Most people keep vehicular horsepower in their garage in the form of a car, but a young man from Southampton opted for the equine kind after buying a foal from an online sales site.
He had bought the foal, now named Humphrey, for £250, and the youngster was delivered to his home on a housing estate in Southampton. For two days Humphrey lived in the garage and garden, sometimes even coming into the lounge, before being reported to World Horse Welfare.
When the owners were made aware of what was needed to properly care for the foal they were very keen to help little Humphrey and signed him over into the charity’s care. His owners were also very keen that others were made aware of the online pitfalls that they, unwittingly, had fallen into.
They said they had bought Humphrey unseen and admitted that they didn’t realise what looking after a horse fully entailed but were concerned that he had been sold when not in good health. The seller had made no attempt to find out what living arrangements the foal would have, simply delivering him to their housing estate home.
Penny Baker, a World Horse Welfare Field Officer, attended the call out and discovered that not only was Humphrey living in completely unsuitable conditions, but he was also quite unwell, significantly underweight and with discharge from his eyes and nose.
“Online selling sites have long been used to sell equines, and some have done much to encourage responsible buying and selling,” Baker said.
She said that during the country’s initial coronavirus lockdown, sellers used the virus as a genuine reason why a horse or pony couldn’t be viewed in person, and sales through online sites have increased. “But even when restrictions eased it appears that unscrupulous sellers are exploiting the virus, selling horses to unsuspecting customers who are not able to fully test ride or view the animal before parting with their money.”
Baker said that with the closure of the majority of equine markets and sales across the UK, it was likely that the number of equines advertised on these sites will increase significantly.
“It’s most definitely a case of buyer beware,” she said.
“It is an opportunity that some unscrupulous commercial sellers have seized upon. We are now increasingly seeing equines being sold to vulnerable buyers who lack the knowledge, finances and direction on how a horse or pony should correctly be kept. It is all too easy for sellers to take advantage of these people, selling horses and ponies with no thought to their moral responsibilities.”
Humphrey is now in the care of World Horse Welfare at their Glenda Spooner Rescue and Rehoming Centre in Somerset and has buddied up with another horse there. He will be carefully looked after and receive necessary veterinary treatment until he is old enough to be rehomed.
World Horse Welfare would normally advise that anyone looking to buy a horse or pony should do background checks, ask questions, meet the owner and ensure that the animal is viewed in person, although the charity acknowledges that many horses are bought unseen, often without issue.