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Buying a horse? Know your legal rights

Buying a horse is a serious investment and often an emotional one too – so making sure you know your legal rights is important and that you are clear who you are entering into a contract with, as a recent court case shows.

Earlier this year, a county court judge found Mr Davies had bought a nine-year-old dressage horse, known as Maisie, as a result of misrepresentations made to him by the agent including a two inch difference in the mare’s height, the account of its performance levels and her own selling status.

He awarded Mr Daniel Davies more than £14,000 to cover the costs he had incurred in buying Maisie and an extra £2,200. The judge said that this was because: “Mr Davies has had no pleasure in riding Maisie and the whole episode has left him frustrated. He is entitled to damages accordingly.”

The judge also found that “no reasonable steps were taken” to make him aware that a private seller was involved in the sale of the horse via an agent.

A further hearing is still to be held to determine how much Maisie’s owner will pay Mr Davies in costs.

Change to the law – Consumer Rights Act

Mr Davies’ purchase of Maisie fell under the Sale of Goods Act 1979, which applied at the time but since then, this has been replaced by the Consumer Rights Act, the biggest change to this area of the law in recent years.

But does this new act put the consumer, defined as a private buyer who buys from a trader, in a better position to reject a horse that does not meet their expectations after they have bought it?

Does the new law make a difference to the buyer?

New within the Act is the 30 day right to reject a horse and demand a refund if it is not of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose or as described.

But the buyer still has to prove the defects existed at the time of sale although the horse can be rejected for minor defects or for not matching its original advertised description – for example, a year older or an inch taller – within the 30 day time frame.

The right to reject the horse on the basis of defects established within six months remains the same.

Another new right under the Consumer Rights Act is to keep the goods and accept a refund of just part of the price to reflect the defects. The buyer can also reject part of the goods, not much use when it comes to a horse but possibly useful if you bought a horse with tack included and the saddle turned out to have a broken tree, for example.

Tips for buyers

  • Always carefully research the horse you want to buy
  • Act as quickly as possible if you buy the horse and it proves to be a disappointment for which you believe the seller is at fault
  • If the horse seems unsound or has behavioural problems, obtain good evidence of all defects within six months in order to put the burden of proof, for example that the horse wasn’t actually sound at the time of sale, onto the seller
  • Notify the seller of a problem as soon as possible and state, in writing, if you want to reject the horse.

Partner Rebecca Stuart specialises in Equine law

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