A Cheshire yard has started selling horses in finance deals, in the same way that you can buy a car, in what could be a first for Britain.

Alan Barker, who runs White Gate Stables in Warrington with Joe Murphy, decided to set the system up because he believes he has a stock of “very good horses, but people don’t seem to have the money for them at the moment”.

“I was getting so many calls saying ‘I have x amount to spend’ — usually £3,000 — when most decent hunters are from £6,000,” said Mr Barker, whose horses typically start at £2,000 for a pony, rising to £25,000 for a decent eventer.

“This way they can put down a deposit and spread the rest over any term that suits them.”

Aspiring buyers apply online and White Gate only sets up a viewing appointment once their credit rating has been approved by a finance company.

The dealer takes no commission on the APR, which starts at around 8.9% for those with 100% credit rating.

Since the initiative started three months ago, Mr Barker has sold around 25 ponies and horses in finance deals.

“I think it’s the future,” said Alan, who believes White Gate is the first dealers yard to do this. “But you have to be financially secure [to buy a horse]. We’ve had 40 under-18s whose applications have been refused.”

The welfare implications of horses being acquired cheaply in the short term parallel those affecting horses on loan and welfare organisations are urging buyers to think hard before they buy.

Tony Tyler, deputy chief executive of World Horse Welfare, said: “Anyone who takes out finance from any source to purchase a horse must ensure they can afford the upkeep and associated costs of caring for it.

“These costs can often amount to much more than the value of the horse.”

And although the RSPCA would not comment on how a horse is purchased, a spokesman echoed Tony Tyler’s concerns.

“Deciding to keep a horse is a big commitment,” he said. “Horses and ponies require expert care on a daily basis and we would ask members of the public to consider their own circumstances before buying one.”

This article was first published in Horse & Hound (25 February, ’10)