Your legal rights when buying a horse

  • If you’re planning to buy a horse, make sure you know what your legal rights are first to avoid any disputes arising.

    Buying from a horse dealer

    • The Sale of Goods Act applies only if you buy a horse for sale from a person classified as a ‘dealer’. Buying from a horse dealer can offer more protection than buying from a private seller.
    • If you find your new horse has a problem which makes him unsuitable for the purpose you bought him for, you’re entitled to your money back — even if the seller denies knowledge.
    • The Act implies certain conditions of sale — your ‘statutory rights’. These are:
      1. The horse must be of ‘reasonable’ or ‘satisfactory’ quality — for instance, free of defects such as lameness — unless you have prior knowledge and accept the condition.
      2. The new horse must be fit for the purpose for which it was generally sold, or any purpose made known at the time of the agreement.
      3. He must be ‘as described’. If your new eight-year-old horse turns out to be 18, it’s a breach of trading standards.

      If one or all of these criteria are not met, you may be entitled to a full refund or the difference in value between the horse you thought you were buying and the one you got.

    Buying privately

    Buying privately is a different matter. The law ‘caveat emptor’ (let the buyer beware) exists.

    • If the horse has a problem, you must be able to prove the seller knew, or ought to have known, about it in order for you to get a refund. And suing for breach of contract can be difficult, lengthy and costly.

    NFU legal/technical adviser, Nicola Cook, says: “If you innocently rely on the vendor’s comments, such as believing the horse to be vice-free when it turns out to weave, then you have the right to your money back, including the full cost of the horse, compensation and other expenses incurred.

    “But you have to be able to prove that the seller represented the horse wrongly or inaccurately. In court, that could simply come down to your word against theirs. For this reason, you should get a written representation from the seller when you buy a horse.”

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