Are equestrians too quick to use the term "dodgy dealer"?

We are all too familiar with the term “dodgy dealer” – often used to describe a horse dealer who has allegedly mis-sold a horse to a buyer. But as equestrians, are we too highly strung – quick to jump to conclusions and rushing to ruin their reputation, perhaps undeservedly? Or, is it simply our community’s way of protecting members by sharing bad experiences and learning from each other’s mistakes? Let’s find out…

In a previous blog post we explained how technology has disrupted the equestrian sector, and social media certainly has its part to play here too. Facebook and other social networking platforms amplify users’ thoughts and opinions. A disgruntled buyer with a digital megaphone in their hand can now share their views with thousands of other potential buyers, in minutes. How qualified is the buyer to have such a view, perhaps they are at fault rather than the horse dealer?

So as buyers, before shouting “dodgy dealer” from the digital rooftops, we should ask ourselves three questions:

1. Did the horse match the description of the advert?

If the horse matches the advert it is not mis-selling and the horse dealer has probably done nothing wrong.

2. Did you mis-sell your own riding experience?

We’ve all been there – dinner at a friend’s house, all the wine is gone, and suddenly you’ve decided that from tomorrow you’re training to jump around the Hickstead Derby. As a buyer, if I’m telling a horse dealer I want a horse that is too much for me, then after two weeks at home with lots of high-energy feed and limited exercise, my five-year-old 17.1hh Big Star horse is playing up – is that the horse dealer’s fault? Probably not, and therefore nor is it mis-selling or dodgy.

3. Were you transparent on what you wanted the horse for?

As a buyer, being clear on your intention with the horse is essential. Whether you’re looking to event, show jump, or do a bit of everything, be completely open with the horse dealer. My horse has a stage 1 paralysed larynx, but as my ambition is to be the next Nick Skelton it doesn’t matter – all I want to do is show jump.

When I viewed my horse, the horse dealer was honest and upfront. He explained that if I want to do high-level eventing or a long day’s hunting, this condition may affect the horse’s performance, but it wouldn’t have any effect on his show jumping career. Post-purchase if I decide high-level eventing is what I want to do, my 18hh Irish Sport Horse is no longer fit for purpose. But as everything was disclosed at the point of sale, that is my responsibility.

Therefore, some of the mud slinging witnessed on social media can often have more to do with a buyer’s unrealistic expectations of their riding abilities and assumptions about what the horse might be capable of, rather than what was actually described in the advert.

Our horse selling app makes it really easy for prospective buyers and sellers, including horse dealers, to contact each other, organise viewings and be completely upfront about requirements and expectations, reducing the risk of dealers mis-selling or buyers making unsuitable choices. To help with the buying process we outline the top five things to consider when buying a horse.

In an un-regulated industry, it’s easy to take buyers for a ride

All of the above being said, it is worryingly easy to become a horse dealer – although not necessarily a good one. Entering the profession of buying and selling horses doesn’t require much at all – there’s no obligatory apprenticeship, no necessary qualifications, no need for a license, and no governing body to provide industry oversight and protect the consumer. Coupled with easy Facebook advertising, even with the ban of animal sales, it creates a dangerous environment where anyone with a horse can effectively become a horse dealer.

With no barriers to entry and a platform to target thousands of ‘victims’, for those without a conscience, it can be a lucrative business ripping people off. Dealers do this by selling horses that are either unsuitable, falsely advertised, or have health issues that aren’t disclosed. There are certainly some horse dealers in the UK that fit this profile, so perhaps equestrians aren’t too quick to use the term “dodgy dealer” in these cases. We have three tips to find a reputable horse dealer here.

Social media can be a valuable tool to warn and protect others, and is the equestrian community’s only real defense against the true “dodgy dealers”

With no regulation, governing body, or threat of fines, there isn’t really much of a defense against dodgy dealers. Therefore being able to label a horse dealer as “dodgy” and sharing this information on Facebook can be an effective way to stop others from being mis-sold to. There are countless stories on Facebook group pages of a small number of horse dealers that allegedly behave in this manner. Knowing they have a chequered past helps potential buyers avoid buying from those horse dealers. Or, if a buyer is hell-bent on buying a horse from one of those dealers regardless, at least they are walking in with their eyes wide open.

The reputable horse dealers shine through

I saw a Facebook post where a reputable horse dealer known for their professionalism was being incorrectly saddled with a reputation as “dodgy”. Almost immediately, there was a flurry of comments in defense of the horse dealer. Tens turned into hundreds of comments, explaining how wonderful they were and telling stories of the amazing horses they’ve sold to many equestrians.

It made me chuckle because I couldn’t think of a better way to get good PR as a reputable horse dealer than for someone on Facebook to publicly label you as a “dodgy dealer” – it was great to watch. The number of referrals and recommendations that horse dealer got over the course of a single evening was staggering, and it really highlighted the strength of ‘word of mouth’ advertising, even in the age of technology

Dodgy dealers or reputable retailers – who decides?

In answer to the question, are equestrians too quick to use the term “dodgy dealer” when referring to horse dealers? I think the answer is no. The equestrian community in general has a big heart and is trying to protect its members from bad buying experiences. Reputable horse dealers being falsely accused of “dodgy dealing” shouldn’t suffer from reputational damage, and like the above story, they may even benefit from the free PR if attempts to tarnish their reputation are falsely made.

The self-governing equestrian community’s judicial system that determines horse dealers either “dodgy” or “reputable” isn’t overkill because there is presently no oversight or governance from elsewhere. Until there is a threat of fines or license revocation in return for dodgy dealings, the equestrian community must do what it can to protect itself.

That being said, we’re proud supporters of our reputable horse dealers. Without them, our selection of horses for sale in the UK would be limited, including the talent available to our top riders, therefore ultimately affecting Team GB’s chances of winning medals. It’s in all of our interests to protect this essential group of people in our UK equestrian sector.

PS, if you’re on the fence about buying from a horse dealer, here are five reasons why you should buy from a horse dealer.

If you’re a horse dealer or buyer with your own story or views on the subject, please email and we can feature it as a guest blog post!