Horse, Pony or Donkey

buying a horse safely

Horses, ponies and donkeys for sale: know what to look out for online

What should you consider before getting a horse, pony or donkey?

Equines, especially donkeys, can live for over 40 years. Are you able to commit to providing care for the animal throughout its life?

For the time you own a horse, pony or donkey, you have a legal obligation to provide for these five basic needs:

  1. An appropriate diet
  2. A suitable environment
  3. The ability to display natural behaviours
  4. Suitable companionship
  5. Good quality of life, including health and well-being

Do you have knowledge of equines and understand how to feed and care for them?

Do you have sufficient finances to care for an equine? Costs can include:

  • Feeding
  • Bedding
  • Farriery
  • Veterinary
  • Dental care
  • Stabling and grazing
  • Insurance (in case of personal injury or to cover vet expenses)
  • Equipment such as rugs

Do you have time for the daily care of an equine? The daily routine may include:

  • Feeding
  • Mucking out and turning out
  • Exercise
  • Grooming
  • Treatment of injuries
  • Meeting with vet or farrier

Have you chosen a type of animal that will fit your circumstances? Are you looking for a horse suited for riding? Driving? Companionship? Competing?

Remember that you won’t have this animal for ever. Dealing appropriately with end-of-life is part of responsible ownership, and when the time comes you will need to be prepared so that your horse, pony or donkey doesn’t suffer unnecessarily.


What should you do once you decide to buy a horse, pony or donkey?

        If you decide to buy a horse, pony or donkey, IPAAG recommends the following:

  •         Consider contacting your local animal rescue/rehoming centre first – to check have they a suitable animal you might offer a home to
  •         Make sure you have secured appropriate facilities where your new companion will be kept and that you will have the support of knowledgeable people
  •         Check that the animal is healthy and fit for the purpose for which you intend to use it. Your local veterinary practice should be able to advise you on pre-purchase vetting
  •         Take someone experienced—perhaps your riding instructor—with you to try the horse. It may be necessary to visit more than once and see the animal in several situations/environments before you decide to buy
  •         Be prepared to wait for the right horse/pony/donkey rather than settle for an unsuitable animal that you may have to part with after a short time
  •         If your chosen horse does not originate from the place of purchase, ask where it came from and try to discover its previous history
  •         In the case of a foal, ideally you should view the parents and buy from a reputable breeder once the foal has been successfully weaned at an appropriate age (about six months)
Information about Equine ID legislation in Ireland:
  •         Horses, ponies and donkeys are required to have passports. They cannot be moved or sold without one.
  •      Equines with a passport need to have a corresponding microchip which has been inserted by a vet.
  •         The property on which the equine will reside must be registered with the Department of Agriculture, Food & the Marine. This can be done online and for free. 
  •         Foals should have pet passports no later than 12 months after both. An un-weaned foal being transported with its mother does not require a passport.
How can you tell if you are buying from or selling to a dealer?

The best way to ensure the seller is being truthful is to check the Equine Passport for previous owners. If in doubt, contact them for the animal’s history. An Equine Passport is a legal requirement for all equines, and it is illegal to sell an equine without one. If the seller does not have one you should not continue with the purchase.

At times owners need to sell their horse, pony or donkey quickly or for a low price for a number of personal reasons. There are some unscrupulous individuals who take advantage of the situation by purchasing the animal and re-selling quickly for a profit. In these cases welfare is often overlooked.

Why have Minimum Standards for equines advertised for sale online?

The internet creates the impression that there is a healthy market for equines, which encourages unscrupulous breeders to continue to breed for profit. Irresponsible equine overbreeding and overpopulation is a huge problem in Ireland. It has created a situation whereby equines are offloaded cheaply, often by sellers who don’t have any regard for the welfare needs of the animal.

Our hope is that the Minimum Standards will help address some of the issues we’ve identified with the online advertising of equines. These include poor welfare standards, a lack of information about an animal’s history, the offloading of low-value horses, dealers masquerading as private sellers, and pregnant mares being sold as “two-for-one” bargains.

What else is IPAAG doing to prevent internet traders from exploiting equines?

There are a number of equine-specific websites that IPAAG wishes to engage with in the future.

We also would like to highlight the issue of people buying low-priced equines online because they want to “rescue” them without fully considering the full, long-term commitment they are legally undertaking. 

For more information and advice see: