Advice 2800 x 1000_0003_Top tips for buying a horse

Buying or selling a horse: top tips

If you are thinking about buying or selling a horse here are some tips to help make sure everything goes well.

If you are thinking about buying or selling a horse here are some tips to help make sure everything goes well.

Selling a horse

There are many reasons why people sell their horse – some very reputable and trustworthy people buy and sell horses as a career, whilst many individuals choose to sell their horse because he is no longer suitable to do the job they need him to do.

For many a change in circumstances may force their hand and coming to the decision to sell their horse has been difficult. Whatever the reason for selling a horse it is essential to make his long-term welfare a priority.

Of vital importance to remember is that once you sell your horse you waive any rights or legal interests in his welfare, which is why it’s essential to vet your buyer thoroughly before you sell.

There are many unscrupulous people who may want to sell your horse on for greater financial gain using scams including:

  • Selling a horse which has previously been the subject of a Loss of Use (LOU) insurance claim for a purpose they may not be capable of and/or insurable for
  • Dealers posing as “rescue” organisations or private sellers
  • Medicating horses to mask traits or problems and then selling them on

Horses who end up in the hands of scammers are at serious risk as scammers have little or no regard for their welfare. The more effort you invest in making sure that the person you sell your horse to has his best interests at the heart of their decision the more likely your horse is to have a secure future. Genuine buyers should be willing to accommodate any number of reasonable requests.

1. Is selling the best option for your horse’s long term welfare?

  • Once you sell your horse you waive any rights or legal interests in his welfare. If you are concerned that his welfare may be put in jeopardy, loaning him out or even euthanasia may a kinder option. Whilst humane euthanasia is a difficult decision to make it may be in the best interests of your horse and to help him avoid enduring a precarious future.
  • If your mare is no longer physically capable of ridden work or has poor conformation you should not sell her as a brood mare. Carrying, delivering and nursing a foal can be as demanding as ridden work, you can read more about horse breeding here.
    If your horse has been injured you have no guarantee that the new owner will respect your recommendation that he is only suited as a companion.
  • Long-term loan means you can keep an eye on the welfare of your horse.
  • If you would like to discuss options with impartial horse welfare professionals contact World Horse Welfare’s Advice Line on +44 (0)1953 497 238.

2. Put your horse’s welfare first

  • Find out over the telephone exactly what the prospective buyer intends to use the horse for, what experience they have and what kind of facilities they have to establish their suitability.
  • When a prospective buyer comes to visit your horse, if you feel they are not managing him well, are a danger to themselves or the horse, or are using techniques that you are not happy with then you are within your rights to draw the meeting to a close.
  • If the ride time is getting too long tell the buyer you believe that is enough riding time. Similarly if you don’t believe the rider has had enough time to get to know your horse before they make the decision to buy then suggest this to them.

3. Be honest

  • It is essential for the welfare of your horse that you are upfront about why you are selling him, his age, capabilities and potential.
  • Don’t tack-up in advance. Tacking him up in front of the potential buyer will demonstrate that he is good to handle and that he doesn’t have any obvious underlying health problems, such as back pain.
  • Be ready to ride. This not only warms him up but also gives the buyer the opportunity to see him performing at his best with a familiar rider on board. If appropriate seek out references from judges or respected individuals about his performance and behaviour at equestrian events.
  • The financial repercussions of being dishonest could be costly as under consumer protection legislation horses may be returned and the owner has the right to a full refund as well as any expenses incurred.

4. Identity is essential

  • Have all his documentation to hand. This will reassure any prospective buyer that you have been honest about his age and that you are legally able to sell him.
  • Never sell unseen. It is very unwise to sell a horse to someone you have never met as it suggests a lack of proper preparation on the part of the buyer. Unscrupulous people make money by buying cheap or free horses and masking their problems to sell them on for profit or by sending them to slaughter. Also be aware of cash transfers and banking scams that may leave your personal details vulnerable.

5. Carry out thorough checks

  • Search for the prospective buyer online. Social media channels may be a good source of information and could help you to verify if their plans for your horse are genuine.
  • Speak to the vet who carries out the vet check. Ask him to verify what the horse’s intended use will be and how much experience the buyer has.
  • If you are concerned about a prospective buyer walk away.

Scammers are constantly seeking new underhand methods of falsifying documents and exploiting people’s love of horses. Therefore whilst this advice is up to date at the time of going to press we will review it regularly in an effort to help you make informed decisions.

Buying a horse

There are many roles that horses can play in a person’s life from helping them to achieve sporting ambitions to being a loyal companion. It’s important to find a horse that is capable of doing the job you want him to do, but it is not uncommon for people to be drawn to certain breeds for their looks alone, which may result in an unsuitable partnership.

