Ellen Shipton


DATE PUBLISHED: 20 Jul 2020 LAST UPDATED: 11 Aug 2022

Buying and Selling Horses – What You Need to Know

If you have any equine law related queries, please do not hesitate to contact us or read more on our specialist Equine Law page.

As we all know, buying and selling most big items can be time-consuming and stressful. Buying and selling horses isn’t any different and can sometimes be more stressful- you cannot get a warranty for a horse. As such, it is important to put all agreements in writing.

Buying horses

1. Buying privately

When you buy a horse privately from an individual, as with used cars, the principle of caveat emptor or “buyer beware” applies. This means that the onus is on you as a purchaser to consider every aspect of your purchase.

Unlike in the purchase of goods and services, when buying privately you do not have a right to expect that the horse is of ‘satisfactory quality’ or ‘fit for purpose’ rather the law provides that the horse needs to be as described to you. This means that if you are buying a horse described as competing up to BE100, then the horse must be able to compete at this level.

On that basis, the seller needs to do the following:

  • Provide an accurate description of the horse;
  • Answer all questions honestly; and
  • Have the legal right to sell the horse.


Unfortunately, in the advertising process people sometimes make representations which later turn out to be false. A misrepresentation is a false statement which induces (i.e. persuades) someone into entering into a contract. So if you are sold a horse on the basis that it can be ridden and the purpose of the horse was going to be that it could be ridden, and you then find out that the horse cannot be ridden, the statement may amount to a misrepresentation.

Misrepresentations can be made either innocently, fraudulently or negligently. There are different tests for each level of misrepresentation so please get in touch for further information or if you think that your horse has been sold to you on the basis of a misrepresentation.

Timeframes play a big part in these types of complaint. The reason being that the more time that passes, the more likely the seller will try to show that an issue has developed over time since purchase rather than being there from the offset. For example, if you buy a horse that is described as sound and lameness develops immediately but you do not notify the seller for some months, it will be more difficult to evidence that the issue was there from the start (unless for example a vet can show that it was).

2. Buying from a dealer

As with cars, you have more protection when buying from a dealer than you do when buying from someone privately.

The reason behind this is the Consumer Rights Act 2015 (“the Act”). The Act states that the item (here the horse) must be of “satisfactory quality”, “fit for purpose” and “as described”. All of these will of course need to tie in with the horse’s age, breed, fitness, soundness and the purpose for which you are buying the horse.

Under the Act, you have the right to reject the horse and be entitled to a full refund within 30 days of purchase. You cannot exercise this right if you were aware of the issue when you purchased the horse.

After 30 days, you lose these short-term rights to reject the horse and you will have fewer rights. As with misrepresentations, it becomes more difficult over time to demonstrate that there was an issue present when you first purchased the horse and that the issue has not developed over time.

It is also important to be aware of scammers when buying a horse- be wary of horses being drugged to mask lameness/ injuries and check that the person is able to legally sell the horse before entering into a contract with them.

Selling horses

If you are selling a horse, the main advice is just to be honest. As with most instances, honesty is the best policy and if you are upfront with the buyer about any issues then it is less likely that there will be any problems later down the line.

As with buying, it is also worth being wary of scammers and ensuring that your horse appears to be going to a good home where it will be well cared for.

Advice on Buying and Selling Horses

Our advice is to have a written contract in place. If you have a contract in place, it will set out the position if an issue is discovered following sale/ purchase. If you do not have a contract in place, the potential claims available to you will be more
difficult (although not impossible) as you will be relying upon the original advert, photographic/ video evidence, witnesses, messages/ emails and potentially just each party’s word as to what happened. We can help you draft a written purchase/ sale contract, please get in touch for more information.

If you think that you have been mis-sold a horse or if any of the above examples sound too close to home then please do get in touch with our specialist Equine Law department by contacting us at equine@ellisjones.co.uk or by calling 01202 057732.

Our Equine Law team also specialise in a number of varying equine disputes including:

How can we help?

When you submit this form an email will be sent to the relevant department who will contact you within 48 hours. If you require urgent advice please call 01202 525333.

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