In this article I am not going to censor myself, I am going to shoot from the hip. I will tell my truth and not comfort people with the lies that thrive in the equine world.
When we look for a new equine partner we are all looking to live a personal dream. The search is not only for a horse, it goes way beyond that; but a partner, a soul mate, a best friend to enable us to enjoy any number of different aspects of equestrianism. It’s an investment in our dreams and aspirations. Be it a private sale or from a dealer, anyone selling a horse is a dream seller. Not everyone is bad and ugly. This article is not tarring all sellers with the same brush. There are good people who are honest and truly want to ensure the horse ends up in a good home to be loved and cherished. However there are plenty who make profit from lies and misery, be it deliberate or not. There are horrific and unethical practices going on.
I write this article as too many horses suffer and too many people’s dreams are shattered. In my line of work I have seen far too many damaged horses and folk injured. Plenty of people I know have put to sleep horses they were sold as riding horses that turned out to have horrific underlying conditions. None of us are immune to this happening; it is rife to pass on horses with issues. We can cry rivers of tears for these souls. We can watch these horses blood spill and their spirits leave this world. However that will not change the outcome. My one voice will not change the dreadful practice of passing on the problems. However our collective voices can reach out into the world. You can use this article as a platform to share what has happened to you if you wish.
I bravely write this and stand above the parapet and expect to be shot at. Those who wish to shoot at me will think it is the new owner at fault not the seller. The reasons may well include: Buyer beware, sold as seen, sold in good faith, the new owner lacked skills or knowledge, the owner can’t ride, the horse never did x or y with me, etc… However the bottom line is the horse is always going to pay the price no matter where the blame gets placed.
Then there is the price paid by the new owner. So if what I write helps just one person release the dreadful feelings they get entangled in from finding themselves in this situation it will be worth it. If it only helps in a tiny way to plant a seed of change then it is worth it.
In loving memory of Ibis. One of the many.
Buying a horse is a costly and an emotional investment and many people seek out purchasing via a dealer as they know they are protected legally. In the UK anyone who buys and sells horses in the course of business, the Consumer Rights Act applies to the sale of their horses. The buyer therefore has rights: The horse must be as described. Of satisfactory quality and fit for purpose. If not the horse dealer is in breach of contract, giving rise to a claim under the Consumer Rights Act. You are protected under law. (For example did you know - You have six years to take a claim to the small claims court in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and five years in Scotland.)
I do think the Consumer Rights Act is not a good fit when applied to the sale of animals. Horse dealers are selling sentient animals, not hair dryers, washing machines or bicycles. Think of buying a washing machine that after a short period of time didn’t wash clothes properly. For sure the store didn’t knowingly sell you a faulty machine, and you would rightly complain and expect the seller to be prompt in providing solutions. We expect good customer service from businesses. It is no different in the business world of selling horses. It will not wash to tell a customer that the riding horse they bought, that has turned out to have serious physical conditions and cannot be ridden, was bought from a contact in good faith and sold to you in good faith. When you hear this, the dealer is not recognising the Consumer Rights Act or providing any customer service or solutions.
Some of these horses were very expensive. Not cheap. You can understand if the horse was cheap. As there is always a reason why a horse is cheap, some are projects, some are young, old, or in many cases has physical or emotional problems. However paying the going market rate or above for what is bring described and sold as a quality horse with the truth hidden is not uncommon. It is time for folk to wake up and smell the coffee there will be horses sold with underlying conditions that surface after purchase. Some are impossible to detect without the best specialist vet and the latest technology. However who is going to step up and be responsible? Who is going to do right by the horse? Yes you are within your rights if you purchased via a dealer under the Consumer Rights Act to return the horse. The crunch here is, you know full well if you return the horse to a dealer its’ future most likely will be bleak. It could be re-sold again or put through a sale with the truth hidden. The chances it will get the costly treatments needed are slim. The sales of Consumer Rights Act works well for objects but not for living sentient animals. A private sale in these circumstances is bleak in regard to the seller doing anything. So many of us who ethically want the best for the horse suck up being screwed over and quietly get on with doing the best for our beloved horses. We do more than cut our losses, we step up and do what is right for the horse. I have stood by some of my clients who have put to sleep horses with serious issues. I have supported plenty of people who are making the best of a horse they purchased to ride and realise it cannot be ridden. Make no mistake it is costly financially and emotionally to keep a horse with problems. Other owners sell the problem horse on, sometimes to a dealer or privately and so the cycle continues of the truth hidden.
Don’t get me started on horses that suffer uncomfortable or painful conditions that because of the training methods used appear quiet and biddable. There are unethical training methods that disregard discomfort and pain; be it physical or emotional, the horse will develop a learned helplessness. These horses are shut down, machine like and spirit dead, it begs the question what methods are used? Sadly some horses are sold to new owners in this learnt helplessness state and are shut down. Once the horse realises the new home will not use such methods that caused the learnt helplessness the horse will naturally start to develop avoidance, evasion and other behaviours. Sadly not many people who are purchasing a horse will understand the different types of training and what causes learnt helplessness, or what to look for in a horse that has shut down. They will just see a quiet biddable horse. Ethical methods can’t train pain, if there is an underlying condition no amount of ethical training will make any difference and you will eventually see the truth.
Good sellers want the best for the horse. So they know how important it is to get a good match with a new owner. Anyone who truly loves horses would hate to see things not working out, or the horse suffering. I seriously believe it has become a very sad world and it needs to change. I don’t have the answers. What I do know is that the horse world would be a better place with more good, honest, caring, compassionate, ethical horse sellers who make dreams come true.
You can share your stories using the on-line form below.