The prospect of viewing and buying your own horse can be very exciting, however, to ensure the most positive outcome for you, the seller, and the horse it is important to make careful considerations and understand the process fully before you buy. Buying and owning a horse is a big commitment, so it is important that you are 100% confident on your decision and that the process of buying is not rushed.
Finding the right horse
Take your time to carefully consider what your ideal horse would be and the activities you would like to do (such as dressage, hacking, Riding Club competitions). Creating a list assessing different criteria is sensible before viewing any horse and may include:
- Height and age range
- Competition ability/history
- Experience of horse
- Purchase limit -what you can realistically afford? Don’t be tempted to buy a horse just because it is cheap; there can sometimes be a reason why a horse is a lot less expensive than you might expect it to be.
- How far are you prepared to travel to view a horse? Fuel costs can quickly add up.
Photo Credit: Jon Stroud
Where to start looking?
- Good horses are often sold via ‘word of mouth’ so make your coach and any other knowledgeable horsey contacts aware of your ideal horse to help with the search.
- Equestrian magazines and websites will provide you with a vast array of choice.
- Consider the option of rehoming a horse through an equine charity. Search via the National Equine Welfare Council for a rehoming centre local to you.
- Dealers - For some buyers, viewing a variety of horses on one yard is more convenient than travelling to several different yards. There are many good dealers, but, as in any profession, there are also those who are not reputable. Research the reputation of any horse dealer you are considering visiting.
- Horse sales - When buying from a sale it is not possible to see the animal in its home environment and there is unlikely to be an opportunity to ride the horse before purchase. The BHS does not recommend purchasing from a sale or auction for the first-time horse owner.
Never buy on impulse. However perfect the horse may appear, buying a horse unseen and without a thorough trial is never advisable.
Owner’s/rider’s capability and experience
It is vital to be realistic about your own ability, knowledge and experience when deciding what type of horse you want. Buying a horse that does not match your capabilities is unlikely to be an enjoyable partnership and can end in a lot of heartache, as well as being potentially dangerous.
Most reputable sellers will want a prospective buyer to know as much as possible about the horse to help ensure it ends up in the right home. Before arranging a visit for any horse consider asking the following:
- Would you class the horse as a novice/experienced ride?
- What is the horse’s temperament like?
- Has the horse had any injuries/illness?
- How does the horse behave with other horses, both when ridden and turned out?
- What is the horse like to load, catch and clip?
- How does the horse behave with the farrier and the vet?
- Does the horse have any stereotypical behaviours such as weaving?
- Is the horse good in traffic?
If following further enquiries, the horse sounds ideal, arrange a viewing with the seller and make it clear what you would like to see the horse doing.
Access general health and condition
- Fat Score
- Hoof condition
- Any abnormalities or old injuries
- See the horse walked and trotted up to assess straightness, movement and soundness.
Observe being handled in various situations.
If you are viewing a potential first pony, how safe is the pony for a child to handle?
Photo Credit: Jon Stroud
- In the stable
- Tied up outside the stable
- Tacking up
- Being caught and brought in from the field
- If stated as good to load and clip ask to see the horse being loaded and to assess their reaction to clippers being turned on near them.
Observe being exercised in various situations
Photo Credit: Jon Stroud
- On the roads
- In an arena
- Open fields
- Over fences
- Alone and in company
- Worked in-hand such as lungeing, long-reining or general handling.
When viewing any horse, the BHS strongly advises you to take an experienced person with you who knows your ability and requirements. Many of our BHS Accredited Professional Coaches will be willing to provide this service. However, do remember the Accredited Professional Coach is unlikely to advise you on whether or not you purchase the horse, but will give their professional view on its suitability for you, which can help you make an informed decision. They will never suggest the value of the horse as this is outside of their scope.
Don’t make an instant decision, go away and discuss your thoughts. Where possible it is recommended to arrange a second viewing. When you feel you have found the horse you want to buy, the BHS strongly recommends that you arrange for a vet to carry out a pre-purchase veterinary examination (vetting).
