What legal issues do you need to consider before buying a horse?
Buying a horse

Understand the legal considerations of buying a horse before you sign on the dotted line5 min read

Buying a horse is not only a significant investment of money but also an emotional investment – getting swept away by those big, soft eyes is just too easy!

Finding the right horse for you is so very important and you should understand the legalities of making this kind of purchase.

UK & EU: The horse should have a passport

It’s illegal to sell a horse without a passport and it’s illegal to own a horse without a passport in the UK & EU.

A passport identifies a horse by the microchip number and markings on the horse.

When buying a horse, you should ask to see the passport and confirm that the horse being sold is the same one that the passport belongs to.

If there isn’t a passport at the time of the viewing (such as when buying a horse under 12 months) the seller needs to present a passport before the sale goes through and hand the passport over to the buyer at the time of the sale.

The new owner is then responsible for registering the change of ownership in the passport. If the new owner wants to sell the horse on before this 30 day period is over, the horse must first be registered to the interim owner before the new sale.

The horse should have a microchip

A new law introduced on 25th June 2018 makes it compulsory that from October 2020 all equines are microchipped and registered in the Central Equine Database in the UK.

The number of the microchip will be included in the passport. On occasion, a horse can have two microchips and in that case, both numbers should be in the passport.

If a microchip has fallen out or moved around and it can’t be located with a scanner, it’s best to have a second microchip put in just for your own peace of mind.

You should get a receipt for the purchase

An equine passport isn’t proof that you own a horse, but a document to prove the identity of your horse, you should get a receipt from the seller when you buy the horse.

This receipt should include, at the very least, the horse’s passport and microchip number, the amount paid and the seller’s and buyer’s names and addresses as well as the date of the sale.

It’s recommended that you also keep a copy of the horse’s sale ad and get a horse purchase agreement, which can help you in any dispute should the horse turn out to be different than described.

When you’re buying from private sellers

When you buy a horse from a private seller, caveat emptor applies – this is the principle that the buyer alone is responsible for checking the quality and suitability of goods before a purchase is made.

You should verify any information that you get from the seller and include it in writing in any purchase contract (along with the description of the horse from the sale ad).

Should the horse turn out to be different than described, you may be able to claim for misrepresentation if you found that a significant and specific statement of fact that you relied upon when agreeing to buy the horse is untrue or misleading (e.g. buying a breeding stallion and getting a gelding or buying a pure-bred Friesian and getting a Friesian/Arab cross etc.).

However, you must prove that the seller knew or ought to have known that the information they gave you was false or misleading in order to get a refund.

Litigation is costly, complicated and lengthy and you’ll often end up losing more money, so proceed with discretion.

When you’re buying from business sellers

When you’re buying a horse form a business seller, such as a dealer, they typically trade under different rules than a private person. As a business, they must ensure that the horse for sale is of satisfactory quality and fit for the purpose for which it is sold – taking into account its age and fitness at the time of purchase.

Businesses have a responsibility to describe the horse they’re selling accurately, and buying a horse form a dealer offers better protection than buying from a private seller.

However, it is recommended to get a horse purchase agreement from the dealer and a good idea for you to keep a copy of the advert to prove written evidence in case of a dispute.

If you find that the horse you’ve bought isn’t fit for purpose or not of satisfactory quality (with the exception of any details you already knew at the time of the sale) and you discover this within a reasonable time of the sale you should immediately inform the seller.

The seller is obliged to arrange for the collection of the horse at their expense and issue you with a full refund, or if you want to keep the horse, refund you the difference in value between the horse described and the horse purchased.

Once the seller has agreed to take the horse back, it may also be possible to claim for reasonable expenses incurred in looking after the horse until the seller collects it.

If you cannot negotiate with the seller, seek professional legal advice because sometimes it will take a solicitor’s letter or be necessary to take court action to get a resolution.

When you’re buying from an auction

When you want to buy a horse at an auction you need to check if the horse comes with any kind of warranty.

Typically, horses sold at auction are sold ‘as is’ which means that once you’ve got the horse, it’s yours no matter what.

Some auctions will offer warranties and at some auctions some horses will have warranties and some won’t.

If you want to buy a horse at an auction, it’s always a good idea to take someone more experienced with you and to read this 5-part guide to buying your horse at auction before going.

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