Two-year legal dispute over height of 128cm showjumper

The buyer of a 128cm show jumping pony who later measured out has had his case against the seller overturned on appeal following a two-year dispute.

Richard Mawson paid seller Anne Morris £9,000 in March 2016 for 15-year-old JA Shy Strike Again, who he bought as a schoolmaster for his nine-year-old daughter.

The Connemara gelding had an annual Joint Measurement Board (JMB) certificate at 128cm before the sale, and went on to compete successfully, but when British Showjumping requested a new height certificate, the pony was found to measure 130.7cm.

Mr Mawson sued for breach of contract and an initial decision in February 2018 at Selkirk Sheriff Court found in his favour, believing the second measurement — which was under the JMB’s “uncontestable” gold standard — to be the more authoritative.

But at an appeal in Edinburgh, Sheriff Principal M Stephen QC concluded that the original judge had “addressed himself to the wrong question” as the evidence before the court could not prove the pony had not measured 128cm at point of sale.

Decree of absolvitor was granted together with a finding of expenses in favour of Ms Morris.

Mr Mawson told H&H the case had been a “total nightmare” and that he had been “naïve” about the horse world.

“We bought our first pony off Anne Morris and my daughter won at county and local shows, so we wanted to go national and to bigger events and asked her for a pony that could jump bigger heights,” he explained. “She knew exactly what we needed and said she had the perfect one.”

Shy Strike Again had many wins on his record in Ireland and proved to be a “fantastic” pony, but Mr Mawson said he was shocked when he was asked to re-measure.

“His previous height certificate was in June and I had thought it would last 12 months and didn’t realise it expired in December,” he said. “We went to get a gold certificate done and he was [nearly] 3cm too big, only six months after the previous measurement. Anne Morris refused to give me my money back or take him back.

“I just don’t believe a 15-year-old pony could grow 3cm in that amount of time.”

“We could take it to a higher court but I don’t have the £20,000 to £30,000 it would cost,” he said. “I couldn’t walk away before because I was convinced we would win and fortunately we were able to pursue the case as it was covered by my house insurance policy.”

Shy Strikes Again later died after developing a serious skin condition.

Anne Morris said she was “delighted” at the appeal verdict for “sellers in general”.

“If it had gone against me it would have opened a can of worms for the JMB and would have made a mockery of any JMB certificate,” she said.

She added that she would never have deliberately “sold something that was wrong”, and that she had bought the pony with the height certificate in June 2015, after he had arrived in the UK from Ireland, and had been re-measured to ensure his official height applied here.

“We’d jumped on Scottish teams with it and no one had ever questioned it or suggested it looked big. As far as I was aware it was a 128cm and I was selling it with a current height certificate.”

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Anne added that following the case, she would “never advertise something as 128cm again”.

“In future I would always say that it has a height certificate at 128cms,” she said.

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