Buying and selling – key questions answered

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Whether you’re buying or selling, it can be something of a minefield – how do you know when people are being honest about the horse? What do you do if you don’t like the potential buyer?

Jill Headford is a partner in the equine law department at Tozers LLP. She owns five horses, used to compete in BD and has extensive experience of resolving horse-related disputes.

Here are her answers to some seller questions:

Someone is interested in buying my horse. It seems like the perfect home for him however, I’m not sure about the person involved. Is it possible to have a background check done on prospective buyers?

You don’t have to sell to someone you have doubts about. The only relevant checks you can carry out are financial, so all you can do really is look on social media and ask around.

I think the real point to recognise here is once you’ve sold a horse, you are no longer in a position to control his future, except perhaps in some simple ways such as a right of first refusal in the event of a resale.

If you don’t want to let your horse go to this person, then don’t. You need not give a reason, or you can simply say that you don’t think he will suit them.

I’ve lost confidence with my spooky horse, and think it’s best for both of us if I sell him. How can I phrase my advert to avoid legal comebacks, without putting people off?

Quite simply, honesty is the best policy. Remember that a statement which is not an outright lie can still be misleading or only a partial truth will read literally.

Your main risk is that you may say something factually untrue that induces the buyer to buy the horse when they otherwise wouldn’t have bought it.

If they can prove you made a false statement of fact before the sale, they can return the horse and demand their money back, plus compensation for all their expenditure with the purchase.

You would be surprised, though, how many people are happy to buy, even knowing the horse bucks, pulls, spooks or whatever.

The truth won’t necessarily lose you a sale and hopefully your horse will find someone who doesn’t mind his quirks.

What criteria should owners use to decide a fair selling price for a horse? Are legal repercussions possible if a buyer feels they’ve overpaid?

The criteria differ in every case, but will often include (in no particular order): age, soundness, conformation, experience, behaviour in-hand and under saddle, talent, competition record, type, breeding and so on.

Most vices or health issues will reduce the price. A seller might aim their advert at a certain type of buyer by emphasising certain qualities, but there are no criteria to avoid particularly.

The price, whatever it is based on, is entirely a matter for the buyer and seller to agree and the law is not concerned with whether or not it is ‘fair’.

Even if the buyer later discovers that they have paid too much or the seller realises the horse was really worth far more, neither can go back on the deal once it’s done.

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