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Contract Disputes and Horse Purchases

A horse is a big purchase, so any problems with the transaction could have a hefty fallout.

Depending on the pedigree of a horse and the purpose for which it is required, the acquisition of a horse can be a transaction that ranges in value from thousands to hundreds of thousands of pounds. Because of the vast sums of money involved, it is important that you ensure you receive exactly what you had bargained for when agreeing to purchase a horse. If you've bought a bad horse, you may be able to claim compensation. There are two main causes of action under which you might be able to make a claim against the vendor of the horse: misrepresentation and breach of contract.


It is important to remember that in most instances, the seller is not obliged to disclose any problems or defects to you, and a failure to volunteer information cannot be a ground for a misrepresentation claim. However, a seller must answer any questions which he is asked truthfully and if he withholds or conceals information, then you may be able to make a misrepresentation claim. This is why it is important to think before the purchase about what questions you would like answered to ensure that the horse is satisfactory to you where it counts.

As well as damages, in misrepresentation cases you are entitled to rescind the contract, and reverse the transaction so that both parties are returned to their positions before the sale. This means that you will receive a refund, and the horse will be returned to the seller.

Breach of contract

In breach of contract claims you are entitled to damages equal to the difference between the value of the horse which you purchased and the value of the horse which you received. You are also entitled to any other losses which flow from the breach of contract. For example, if you incur veterinary bills as a result of the horse failing to meet contractual requirements about fitness and absence of disease, these will also be recoverable.

Often, in claims relating to an alleged breach of contract the facts of the case are not in dispute. Instead, these cases are generally focussed on the interpretation of particular contractual provisions, and the courts are asked to rule on how these provisions should be read and applied to the facts. This can result in complicated and detailed legal arguments being raised which are outside the capacity of most ordinary people to deal with, and in these cases a contract lawyer who specialises in the nuances and vagaries of equine transactions can prove an invaluable friend.

Purchasing from professional sellers

If you buy a horse from a professional seller, such as a breeder or someone who sells horses for a living, you may have additional rights under the Sale of Goods Act. This is because in these cases, the horse is classed as "goods" under the law, and is therefore required to be 'of satisfactory quality' and 'fit for purpose'.

For more information about these terms and the Sale of Goods Act, take a look at our page about common problems with goods.

Making a claim

Because of the value of contract disputes involving the purchase and sale of horses, in most instances these cases will not fall within the small claims jurisdiction of the County Court and will instead be dealt with under the more expensive fast-track or multi-track procedure will full formalities. If you are involved in a contract dispute which is likely to result in court action, it is therefore advisable to locate an expert equine law solicitor at an early stage.

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