained who the legal owner of any horse is and that they have the right to sell it.
  • Put down in writing the agreed terms of the sale including any commission payable on sale, livery/training costs until a sale is achieved, who pays for advertisements and where they should be placed etc. These terms can be incorporated into a specific sales livery agreement or recorded in a separate agreement in addition to your livery agreement.
  • Ensure the horse’s passport is up to date and accurate before selling the horse.
  • If you are selling on behalf of someone else and you draft the advertisement, get the owner to approve it before it is published.
  • If you take a deposit from a potential purchaser, agree exactly what the terms are for repayment and/or retention of the deposit and make a note of them on a receipt for the deposit or in a sale agreement.
  • Continue the horse’s insurance until it has been delivered to/collected by the new owner.
  • If there is any delay between vetting and collection/delivery of the horse, take a full set of photographs of the horse before it leaves your yard. (This is especially important if a transport company collects the horse on behalf of the purchaser).
  • Make sure payment has cleared into your account before the horse leaves your yard.

Good luck. We hope this advice from Alison Goodwin, head of equine at Harrison Clark Rickerbys Solicitors will help you achieve a hassle-free sale.