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Buying a horse - Your rights if it goes wrong

Buying a horse is a significant purchase. The likelihood is that you will be spending substantial money so it is extremely important that you know your rights in the event that things go wrong.  

There are steps you can take to protect yourself before you hand over any money. For starters you should remember the phrase ‘buyer beware’ and get the horse checked by your own vet. You should also ensure that the terms of the sale are written down and signed by both yourself and the seller.   

If you discover problems with the horse once you have taken it home there are various options. If you bought your horse from a dealer acting in the course of a business you are protected by the Sale of Goods Act which affords you certain statutory rights. We have all seen this term banded around shops but what does it actually mean? In this case it means that the horse must be of ‘reasonable’ or ‘satisfactory’ quality. It must also be fit for the purpose for which it was sold and as described by the seller.

You also have the benefit of the Trade Descriptions Act which means that a dealer has an obligation to describe the horse accurately. 

If, when you take possession of the horse you discover that it is not what you thought you were getting then you have options. For example, you thought you were getting a seven year old horse and it actually turns out to be closer to five.

The first step is to immediately contact the person from whom you bought the horse and tell them about the problem. It is important to do this quickly as, if you wait too long, you could lose the right to make a claim.

The seller should offer you a refund. Don’t let the seller fob you off as they can be liable even if they weren’t aware of the problem. If they refuse to give a refund you can bring a claim for damages through the County Court.

If you bought your horse from a private seller you also have options. If you rely on the sellers description of the horse you can claim compensation if the description turns out to be incorrect. For example, if you are told the horse has no health issues but then find out it needs treatment for a pre-existing condition. As long as you can prove the seller knew, or ought to have known, about the problem you can bring a claim for damages in the County Court for breach of contract, and in some circumstances, misrepresentation.

Therefore, if you buy a horse which is not quite what it seems there are options available to you. Take prompt action to enforce your rights and you could recover compensation.

Contact our experts for further advice

Sarah Leighton, Lauren Fraser

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