A dissatisfied customer has taken a business that specialises in “bomb proof” horses to court after she was sold an inexperienced youngster instead of the seven-year-old confidence-giver she was promised.

In November 2006 Pauline Ferguson of Mauchline, Ayrshire, bought Belgian Draught Bertie from horse dealers Bombproof, based in Lincolnshire, to be ridden by herself and her nine-year-old son, who was learning to ride. “I had been extremely ill, and had not ridden for nearly 20 years, but I wanted to start again,” said Mrs Ferguson. After a period of lessons, she decided to buy a horse and found Bombproof on the internet.

“I spoke to them many times explaining my circumstances and they suggested Bertie, saying he would do the job,” said Mrs Ferguson. He was advertised as 15.2hh, six, rising seven, and priced at £4,500. “I didn’t view him because I was in Ayrshire, but it all seemed very plausible,” she said. “They said they dealt with people who had no confidence and needed something bomb proof, and said there was no risk as they operated a 14-day returns policy.”

But when Mrs Ferguson’s vet inspected Bertie, it turned out he was around four years old and 14.3hh. He was also “full of worms” and infested with mites, she said. “He had no manners and was very bargy. I don’t think he had ever been in a stable before,” she said. Mrs Ferguson says she rang Bombproof to say that she wanted to return Bertie on day seven and says she was told it was too late.

Bombproof claims that Mrs Ferguson did not contact them until after the 14 days had elapsed, adding that she then instructed them to sell Bertie for her and they were able to find a buyer. Bombproof took a 10% dealer’s cut from the sale.

With the help of East Ayrshire trading standards, Mrs Ferguson sued Bombproof through the small claims court for £511, to cover livery, louse treatment and the 10% dealer’s cut.

When called by H&H, Louise Thomas of Bombproof said: “Mrs Ferguson asked us to sell the horse, and we can prove that, but we didn’t want to go all the way to Scotland [for the case]. It wasn’t worth our while.” She would not answer any questions about Bertie’s size or age.

Lawyer Jacqui Fulton, speaking for Bombproof, said the company was trying to recover £1,700 costs from the Fergusons. Mrs Ferguson is donating the money reclaimed from Bombproof to Animal Care in Egypt, which cares for carriage- and workhorses and donkeys in Luxor.