How to Avoid Being Mis sold a Horse
A vast number of horses are mis sold every day, not just to inexperienced novice, 1st time buyers but also to very knowledgeable, experienced horse owners who think they know how to avoid being duped by a fraudulent seller.
When talking about being “mis-sold” a horse, we are not talking about people who over estimate their ability, who buy horses with known health, behaviour or training issues and think they can overcome them. For the purposes of this article we are talking about people who knowingly and purposefully misrepresent and falsely advertise the horse they are selling to make a quick sale to anyone, regardless of suitability, who will buy the horse purely for turning a quick profit.
The prevalence of horses being mis sold does not appear to be on the decline. It is the most common cause of horse owners requiring equine legal representation. Buyers need to be more vigilant than ever in picking up the signs of a ‘dodgy’ seller and when buying any horse, do their homework, not only on what they are looking for and sticking to that checklist, but also in terms of verifying that the horse is what the owner or seller claims it to be and that the seller can be trusted as being genuine. This is even more important when buying from a private seller, where it really is “buyer beware” as the Consumer Act of 2015 can only help buyers who purchase horses from traders, ie those who sell horses for a living.
Interpret Horse Advertisements Carefully
When searching for your perfect horse it is crucial to know exactly what you are looking for and whilst with any purchase you are likely to need to compromise on some factors, perhaps height, location, price – be very certain on the factors you will not compromise on and stick to them. For example if your new horse must be proven to safely hack by itself without being nappy, spooky or anxious be careful to avoid adverts where there is no statement of fact saying the horse is “GOOD TO HACK ALONE” simply having an advert that reads “HORSE WILL HACK ALONE” is not good enough, any horse with a sufficiently competent rider “WILL HACK ALONE” it is whether it does so safely or not that matters. Sellers who avoid adding information like this in their adverts will often do so because the horse is not proven in this area of its training and they do not want to be held to account in any legal battle should the buyer wish to make a formal complaint. As a buyer you can always ask the question, “is the horse good to hack alone” or “is the horse suitable for a novice” or “is the horse good with noisy vehicles like tractors, motorbikes, lorries” you can be elaborate and descriptive in your questions but you absolutely must have their answer in written form for it to be of any use later on if the sale goes wrong.
What does a Dodgy Seller Look Like?
Sellers who fraudulently sell horses and misrepresent them have a certain character and demeanour, they can be male or female, they are incredibly convincing and you, as a buyer, on first impressions, will probably like them. They will be friendly, courteous, and will want to try and help you in your quest for the “perfect” horse.
If you happen to tell them about what type of horse you are looking for, chances are, the seller will tell you they have that exact horse. If you mention you have bought an unsuitable horse previously they will sympathise with you. They will want to be your friend and want you to like them.
Tactics of a Fraudulent Seller
The majority of buyers are looking for a safe and sensible horse that is fit and well, with minimal behavioural issues and no health ailments. Fraudulent sellers will therefore be looking to disguise any issues which are likely to put off a potential buyer. They can do this in a number of ways so it is important to be very vigilant and look out for the following upon arrival to visit the horse ;
- The horse may have been exercised prior to your arrival in order to exhaust them so they are less likely to misbehave when you arrive, the horse may show signs of sweating or having been washed down
- The horse may have been drugged or sedated to mask any unsoundness issues, it may therefore look subdued and flat, have a dropping lower lip, lowered head, a male horse may have a relaxed/hanging penis, their eyes may be at half mast.
How to check out the reputation of a seller?
The majority of fraudulent sellers are frequent offenders and will have mis sold horses before. They may have an alias but they are likely to sell from the same yard / premises and are likely to have the same mobile phone number by which to sell. A first port of call would be to google their name, yard and mobile number to see if anything comes up supporting previous complaints of a fraudulent nature. Buyers can also join Facebook groups such as Dodgy Horse Dealers UK and ask if anyone has any prior knowledge of a said person having mis sold a horse previously. If the individual is a trader they should have a business name which you can use to search via Companies House. It will then say how long they have been trading.
Fraudulent sellers may also be bad payers, they may have CCJ’s against their name or business for non payment of bills/invoices. If you think you have found the right horse but want to do additional checks you can do a CCJ check here at minimal cost which can provide great peace of mind. You do not need the permission of the company or individual to carry out a CCJ check. However, the system will only check on the information and address you provide so if the seller has moved or used an alias there is a risk you may miss information.
Another useful check would be to liaise with any previous owners of the horse to verify with them past health or behaviour issues. If the seller has nothing to hide they should allow you access to the horse’s passport to obtain this information and often people can be found through social media. You will then be able to see if the information you have gleaned from the seller matches up with information from previous owners. Googling the horse’s registered name may also provide information on previous owners/riders connected with the horse.
Trying out the horse prior to purchase?
This element of the horse purchasing process is the most critical and it is the stage where buyers who will later claim they were “mis sold a horse” often fall short. Do not let emotion run away with you, keep a clear, objective mind and don’t assume the horse is everything the seller claims it to be. In the respect of private sales the law is not on the side of the buyer, the principle of “caveat emptor” or “buyer beware” applies. So it is your job to test the horse prior to purchase, much as you would a privately sold car, to ensure it is fit for the purpose you require.
If the horse must be; a safe hack, good at XC, sensible in open spaces, capable of producing a good dressage test, then make sure you try out all these activities before you buy the horse. Go back more than once to try the horse, always take an experienced person with you to help you remain objective and don’t make any rash, quick decisions on purchase and always get a full vetting carried out by an independent vet not the sellers.
Think it over… buying any horse is a long term, expensive commitment and claiming the horse was mis sold is not for the faint hearted – that too is a costly venture which may not work in the favour of the buyer especially if you did not do your homework when you initially went to try the horse.