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Non-conformity of a horse in the Netherlands

Non-conformity of a horse in the Netherlands

Issues of horse non-conformity as defined by equine law are playing an increasingly important role in the equestrian sector. Non-conformity of a horse in the Netherlands, or the question of whether a horse is in conformity with the contract, has become increasingly important in the “horse world”. This is partly due to the fact that interests have become more substantial and the financial aspect in (top) equestrian sport is becoming increasingly important. Having already written about some legal aspects of horse ownership, in this blog our horse lawyer in the Netherlands Maud van den Berg wants to take a closer look at horse non-compliance in terms of equine law in the Netherlands.


Recently, the Arnhem-Leeuwarden Court of Appeal handed down a judgment on the sale and possible non-conformity of a horse in the Netherlands under equine law. The judgment deals with the various aspects of international equine law. The equine dispute in the Netherlands was an international sales contract between an American buyer and a Dutch seller. The American woman bought a dressage horse with the intention of participating in international dressage competitions. The horse was inspected and ridden several times prior to the sale to determine if it was suitable for its intended use. The horse was also examined by a Dutch veterinarian prior to the sale, after which the sale was finalized. In America, the buyer arranged for another examination by her own veterinarian. The American veterinarian deemed the horse unsuitable for competition at a higher level because it was slightly lame and had a defect that could cause lameness. The American buyer further claimed that the horse was not obedient. The seller denied this.

CISG OR CONSUMER LAW regarding the lack of conformity of the horse?

In order to answer the question of whether there is a non-conformity of a horse in the Netherlands under equine law, the legal framework applicable to the contract must first be considered: does the CISG apply in this respect or are the provisions of the Sale of Consumer Goods applicable? In the case of international sales contracts where both parties are domiciled in member states that have ratified the CISG, the CISG generally applies. This may be different in the case of a sale of consumer goods. A sale of consumer goods under the CISG requires that a movable item is purchased for personal use, unless the seller did not know or should not have known that the item was purchased for such use before or at the time the contract was concluded (Article 2 CISG). In the case of purchases of consumer goods, consumer law applies, which provides additional protection to the buyer based on the presumption of a weaker party.

The American buyer argued that she was a student and had borrowed money from her parents in order to be able to buy the horse in question. Therefore, it was not a professional use, but a leisure use and therefore a purchase of consumer goods. The Court of Appeal did not follow this and ruled that participation in international competitions at a high level was not usually within the reach of a private individual and that it was usually business people who were involved in such competitions. In addition, the court ruled that student status did not preclude the buyer from also being professionally or commercially involved in high level dressage. The Court of Appeal therefore concluded that the transaction was not a sale of consumer goods and that the UN CISG therefore applied. 


According to the CISG, lack of conformity is given if there is a material defect. Article 25 of the CISG determines when a material defect exists. A material breach of contract exists if, on the one hand, the non-defaulting party is substantially deprived of what it is entitled to expect under the contract and, on the other hand, the defaulting party has knowledge of this expectation, knowledge being measured by what a reasonable person in the same position would have foreseen under the same circumstances.

In this context, the Court of Appeal held that the purchaser had not substantiated her claims in sufficient detail to conclude that she had been deprived to a significant extent of what she was entitled to expect under the contract. The buyer was not able to prove in what way the horse was “defective” and in particular not suitable for use in high dressage and did not comply with the contract at the time of handover. The court based this primarily on the fact that the complaint of the American veterinarians dated from the time after the handover of the horse, so that it could not be deduced from this that the horse had already been lame at the time of the handover. Furthermore, it cannot be concluded from the statement that the horse’s conformation could potentially cause discomfort that the horse’s conformation at the time of birth caused (chronic) discomfort and that the horse was therefore not suitable for dressage at a high level. It follows that the horse’s lack of conformity with the contract under the UN CISG was not proven and the seller was proved right.

EQUINE lawyer in the Netherlands

This shows once again that the question of whether a horse is not in compliance with equine law is often difficult to answer and that the views of the parties on their ability to act in the context of a purchase agreement can vary greatly. Horseback riding can start as a hobby, but it can also turn into a professional practice. Let our specialist equine lawyer in the Netherlands advise you on equine law and the non-conformity of a horse in the Netherlands and find out where the line is between practicing a sport as a hobby or as a profession and why this is important when buying a horse. Our law firm in Amsterdam has a team of lawyers with a very good reputation as a specialized law firm. Maud van den Berg, an attorney for equine law, has particularly deepened her knowledge of horse compliance and horse ownership issues and is happy to discuss your legal situation in order to give you practical advice and/or support your business in court proceedings.

+31 (0)20 – 210 31 38

Remko Roosjen

Remko Roosjen

Remko Roosjen is a Dutch contract attorney in the Netherlands and creates close working relationships with clients, providing pragmatic solutions across on all legal matters in the Netherlands. Remko is a partner of our Commercial law firm in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. His specialist areas include Dutch Contract Law, including Dutch Commercial Contracting and Legal Disputes, including civil litigation, arbitration and mediation. Remko is a sharp, creative Dutch attorney with extensive cross-border experience representing both foreign plaintiffs and defendants. Visit Remko's profile via the website or via his LinkedIn Profile.