Horse tails (part one)

In this blog solicitor Andrew Carrier talks about a personal experience concerning the sale of a horse. In a future blog Andrew will clear up some misconceptions about horses in the context of land use.

A year ago my wife and I sold a valuable horse to someone who decided he didn’t match their expectation. The only sale document we used was a receipt.

Not long after the sale the buyer telephoned us to say that they wanted to return the horse and get their money back (which is rescission of a contract in legal terms) but then continued to take the horse to competitions for another month. We refused to take the horse back. A local small claims court last week dismissed the buyer’s claim in less than five minutes. The judge explained to the buyer that, by continuing to use the horse, they had lost the right of rescission. The buyer could have claimed damages as an alternative remedy (we would have had to pay the buyer the difference between what they paid for the horse and what the court decided the horse was worth, if less). But the buyer had not asked for damages and, with rescission not available, the court dismissed the claim instantly.

We should have insisted on a written sale contract to reduce the scope for any future dispute about the description of the horse. A sale contract should identify the horse by its passport details. A buyer should consider asking the seller for warranties about the features of the horse that are most important to them. So, for example, a child’s pony will need to be safe for a child to ride, safe in traffic and so on. A seller will want to avoid any warranty concerning the future fitness and performance of the horse but should be willing to declare that they are not aware of any unsoundness or health problems that would make the horse unsuitable for general riding work. If the seller has told the buyer about any problems with the horse the seller will want those listed in the sale contract.

We have a horse on loan to us at the moment and we have a written loan agreement with the owner. In addition to sale and loan there are other arrangements for keeping a horse such as a trial period, sharing and adoption. A well written contract is appropriate in every case.

A well written contract should not take the place of common sense and the advice of equine professionals. When my wife and I buy a horse we ask a professional rider to try it out first and we always pay for a full veterinary examination. We also take out insurance for the first year to cover veterinary bills and loss of use. But we will insist on a proper contract in future!

Andrew Carrier is a solicitor in the commercial department of our King’s Lynn office. Andrew has over 16 years of experience as a commercial solicitor.

by Andrew Carrier from the King’s Lynn office