Press releases

Horse-buyers saddled after ‘buying from afar’

Horses are changing hands on Internet sites - with some buyers ending up saddled with dodgy steeds that don't match up to their descriptions, warns the Trading Standards Institute (TSI) today.

Buyers, particularly those looking for cheap horses and ponies, are beginning to turn to the Internet in their quest for a bargain.

But the practice is triggering complaints from buyers who later discover the horse they bought is older than claimed, is in poor health or has a difficult temperament.

One horse lover, from Warmington, Northamptonshire, used the Internet to search for a mature, quiet horse suitable for her young children, aged seven and 10.

She plumped for an eight-year-old Irish cob - but when it turned up it was lame and did not have a valid horse passport, as required by law, so she turned it away.

She was later offered a replacement horse, described as a quiet ride and aged four rising five - but when she tried to ride it she was bucked off. A vet later aged the horse at three and a half. It also had an incorrect passport.

The company involved, West View Farm Stables, based in County Durham, and a director were subsequently prosecuted and fined a total of £2,475.

Flintshire trading standards had previously prosecuted the same firm after another horse was sold as a seven year old when in fact it was only four. When it was ridden for the first time it threw the young rider. She suffered a broken arm. The company was fined £5,400.

In a prosecution under the Trade Descriptions Act taken by Bedfordshire Trading Standards the description a 'quiet ride' was found to be ' false to a material degree' resulting in fines amounting to £3000 plus £1800 costs.

The cases are highlighted today to demonstrate the potential pitfalls when "buying from afar" as part of National Consumer Week, a TSI-led consumer awareness initiative designed to inform people of their rights and responsibilities when buying online.

The week, supported by Consumer Direct, was launched at the Office of Fair Trading in London on Monday.

TSI's lead officer on animal health and welfare, Jeremy Adams, said it was vital that buyers heeded a basic checklist before buying.

"Buying a horse or pony is a big investment. By all means buyers can look on internet sites for information, but once they have identified a potential purchase they should never hand over money, nor commit to a purchase."

They should always first:

  • personally see and ride the horse or pony, ideally on several occasions and in different situations. Be wary of anyone offering to bring the animal to you for inspection - this will mean you are unable to check out the current owner's facilities and home environment and will put extra pressure on you to agree to the sale
  • get the animal inspected and checked by a vet, who will be able to assess the animal's general health, take blood tests to check for illness and confirm the animal is the age, breed and condition described
  • ensure the animal is properly identifiable by a formal horse passport and, ideally, by electronic chip

"Too many buyers decide not to use a vet, trusting on their own instinct or knowledge - but this can be a very costly mistake," said Mr Adams.

The horse passport scheme, introduced in 2002, was designed to make it easier for buyers to identify a horse's origins, and is supported by a new National Equine Database (NED), which went live last year.

However, there are dozens of different issuing authorities around the UK and a range of passport designs, making it more difficult to spot a fake, added Mr Adams, who has called for a single issuing authority and for passports to be supported by microchip or branding.

For more information about this press release or National Consumer Week generally please contact the TSI press office on 0845 608 9430 or email

Notes for Editors

Since February 2002, all horses and ponies have to have a personal passport. It is an offence not to have a valid passport before exporting a horse, using it in competitions, moving it to new premises, breeding, or slaughtering for human consumption.

National Consumer Week

This is the 17th annual National Consumer Week organised by the Trading Standards Institute and for the third year in association with Consumer Direct, the government-funded consumer advice telephone and online service.

National Consumer Week is a platform to raise awareness about specific consumer issues and particularly to highlight new developments in an increasingly complex and competitive marketplace. It profiles the work of and is supported by local authority trading standards services across the UK.

Trading Standards Institute

The Trading Standards Institute has represented the interests of Trading Standards professionals for 120 years. We have a long and proud history of ensuring that the views of our members are well represented at the highest level of government, both nationally and internationally.

Our aim is to promote excellence and enhance the professionalism of our members in support of empowering and informing consumers, encouraging and working with honest businesses, targeting rogue traders and rogue trading practices and contributing to the health, welfare and wellbeing of citizens and communities.

TSI members are engaged in delivering frontline trading standards services in local authorities in response to 2 million consumer and business complaints and enquiries each year. They also support the delivery of new initiatives such as Consumer Direct, providing first point of contact practical consumer advice.

They also work in the business, consumer and central government sectors in promoting and influencing the safety, prosperity and enhancement of individuals and markets with a dependency on effective and professional trading standards contributions and interventions.

Consumer Direct - 08454 04 05 06

Consumer Direct is a Government-funded telephone and online consumer advice service that works in partnership with Local Authority Trading Standards Services. It provides clear, practical and impartial advice and information to help consumers resolve problems and disagreements with suppliers of goods and services. Consumer Direct is available from 0800-1830 Monday to Friday, and 0900-1300 Saturday, excluding bank and public holidays.

Calls cost a maximum of 4p per minute from a BT landline. Calls from mobiles or other networks may vary. Your service provider may charge a minimum cost per call. The advice and information given is free.

© 2008 itsa Ltd on behalf of the Trading Standards Institute.