Buying a horse is an exciting prospect however the excitement and pleasure that you had when selecting the horse that you wish to buy and bring home can quickly disappear when that horse later proves unsuitable for you or bears no resemblance to the horse that you viewed and were described by the seller.
Your legal position should things go wrong will depend upon where the horse was actually purchased from whether it was a private seller or from a dealer or someone selling horses in the course of their business.
If you purchased your new horse from a dealer or someone selling horses in the course of their business such as a stud then the law, via the Sale of Goods Act 1979 (as amended), applies to the sale and assists buyers by imposing implied terms into the contract of sale. The terms that are implied are that the horse is of a satisfactory quality, is fit for the purpose for which it was sold and that it is actually as the seller described to you before the sale was concluded.
If once the horse has been sold it becomes apparent that the horse was sold in breach of one of the implied statutory terms then it is possible to reject the horse and claim a refund from the seller. Practically however it can be difficult to make a successful claim against the seller as it is difficult to prove the various assurances the seller gave you about the horse whilst you were trotting around a field somewhere trying the horse out. It is therefore vital to have a written sale agreement in place containing details of all the terms agreed. For example make a careful note of all the things that are important to the buyer about the horse, such as whether or not it loads, whether it is good hacking out on its own and in traffic etc, along with the seller’s responses to the various questions. The agreement should then be signed by both parties and each party retain a copy for their records. I also recommend to clients that they retain a copy of the advertisement for the horse, any email conversations and a note of any telephone calls that took place along with a copy of the Pre Purchase Veterinary Certificate, any x-rays or radiographs taken and annex these to the sale agreement.
If you buy your horse from a private seller then you are not protected by the terms implied into the sale of a horse by a business seller. The old rule Caveat Emptor (let the buyer beware) applies and a buyer has no comeback on the seller should the horse later turn out to be completely unsuitable unless a formal written sale agreement was put in place by the parties. A buyer of a horse has a potential claim in misrepresentation if a buyer relied upon a representation made by a private seller that later turns out to be untrue however these cases are notoriously difficult to prove and rarely succeed without the backing of a written sale agreement.
Ultimately buying a horse is a risk as to whether it will be exactly what you want it to be when you get it home and there is only so much you can do to assist in selecting the right horse. Horses are animals at the end of the day and their behaviour is largely determined by their surroundings. However it is open to you to reduce the risk to you when you are buying or selling a horse by ensuring that a sale agreement is in place to deal with any important aspects of the sale. For help and assistance in preparing a sale agreement tailored specifically to you and your potential sale or purchase please call or email Alison Goodwin. Tel. 07966613829, email: AGoodwin@harrison-clark.co.uk