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Buying a horse

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.

  • Last reviewed: 13th July 2022
BHS STOCK NOV2016 0533 BHS STOCK NOV2016 0533

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.

Finding the right horse

Carefully consider what your ideal horse would be and the activities you plan to do together. Think about: 

  • Height and age range 
  • Breed 
  • Sex 
  • Competition ability/history 
  • Experience of horse 
  • Budget  
  • How far are you prepared to travel to view?  

Where to start looking?

  • Many horses are advertised online or in publications, but good horses often sell via ‘word of mouth’ before they are advertised, so describe the sort of horse you’re looking to your coach and horsey contacts. 
  • Consider rehoming a horse through an equine charity. Search via the National Equine Welfare Council for a rehoming centre local to you. 
  • There are many good dealers, and for some buyers, viewing a variety of horses on one yard is more convenient than travelling to several different yards. However, as in any profession, there are disreputable traders, so research the reputation of any dealer before visiting. 
  • The BHS does not recommend purchasing from a sale or auction for the first-time horse owner, as it’s not possible to see the animal in its home environment and it’s unlikely that you would be able to ride the horse before purchase.  

Owner’s/rider’s capability and experience

It is vital to be realistic about your own ability, knowledge and experience. Buying a horse that doesn’t match your capabilities is unlikely to be an enjoyable partnership and can end in heartache, as well as being potentially dangerous. 

When you view a horse, you should take an experienced person with you who understands your riding capability and requirements. Many BHS Accredited Professional Coaches will provide this service and give their professional view on the horse’s suitability for you, in order to help you make an informed decision. However, remember that your coach cannot advise you whether you should purchase the horse, or give their opinion on the horse’s value, as this is outside of their professional scope. 

Viewing a horse

Reputable sellers will want a prospective buyer to know as much as possible about the horse to ensure it goes to the right home.  

Learn more about what questions to ask and arranging a viewing. 

Purchasing a horse

Never buy on impulse. However perfect the horse may appear, buying a horse unseen and without a thorough trial is never advisable. Don’t make an instant decision: take the time to discuss your thoughts with your coach or a knowledgeable friend, and consider arranging a second viewing. When you are certain that you have found the horse you want to buy, the BHS strongly recommends that you arrange a pre-purchase veterinary examination (vetting) before proceeding. If you have a horse vetted, ask the vet to check that the microchip in the horse matches the details in the passport.

Learn more about Pre-Purchase Veterinary Examinations

Trial Period

Consider asking for a trial period, as this can help you be sure that this is the right horse for you, and also allows the seller to know that they are selling the horse to the right person. All aspects of any trial period must be covered in writing, including elements such as who covers emergency vet care or insurance costs. If you are a BHS Gold Member, you can use the BHS Sale Agreement service to assist you with drawing up a sales contract that includes a trail period. 

Buyer beware

As with any purchase, be aware that there are always a minority of people who will attempt to take advantage of unwary buyers. Always be mindful of potential scams, and don’t part with any money until you are absolutely satisfied about all elements of the sale. 

Topics to agree beforehand with your seller include: 

  • Clear arrangements regarding deposit, particularly in what circumstances it should be returned. 
  • Clear arrangements regarding any trial period and associated responsibility for costs and insurance. 
  • A sale contract stating purchase terms and conditions, and a signed receipt. 
  • Public Liability insurance cover from date of purchase. 

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.

Private Seller

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.


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. Don’t accept any excuses for not receiving the horse’s passport at the time of sale! This is a common cause of complaint from new owners, and it can be problematic and difficult to resolve. It is a legal requirement to have the passport for transporting the horse to the new yard. 
It is also 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. 

Your new arrival

Isolating your new horse on arrival at your yard is an important disease prevention measure.   

Learn more about setting up an isolation area.

Your horse may take a while to settle into their new routine with you. It’s a good idea to spend some extra time getting to know your new equine and start to build the foundations of a positive partnership together.