Blue Cross is warning of the dangers of purchasing a horse online after our research revealed safety concerns – especially for inexperienced and first time owners.

We looked at the numbers and types of horses for sale on six equine classified advertising websites and a number of groups on Facebook in the UK over a period of 12 weeks from August to November 2017. Out of more than 3,000 horses found for sale, 76% of all adverts described a riding horse or pony.

However three out of ten adverts (28%) described horses that needed work, were young and inexperienced or displayed behavioural problems, raising concerns about potential safety risks – especially for first time or inexperienced owners.

Kerry Taylor, Education Manager at Blue Cross, said: “Although this might not cause a problem for an experienced, knowledgeable home it could make it hard to assess the horse accurately in a short period of time when looking to buy.

“This could lead to buyers getting a horse that is unsuitable for them, raising concerns about the future welfare of such animals and potential safety risks for the new owners.”

One owner told Blue Cross how they bought a Irish Draught X described as easy to handle online. Despite taking things slowly with the horse over the next six months, the horse was difficult to control and would throw his rider off.

Some of the adverts researched by Blue Cross also raised serious welfare concerns. One horse was advertised as suitable as a companion or broodmare (a mare used for breeding) was described as permanently lame with a previously broken pelvis rendering her unrideable. However, the advert went on to say that ‘it doesn’t impact on her ability to be bred from and she foaled fine this year with no assistance.’

Kerry added: “This is a grave welfare concern and an example of passive promotion of indiscriminate breeding. In no capacity is it acceptable to advertise a severely injured animal for sale, let alone breeding purposes.

“We would always urge people to consider rehoming a horse from a welfare charity like Blue Cross who can provide expert advice on suitable horses rather than buying online where possible – as with any other animal. As our research shows, you may not know the full history of the horse you are taking on which could prove detrimental and potentially dangerous to you and the horse.”

Download and read our full Hold your horses report below.

Download and print our handy checklist to take with you when going to meet a horse you are thinking of buying. It's full of top questions to ask the seller and key things to look for to help you make an informed purchase and ensure the welfare of your new horse.

Want a horse but don't know where to start? Don't panic! Our experts have put together a completely free guide with everything you need to know about getting a new horse. Download it now.

If you're looking to take on a new horse, follow our top tips:

  1. Research. Horses are a huge commitment, so it is really important to think carefully about whether you have the time, dedication, requisite knowledge and money to care for a horse properly. If you do decide to become a horse owner, really take the time to consider the right horse for your circumstances and experience. First think about what you want to do with your horse, the best breeds for your chosen equestrian pursuits, the age and experience of the horse that you feel you will be most comfortable with and your budget. Taking the time at this stage can help you pick the most suitable horse for you to give you the best chance of a happy future together. Don’t rule out rehoming from a welfare charity. At Blue Cross we have some wonderful horses searching for homes.
  2. Be rigorous. Once you have identified a potentially suitable horse to visit, ask questions, as many questions as you can. Make use of that initial call and set expectations of what you will want to see the horse do. Trust your gut and remember you are in control; it is your decision. Never purchase a horse without seeing it first and try not to be led with your heart rather than your head. You are better to walk away if unsure, but if you are concerned about a horse's health or welfare then contact a horse charity for advice.
  3. Set them up for the future. Once you have purchased your horse, give him or her time. Let them settle and ask the previous owner as much about their current management as possible. A new environment can be stressful for a horse so keeping parts of their routine the same might help them settle. If you have concerns about your new horse, it may be helpful to contact the owner again to ask for some advice. You could also speak to a reputable behaviourist. Many unwanted behaviours displayed by a horse might be down to unsuitable management, or pain, so these things need to be ruled out before any improvements can take place.

— Page last updated Thursday, October 25, 2018 - 10:02