Purchasing a horse is without doubt a very exciting time but it is also a massive commitment, both emotionally and financially. If things go wrong, you can suddenly find yourself totally stressed out and in a whole world of financial pain. And the same applies conversely if you are the seller of the horse in question.
The best way of protecting yourself if things do go wrong is by drawing up an Equine Bill Of Sale. This is a legal document. Its function is to define clearly and in detail the terms of contract of the sale between the purchaser and the vendor. The expectations of both parties are laid down, mutually agreed and the document is signed and independently witnessed. If there are problems following the sale, the point in dispute can easily be clarified.
The document must show each party's full details including their full names, addresses, and contact information. You must clearly show who is the 'Buyer' and who is the 'Seller'. Throughout the document they will be referred to using these formal terms.
Next you need to include a detailed and thorough physical description of the horse. This should include: his registered name if applicable, stable name, age, colour, sex, height, microchip/brand numbers, passport information, vaccination record and details of any insurance currently in force.
You should also try to include a diagram showing any identifying marks such as scars and any white markings, whorls, etc. If any veterinary certificates or X-rays are offered by the Seller, record details in the document making sure you include the dates they were issued. All documentation pertaining to the horse should be passed to the Buyer on completion of the sale and this should also be stated in the contract. If for any reason the paperwork will not be available immediately, the date by which the Buyer can expect to receive it should be included.
It's always sensible to have the horse vetted before you part with any cash and before completion of the contract of sale. If you part with a deposit prior to the vetting, make a note of this in the Equine Bill Of Sale together with the course of action both parties have agreed on should the horse fail the vetting.
One of the most important sections in the document is the specification by the Seller of the horse's suitability for specific activities together with any behavioural quirks or stable vices. If the horse is described as being 'quiet to ride' and 'good to catch' but bucks you off the first time you venture on board and then proceeds to careern around the field for three hours refusing to be captured, you then have recourse to your Equine Bill Of Sale!
State the method of payment you have agreed on and also confirm when the Buyer is to take responsibility for things like veterinary bills. This is called transfer of 'risk of losses' and is particularly important if you are the party selling the horse. What would the consequences be if the horse was injured in transit en route to his new home through no fault of yours after he had left your yard?
Finally, the Equine Bill Of Sale must be signed and dated by both parties and the signatures witnessed, ideally by an independent party. Make sure that both the Buyer and Seller have a copy of the signed contract.
This may seem like a time-consuming hassle, but it really is worth the effort in the event that things don't work out as you had hoped.