There are also many unscrupulous people who will try to exploit your love of horses, using scams including:

  • Horses on loan being sold without the owner’s permission
  • Selling a horse who has previously been deemed incapable of a particular activity, having been paid out on by an insurer and classed as Loss Of Use (LOU). You can find more information about Loss of Use on the Petplan website.
  • Horses “rescued” from slaughter with severely debilitating conditions who are often forced to endure journeys with no regard for their welfare
  • Dealers posing as “rescue” organisations or private sellers
  • Horses with more than one microchip
  • Altered, fake or duplicate passports
  • Passports of horses, including horses that are dead, being reused to sell another horse
  • Horses medicated to mask traits or problems

Scammers often use very sophisticated techniques to extort money from people, with little or no regard for the welfare of the horse involved. The more effort you invest in establishing the identity and capabilities of a horse you are planning to buy the less vulnerable you are to scammers. Genuine sellers should be willing to accommodate any number of reasonable requests.

1. Know what you want

  • Be realistic. Consider your capabilities as a rider or handler as well as the amount of time and money you have to devote to your horse.
  • Make sure the horse is fit for purpose. Get him properly vetted by a specialist horse vet recommended by someone who is trustworthy and knowledgeable.
  • Bring an experienced horse person with you. Even if you have plenty of experience you will never regret having a second pair of eyes and an impartial opinion.
  • Most importantly always consider the cost and long-term commitment.

2. Carry out thorough checks

  • Make sure that the vendor is reputable and don’t simply trust comments on their own website or social media channels.
  • Share information over established and reputable forums about the horse and vendor.
  • Google the vendor, the premises and the horse to see if any are advertised elsewhere and in what context.
  • Check out the horse’s history. The current owner is required by law to register their ownership within 28 days, so if they haven’t and there is no reasonable explanation as to why not then walk away. Ask the vendor for details of the horse’s previous owner and call them to verify his age, health history and capabilities at the time he was sold.
  • Great price? Ask yourself why. A horse does not come out of training for no reason and sellers do not tend to sell a horse for a bargain price to a complete stranger for no reason.
  • If you are buying a horse from the UK or overseas there are a number of factors to bear in mind:
    • Biosecurity – be scrupulous about quarantine arrangements and ensure that there is robust evidence that this has been properly managed;
    • Transport – ensure you see a detailed journey plan prior to the horse leaving its destination including the horse’s fitness to travel, how far he will travel, how he will make this journey, that suitable rest stops have been arranged with proper biosecurity procedures and that the transport company has a good track record of transporting horses responsibly and making welfare a priority;
    • Documentation – there are different legal requirements concerning documentation so make sure you are aware of the current requirements in the country you are buying from and in the country you are bringing the horse to.

3. Identity is essential

  • Never buy unseen. Many unscrupulous dealers deliberately use online market places so they can manipulate information. Pictures or film can be deceptive and the horse in the film or picture may not even be the same horse that you are buying. Anyone selling a horse will display him in his best light but some unscrupulous people may disguise problems. Visit the yard on several occasions at different times of the day. Horses are complex creatures and there are many variables that even the most detailed description, film or photography cannot account for.
  • Ask your vet to check his microchip and most importantly to make sure there is only one microchip. It is a legal requirement for all horses born after 1st July 2009 to be microchipped but many horses born before this also carry a microchip. The details of the microchip must match those on the passport. You can verify certain details (such as his country of origin) by entering his microchip number into websites such as / / or A genuine seller should be prepared to share the microchip number with you.
  • Study his passport. A reputable vendor will have an up-to-date passport to hand when they are selling any horse, even if they are doing it on behalf of someone else. Check the silhouette, age, microchip number, branding or freeze marking and check for a Loss of Use mark (LOU markings can be very problematic with regards to obtaining insurance on horses), and that the owner’s details are accurate on the passport. You can verify information with the Passport Issuing Organisation.
  • The only stamps that can legally appear on a passport are that of the original Passport Issuing Organisation, DEFRA and a veterinary stamp. Any additional stamps should raise serious concerns.

4. Know your rights

  • Do not part with any cash – including holding deposits, costs for livery or transport – until you have carried out all the detailed checks necessary and are confident in your decision. Ensure that all of the costs are agreed in writing before you part with any money and that they are fair and reasonable.
  • Credit agreements are highly suspicious. If you default on a payment many agreements will allow the seller to take the horse immediately, irrespective of how many payments you have already made. Also bear in mind that if the horse dies you will still be liable to continue making payments.
  • Beware of return agreements. Whilst under the Sale of Goods Act 1979 and the Consumer Contracts Regulation 2014 a buyer has the right to return a horse, getting a full refund can be stressful and cost more than the value of the horse.
  • Get a written receipt. Always get a dated receipt when you buy a horse detailing the name and address of the vendor, the intended use of the horse and his passport and microchip numbers, as well as the full amount you paid.
  • The Consumer Contracts Regulation 2014 applies to any item (including a horse) bought away from the trader’s premises (such as online or over the telephone) and its aim is to protect consumers. Find out more at:

5. Seek advice

Scammers are constantly seeking new underhand methods of falsifying documents and exploiting people’s love of horses. Therefore whilst this advice is up to date at the time of going to press we will review it regularly in an effort to help you make informed decisions.

Why buy when you can rehome?

We hope you will consider rehoming over buying, and give a horse in need a second chance in life. All our horses are fully MOT’d by the vet and farrier and come with a passport, microchip and the honest facts about their temperament and abilities. Visit the rehoming pages of our website today to see the wide variety of horses and ponies looking for new homes.

World Horse Welfare is a member of the Pet Advertising Advisory Group.

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