Your rights when buying a horse: Tom Wills of Sintons gives his advice

Ahead of the Burgham Horse Trials at Morpeth, Tom Wills of Sintons looks at how you should protect yourself when buying a horse

Tom Wills
Tom Wills

The end of this month sees the Burgham International Horse Trials being staged just north of Morpeth. It is the second event of the year to be staged at Burgham and it is the only international horse trial to be staged in the North East, drawing top-quality competitors from around the world.

Here at Sintons, we are delighted to be one of the headline sponsors of the event. The influx of people into Northumberland, to compete and spectate, can only be good for the rural economy.

Following Wimbledon, the sale of tennis racquets tends to soar. Perhaps, watching the daring-do exploits of the top-class field at Burgham will similarly encourage a surge in enthusiasm for buying horses.

Given that the average price of a horse is now approaching £3,000, it is not a decision to be taken lightly and the process can be full of pitfalls for the unwary.

How can you ensure that your money buys the sort of horse that you really want? If only life could be so simple! Buying via a registered dealer may well be your best option but may well come with an added cost.

However, it also comes with the protection provided by the Sale of Goods Act. This means that if the horse is not fit for purpose, you are entitled to your money back, even if the dealer was not aware of the problem.

Under the Act, the horse must be of reasonable or satisfactory quality, and free of defects, unless you have prior knowledge and accept the condition. The horse must also be fit for the purpose that it was sold, and must be accurately described.

If any one of these criteria is not met, you may be entitled to a full refund or the difference in value between the horse that you thought you were buying and the one you got.

If you buy a horse privately, the protection provided by the Sale of Goods Act does not apply. Caveat Emptor comes into play – let the buyer beware. If the horse has a problem, you need to be able to prove that the vendor knew of it, or should have known of it, in order to get a refund as a breach of contract. This can be difficult, and costly, to prove.

There are various steps that you can take to establish the position at the point of sale. As such disputes often come down to your word against the seller’s, it is advisable to take a friend along with you, who can later act as a witness. Ideally a written description should be obtained. Take the horse on trial for as long as possible prior to purchase and do have it properly vetted.

Anyone wanting to discuss matters legal or rural should contact Tom Wills on 0191 226 3796 or


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