In principle, the seller must provide the buyer with a horse free of defects (§§ 433 paras. 1 p. 2, 90a BGB).
A defect exists if the horse does not have the agreed quality at the time of delivery or if it is not suitable for the use of stipulated in the contract (cf. § 434 BGB). On the one hand, health defects come into consideration. On the other hand, a horse is defective, for example, if the breed or specific physical characteristics, such as the size, do not correspond to the corresponding agreement.
Besides, agreements can also be made about other characteristics, such as a certain level of training or suitability for competitions. It also makes sense to record the contract’s intended use, e.g. whether the horse is to be used as a show horse, dressage horse, breeding horse or beginner’s horse.
Suppose there is neither an agreement on the condition nor a contractually stipulated purpose of use. In that case, the suitability for normal use and the usual condition for horses of the same type are decisive. However, difficulties not infrequently arise with this determination.
If a defect occurs, the buyer must generally prove that it was already present when the horse was handed over (burden of proof). An exception exists in the case of the sale of consumer goods. If the defect occurs within the first six months after the handover, it is assumed that it was already present at the handover time. In this case, the seller must prove that the goods are free of defects (reversal of the burden of proof).
The buyer must inform the seller of the defect and request him to remedy the defect within a reasonable period. This is because the seller has the right to subsequent performance. This means that the buyer can only claim a possible reduction of the purchase price or rescission of the purchase contract if the subsequent performance is unreasonable or fails or is finally rejected by the seller.
The limitation period is generally two years from the handover of the item. In the case of purchases between private individuals, this regulation can be changed as desired. In the case of a purchase of consumer goods, however, the period may only be shortened to at least one year in the case of used goods.
In its ruling of 9.10.2019 (Case No. VII ZR 240/18), the BGH classified a two-and-a-half-year-old stallion as “used”, although it had not yet been used for its intended purpose as a riding or dressage horse.
However, there are no generally applicable age limits when a horse is considered “used”. Instead, the circumstances of the individual case are decisive.