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buying a horse

Michael Bower is a specialist in Litigation, Equine Law and Horse Disputes. As an experienced and enthusiastic horseman he understands the issues and complexities buying a horse.

Michael Bower & Gadoralda D (Mollie)

Free Initial Enquiry

Michael would be delighted to explain how he can help you resolve your equine dispute. For your free, initial enquiry, please:

Practical steps before you buy:

  • Be clear about what you expect the horse to do.
  • Be clear about the temperament and physical ability you require.
  • Take someone you trust, who has the appropriate expertise and will be able to see through any sales pitch. This person should be able to assess whether the horse is right for you and appropriate for your riding ability.
  • If you arrive and the horse is being worked (lunged or ridden) then ask yourself why? If it is in its stable but is obviously warm or has sweat marks then again, ask yourself why?
  • Ask about the horse’s background, experience, temperament and its age.
  • Find out why the horse is being sold.
  • If it is being sold by a dealer ask why the horse came to them.
  • If possible ask to see the passport so you can compare the details. Make a note of any previous owners who may be happy to provide further information.
  • See the horse being handled in and out of the stable.
  • How does it behave in different environments? e.g. hacking out, at competitions, loading and travelling.
  • How is it to rug up, to load, shoe and clip? It doesn’t do any harm to ask for this to be demonstrated.
  • See the horse being trotted up without any tack to get a feel for how it behaves and how it moves without human intervention.
  • Monitor how the horse behaves and reacts to being tacked up.
  • It is strongly recommended that the owner or their jockey rides the horse before you do. You should see it worked through all its paces. If you are looking to jump the horse this should be demonstrated at a level appropriate to the horse’s age and experience.
  • Always arrange to see the horse a second time and if possible take the horse on trial for a short period of time. Always be clear about the terms of that arrangement before taking the horse.
  • Arrange for your vet or an independent vet (not the owners) to complete a pre-purchase examination or 5 stage vetting. Ensure that the vet understands exactly what type and the regularity of work the horse will be undertaking. This will enable the vet to provide an accurate assessment based on the horses confirmation and health.
  • If you are considering purchasing the horse ask the seller to provide a written description of the horse and all the information that they have given to you verbally e.g. history, temperament.
  • Keep a copy of the advert, any invoices and agreements.
  • Do not pay for the horse or put down a deposit until you are certain you wish to proceed with the purchase. As any deposit, no matter how small, can be legally binding.


  • Your bombproof hack won’t go beyond the end of the drive.
  • Your perfect showjumper or eventer has an underlying condition that you weren’t told about and means that he is only fit for flat work and hacking out.
  • The seller didn’t classify your horse eating its way through its stable and wind-sucking as a vice.
  • That “first pony” your children were so excited about is losing its appeal as they spend more time on the floor than on its back.
  • You double check the passport and the details don’t match the horse you purchased.

Always remember…

  • A change in a horse’s environment, routine, feed and owner can be extremely stressful. This in itself can cause changes in behaviour and temperament which may resolve themselves in a few days.
  • It is always advisable to notify the seller and discuss these changes or any other issues as soon as possible. Keep a note of the conversation for future reference in case matters aren’t resolved and legal action is required.

If a dispute arises when you purchase from a private individual:

  • Seek appropriate legal advice.
  • You will need to prove that:
    • The seller didn’t make you aware of a problem that they knew about or should (in their position) have known about.
    •  They misrepresented or described the horse inaccurately.
    •  As a result you have suffered a financial loss.
  • If a Breach of Contract can be proved then you may have the right to a full refund of the cost of the horse, any expenses that you have incurred e.g. keep/livery, vets, travelling costs.
  • You need to be aware that these cases can often be very complex and as a result can be expensive to pursue.
  • In some cases, it will be possible to agree a settlement avoiding the need to incur the expense of going to court. You will need to consider the price you paid for the horse and any expenses incurred against the cost of the litigation.

If a dispute arises when you purchase from a dealer or professional:

  • Seek appropriate legal advice.
  • A professional horse seller or dealer shouldn’t have any issues in taking a horse back if it has behavioural or health issues. Normally they should offer a more suitable horse or refund the full amount of the price paid.
  • If they offer to sell the horse on your behalf, politely refuse as you would be responsible to the next purchaser if the horse continues to display behavioural or health issues.
  • When the seller is a business then you are protected under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 and the Sale of Goods Act 1979 this means that:
    • The horse must be as described e.g. “8 yr old Irish Sport Horse mare” or “Quiet to load, shoe & clip”.
    • The horse must be fit for purpose e.g. “first pony” , “top eventer”.
    • The horse must be fit for purpose e.g. no physical or health problems that would prevent the horse performing at the level you require.