Buyer beware: warning as unseen horse sales become more common during Covid-19 pandemic

  • World Horse Welfare is highlighting the potential dangers of buying horses unseen, after a “stunning schoolmaster” and a bombproof hack turned out to be not at all as advertised.

    Laddie and Angel were bought without a viewing, from a dealer 500 miles away from their new owner in Aberdeen, in March. Part-thoroughbred Laddie was a “sad sight” on arrival.

    “He was dreadfully underweight and, having been recently fully clipped by the dealer, his ribs were also clearly visible with his hip bone and spine protruding through his skin – a stark contrast to the advertised stunning, schoolmaster horse that was depicted in the videos and pictures sent by the dealer to the potential buyer,” a World Horse Welfare spokesman said.

    “Angel was in good body condition when she arrived in Scotland, but was nervous, skittish and flighty – not the bombproof hacking pony advertised.”

    The buyers asked World Horse Welfare for help, and some months later, they have a bright future ahead.

    “The new owners bought two horses unseen from a dealer and paid for them to be transported up to a remote area of the Highlands,” said World Horse Welfare field officer Leanne McPake.

    “Laddie came off the lorry a sorry soul who was in poor body condition — he was nothing like the photos and videos seen on his advert. Angel, although in good body condition, was spooky and nervous, not the bombproof pony advertised. The owners very sensibly recognised their own limits and the care needed to rehabilitate Laddie and Angel so they asked World Horse Welfare to help and both ponies were then signed over into our care.

    “Laddie has made a remarkable recovery and is ready to start work with his groom at Belwade Farm. Angel has settled into her new surroundings and has responded well to the rehabilitation and handling process. Keep an eye on our website for updates and rehoming of this lucky pair.”

    World Horse Welfare said buying unseen has “become the norm for many” during the coronavirus pandemic, but warned against it.

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    “Laddie and Angel’s owners paid £7,000 for the pair, but the hidden costs incurred after buying horses unseen can be much higher,” the spokesman said.

    “You may have to factor in ongoing veterinary costs of sick animals, specialist feeding and your time nursing your horse back to full health. Sadly, in the end your new horse may still not be fit for use.

    “Although some people do buy horses unseen successfully, it is seldom advisable and, where possible, you should always meet the horses to check that they are as described and suitable for your requirements. If you do decide to buy unseen, you should always check sellers’ or dealers’ names and reputations online and get animals vetted before parting with your money.”

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