It is illegal for anyone to sell or buy a horse without the correct equine passport. A passport is an equine identification document that identifies the equine by its microchip and silhouette (markings). It is a good idea if buying to check the passport is the correct one for the horse, if a horse is to be vetted then the vet can check this for you and also check the chip number. If no passport is available at the time of viewing, a passport must be obtained by the seller before the sale goes through and the seller must hand over the passport to the buyer at the time of sale.
Any new owner has 30 days to register the change of ownership in the passport. If the new owner wishes to sell the equine on within this 30 day period, they must first register the change of ownership before offering the horse for sale.
From October 2020 all equines are microchipped and registered in the Central Equine Database.
A horse's microchip number should be included within its passport.
The passport is not proof of ownership so it is recommended to obtain a receipt when purchasing any horse. This receipt should include at the very least the horse's passport and microchip identification number, the amount paid for the horse, as well as the seller's and buyer's name and address. However, it is a good idea to keep a copy of any advertisement and written correspondence for the horse a horse purchase agreement such as suggested by the BHS can be of benefit to both the seller and buyer
Should the horse then turn out not to be as described the buyer may be able to claim for misrepresentation under the Misrepresentation Act 1967 should a significant and specific statement of fact that the buyer relied upon when agreeing to purchase the horse is then found to be untrue or misleading.
However, the buyer must prove that the seller knew, or ought to have known, that any information given was misleading or untrue in order to obtain a refund and suing a private seller through the courts can be difficult, costly and lengthy.
When buying a horse from a business seller such as a dealer the seller is acting in the course of their business and so the Sale of Goods Act 1979 applies which states that the horse must be of satisfactory quality and fit for the purpose for which it was sold, taking into account it's age and fitness at the time of the purchase. Purchases from dealers are also covered by the Trade Descriptions Act 1968 and the business has a responsibility to describe the horse accurately. Buying a horse from a dealer can offer better protection than buying from a private seller. However, it is recommended that a written agreement is obtained from the dealer and a copy of any advert kept as this will provide written evidence in the case of any dispute.
Always worth remembering horses are not machines, and time is often needed for them to settle in to a new home. If you have any problems discuss with the seller as soon as you can.