Guides & Checklists

A Guide to Buying An Equine – Purchasing Precautions

Choosing a Horse is a big decision. It’s a huge commitment in terms of time and money. As the potential purchaser of an equine, what can you do to ensure you are buying the best animal for your needs and budget? And what can you do if it all goes wrong? The following buyer’s tips could help you steer clear of the undesirable, and give you the best possible chance of finding your perfect partner…

Check Out Its History

When buying a horse you are not just purchasing a living animal and companion, but also something that may be a large financial commitment for the next few decades. A horse is also a large and powerful animal, which can be dangerous if a new owner doesn’t know exactly what they’re dealing with. Therefore it’s vital to know exactly what you’re buying and that you are getting the horse that the seller has described. Here are some things you ought to check about an animal’s background

  • Where has it come from?
  • Is it unbroken or not been ridden for long periods of time?
  • Is it green and likely to need further schooling by an experienced rider?
  • Has it been ridden hard during its working years?
  • How old is it?
  • Does it have any major medical problems?
  • Does it suffer from a disease which can be hard to manage such as sweet itch or laminitis?

If you don’t like the answer to any of these questions, what are the practical implications of purchasing the horse or pony anyway? Is it beyond your knowledge and experience to handle a horse you don’t genuinely know everything about? Once the seller has answered all of your questions, the next thing to ask is whether they have they any evidence to back up claims about the horse.

Always get a receipt and ask for any descriptions made about the horse to be written on it. Keep the advert. These may be able to be used as evidence if the animal turns out to be vastly different to how it was described. If you are buying from a trader (someone who buys and sells horses as part of their business) you will have additional consumer rights. False information given on a passport, as well as false or reckless descriptions made in the course of a business, can constitute a criminal offence..

Get To Know The Horse

Spend time with the animal in the stable – lead him, pick out his feet. Test any claim made. For example, if the advert says the animal is an acclaimed show jumper, ask to watch it over jumps and check any winnings that have been claimed.

If you are told he is great in traffic, ask to watch him being ridden out on roads. Riding the horse to make sure you get on can be a good idea, but always ensure you are comfortable and feel safe. Only mount if you have watched the owner or their assistant riding first, to ensure the horse is sound and appears calm and manageable.

A back protector and hard hat should always be worn whenever you ride, but this is all the more important on an unknown animal. If you are buying from a trader, turn up at short notice or even unannounced for a second look at the horse you are interested in. How does he look and behave when he has not been prepared for your visit? Is he easily caught and brought in?

If you are buying at a sale and these checks are not possible, you won’t have had an opportunity to fully inspect or get to know the horse. In addition, at an auction, your normal consumer rights when buying from a trader are reduced. Ask yourself if you are willing to take the risk?

Have Him Vetted

A vet check is advised if you are seriously considering buying a horse. You should choose a vet you are comfortable with. A seller should not impose their choice of vet on you. The check should include looking for soundness and any conformation defects, any signs of previous or current illness and importantly a blood test that should be taken the same day as you have ridden the horse.

A genuine seller with the horse’s well-being in mind should not object to any of the above. If a seller refuses your requests to test the description of an animal, they may have something to hide…

Horse Passports

All horses must have a passport. It is an offence to sell a horse without its passport. The passport must accompany the horse during transport and at events. It will also need to be produced to a Vet when treatment is required. Do not buy a horse without a passport or rely on it being sent on. When buying a horse it is important to check the passport. Fraudulent and fake passports unfortunately exist. If you are having the horse vetted, the vet should check the passport against the horse and, if the horse is microchipped, check the chip number against the passport.

Check the current owner details are correct. Consider contacting previous owners before agreeing to purchase, in order to check the history of the horse. Check the passport for alterations, amendments and missing pages, such as owners details. It is an offence to deface a passport.

If in doubt, call the Passport Issuing Organisation (PIO) and give them the horse’s Unique Equine Life Number (UELN), which is printed in the passport. Once you have purchased a horse you have 30 days to notify the PIO of the change of ownership. It is an offence to fail to do so.

NOTE: Keepers of horses should always be in possession of the passport. This may not always be the owner, for instance when a horse is on loan.

Having Problems With A New Horse?

If you have purchased a horse from a trade seller and you are not happy with it, you can get advice on your rights as a consumer, and report any potential criminal breaches via the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline On 03454 040506 or 0208 1850710.

If your business is located in Devon, Somerset or Torbay and involves the sale of horses or ponies, and you would like advice on your legal obligations, including help with best practice, please call us:
Devon based traders: 01392 381381
Somerset based traders: 08454 345 9188
Torbay based traders: 01803 208025