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Shutting the Stable Door after the Horse has Bolted?

The equine industry traditionally operates on the basis of legally binding verbal agreements. However, should you get a horse home to discover that it differed to what you expected, you will have difficulty proving the agreement. You may have limited options available to resolve the issue.

When buying a horse, the sale agreement will invariably be with a trader acting as a business or as a private individual. Prevention is better than a cure. Whether you buy from a trader or private individual, if you buy a horse Kidwells would recommend:

  • Viewing the horse prior to buying it to ensure that it is what you require;
  • Have the horse vetted. Not doing so may save money in the short term, but could end being a costly mistake in the long-term;
  • If you pay cash to the seller, request a signed receipt;
  • If you buy a horse from an advert, retain a copy of this as it may be helpful if any dispute arises. It is what the seller represented;
  • Crucially, record the terms of the purchase in a written contract. A Solicitor should draft this and both seller and purchaser sign it prior to making payment.

horsesBuying a horse from a Trader

A person buying from a trader has significantly better legal protection than against a private seller. If purchasing a horse from someone acting in the course of a business, statutory implied terms to the agreement for sale protects consumers. The horse has to be of satisfactory quality and fit for the purpose for which it is bought.

These statutory rights give the purchaser a right to return the horse if these terms are not met. For example, if a horse has a vice making it unfit for purpose which was present at the time of purchase, but the buyer discovers it only on completion of the sale, the buyer could claim a breach of the implied statutory terms and may be able to claim a full refund of the purchase price.

Buying from a Private Seller

However, if buying from a private seller, the maxim “Buyer Beware” applies. The buyer needs to undertake their own investigations to ensure that the horse is of satisfactory quality and fit for the purpose.

Purchase from a private seller affords the buyer reduced protection. A buyer may be able to argue a breach of contract or misrepresentation if the horse does not match the sellers’ description.


Having your solicitor draft a formal contract to ensure that the terms of purchase are clear and may avoid a dispute. This will give a greater degree of protection in what is a significant investment, and it will avoid having to shut the stable door after the horse has bolted!

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