With the market in horses and ponies stronger now (in July 2021), than it has been for some time, we at Here4Horses felt this little timely reminder to proceed with care, would not go amiss.
CAVEAT EMPTOR. You may or may not have heard this Latin phrase, pronounced cav-ee-at emm-tor which roughly translated means, ‘buyer beware’.
It occasionally appears in contracts as a form of disclaimer and is still referred to in UK law when dealing with horse and pony purchase and sale issues.
These two words highlight the principal that the buyer alone is responsible for checking the quality and suitability of goods (horses and ponies), before making a purchase.
Clearly, the onus is upon you, the purchaser, to ensure that the animal you buy is absolutely suitable for your purpose.
Once money changes hands, there is limited recourse, especially if the horse was a ‘private’ sale i.e. not bought through a dealer, agent, or an auction.
It is therefore SO important for buyers, (especially those with limited or no experience), to have done their research, asked questions, been given clear answers and taken sound advice from trusted professionals like a Vet or Professional Trainer. This groundwork helps ensure, that all of the boxes are ticked.
A warranty is a type of guarantee given by the vendor (the person selling the horse) with regard to the condition, ability and behaviour of a horse.
In decades gone by, a warranty worked well in an open marketplace or among neighbours trading in livestock.
Horses were often sold with warranties – however, these warranties were frequently limited to the words ‘believed to be sound in wind, limb and action’.
This meant that an honourable vendor was confident that the horse was indeed free from lung damage (broken wind), was clean legged (without obvious lumps and bumps) and not lame. Or, an unscrupulous one was perhaps confident that any flaws could pass unnoticed.
Warranties are still used occasionally but are of little use unless the vendor happens to be a horse dealer or makes part of his/her living, trading in horses.
These days, horses and ponies are mostly purchased by amateur riders as leisure animals and pets. The ‘work’ expected of them is quite different from days gone by. This means that selling horses is perhaps, more than ever, a complex business.
Modern buyers can often have unreasonable expectations – especially those people who are less than honest, when referring to their own (or their child’s) experience and expertise.
It is a fact that many people go looking for the equine equivalent of a Ferrari – when in truth, they would be much better suited to a Volkswagen Polo.
Conscientious dealers can find themselves having a tough time selling good horses and ponies in these circumstances.
It is also true that purchasing a horse or pony is a potential minefield to negotiate – even for those with experience and expertise.
There are dishonest people out there making a good living trading in all types of horses and ponies and some are keener to make a quick sale than find your perfect match.
The old adage ‘if it seems too good to be true, then it probably is’, can therefore prove uncannily accurate when it comes to buying your perfect equine partner.
The wise thing to do is take your time, do your homework and remind yourself that in an ideal world, the vendor will be as curious about you and the future you can provide for the horse, as you should be, about how suitable the horse is for you.
Make a List
A warranty-like check list is a very useful point of reference for prospective purchasers.
We therefore suggest that you take time to make your initial enquiry and ask some, or all, of the following basic questions.
Listen to the answers carefully and make your judgement accordingly.
Make notes as you chat – the answers can then be referred to, if you do decide to go and try the horse or pony.
- How long has the horse been in the vendor’s ownership?
- What has brought about the decision to sell? A dealer will of course have likely bought the horse to produce, for that very reason.
- Does the horse have a registered microchip and a passport that matches its identity? If not, then walk away.
It is illegal in the UK to buy or sell a horse without this and a reputable dealer would have the paperwork in place
- We recommend having any new purchase vetted as this could save a lot of heartache and expense further down the line.
Does the vendor take issue with this? If so, what reasons are given?
There are then more detailed questions to be asked with regard to the horse or ponies’ history, health and behaviour.
If you are buying locally, these questions can be asked during the visit.
However, if the horse resides many miles away then it would be wise to have answers before wasting precious time and money on long fruitless journeys.
Next time ‘Try Before you Buy’
A guide on what to expect, when going to try a potential new horse or pony.