Purchasing a horse
Deposit: If the seller is requesting a deposit, to avoid any disputes, ensure you have written confirmation on what circumstances it would be returned or non-refundable. For example, would your deposit be returned if the horse failed the vetting?
Be aware of scams: As with any exchange of money always be mindful of potential scams. For example, the BHS has been made aware of sellers asking for money deposits to secure a viewing of a horse – this is not required.
Trial Period: Discuss the option of a trial period, this helps you to be sure that this is the right horse for you, but also allows the seller to be happy that they are selling the horse to the right person. Ensure that all aspects of the trial period are covered in writing, including whose responsibility it is if the horse is ill or injured and who pays for the insurance to cover. It is completely at the seller’s discretion if a trial period is an option and if the horse has to stay at its current yard. Trial periods can be problematic, so don’t be surprised if the seller is not willing to offer this.
Paperwork: When purchasing the horse ensure you obtain a signed receipt for your money and you may also want to consider a sale contract. The sale contract should state the terms and conditions that the horse was purchased under. If you are a Gold Member of the BHS use our ‘Sale Agreement’ service to help you.
Insurance: This is an important consideration and cover should commence from the date you purchase the horse. Public Liability Insurance is imperative and is included as one of the benefits of BHS Gold membership (terms and conditions apply).
It is a legal requirement for all horses in the UK to be passported and microchipped. Do not purchase a horse without a passport and check that the passport matches the horse you are purchasing. The passport may include a silhouette showing at least 5 identifiable marks to help distinguish the horse (in passports issued after 1 July 2009 the silhouette is not a requirement). If you have a horse vetted, it is strongly advised to ask the vet to check that the microchip in the horse matches the details in the passport.
Do not fall victim to excuses for not receiving the horse’s passport at the time of sale, for example it’s been accidentally left at home and will be sent in the post. The BHS hears this so many times from new owners and it can sometimes be problematic to resolve. It is also a legal requirement to have the passport for transporting the horse to the new yard.
It is a legal requirement for a new owner to update the ownership details on the passport within 30 days of purchasing the horse. Failure to do so is an offence. Contact the relevant Passporting Issuing Organisation to update owner details.
The first few weeks
When your horse first arrives with you it is important to remember that this will be a significant change to their routine. Ensure time is spent getting to know your new horse and allowing the horse to get to know you. This is essential to help build the foundations of a positive partnership.
Isolating your new horse for a minimum of 21 days is vital in ensuring the most effective measures of disease prevention are in place. If your new horse is field kept, isolation can still be an option by sectioning off a separate area and preventing nose-to-nose contact.
Speak with your vet about a blood test to detect whether your new horse is a carrier of disease, this is advised even if a vetting has been conducted. Carriers will show no sign of disease, however when placed in a stressful situation (like moving yards or travelling) may begin to shed the disease without your knowing. This increased stress along with a change in their routine or feed can also increase the risk of colic. To help with the transition, be sure to find out the horse’s current management and feeding routine before bringing them home.
Following isolation if no signs of disease have been presented, gradually introduce your horse to any new field companions. Where facilities allow, turn your new horse out in an empty neighbouring field, ensuring fencing is safe and secure. This will help to avoid conflict and allow all horses to get used to each other safely.
What are my rights if I’ve been mis-sold a horse?
If you have purchased your horse through a registered dealer and believe they have broken the law or acted unfairly, you can report them to Trading Standards. It is strongly recommended to seek legal advice to assist with this matter. If you’re a BHS Gold member you will be able to access the free legal helpline.
If you believe you have been mis-sold a horse from a private seller, this is classed as a civil matter and professional legal advice needs to be sought. Unfortunately, the BHS cannot directly help to resolve civil matters. However, if you’re a BHS Gold member you can get excellent free advice by calling the legal helpline.