Buying horses, not just Spanish horses, has always been fraught with difficulty, not least because horses are often misdescribed or unsound. Sometimes, it's what is omitted from the description that is important.
What's in a name?
1] Pura Raza Espanola (PRE) - this is the 'proper' Spanish horse. It is registered in the State Spanish Stud book and has its parentage traceable for several generations.
2] Andalusian - this is what most people in the UK call a PRE but it is a generic term used to describe any horse of a Spanish type that comes from Andalucia. This is the main point of confusion for those buying a Spanish horse and the term is used by some unscrupulous dealers to infer that the horse is a PRE when, in fact, it is just a horse of a Spanish type.
3] PRE Andalusian - An attempt by breeders and agents to use the commonly accepted term 'Andalusian' but affirm that it actually a PRE and so is registered in the Spanish Stud Book
4] PRE Fusion - This is a part-bred PRE eligible for inclusion in the UK stud book but not in the Spanish Studbook
5] Iberian - this is any horse from Spain or Portugal i.e. the Iberian peninsula, and so includes the PRE and Lusitano.
When buying a Spanish horse be very clear about its provenance. All PREs are DNA tested for parentage before being admitted to the stud book.
Always check the Passport. All horses must be accompanied by a passport and a PRE must also have a Carta Tituluriad signed by the vendor. The BAPSH Registrar, Mary McBryde, will help with the paperwork.
Where to Buy
Buying in the UK: There are some advantages in buying a horse in the UK. It's often possible to view the horse more than once because distance is less of a problem and it may even be possible to trial the horse before committing to buy. There are no language barriers. The sales contract will be governed by UK law. UK veterinary soundness examinations are standardised and of a high standard, and you can use your own veterinary surgeon if practicable. It's not too difficult to do a little homework and find a breeder in the UK. One may be conveniently situated but if you want something specific you may have to travel. Virtually all breeders in the UK are on a small scale and value their reputation. There is an extensive (but not exhaustive) list of UK breeders on the BAPSH website and Spanish Horse Breeders UK website. Also, there are many sales portals on the internet advertising PREs.
Buying from Spain can be both exciting and worrying! On the down side, Spain is quite a distance away so return visits may not be possible. Language can be a barrier and sometimes lead to misunderstandings. Do not expect a veterinary examination by a vet in Spain to be up to UK standards: write down exactly what you want checked and make sure you understand the veterinary report. If there are problems with the horse once it has arrived in the UK, you will have to sort it out using Spanish law. Transport costs from Spain are significant so expect to pay around £1200 (2020 prices) to get a horse to the UK.
On the plus side, some of the horses in Spain are the world's best and there is an enormous choice.
Using an agent to source a horse for you is probably the only way you will be able to buy from Spain unless you can speak the language or have contacts in Spain. That said, some of the large studs have accommodation on site and have personnel who speak perfect English.
The agent is unlikely to be legally responsible for any problems that emerge once you have bought a horse because they are only acting to introduce a potential buyer to a potential seller and the contract will be struck between the buyer and seller. It is usual for the agent to be paid commission by the seller (around 10%) but it's not unknown for the agent to also add a 'finders fee', especially if the money passes through the agent and is not paid directly to the seller.
Once in the UK, imported horse must be registered with BAPSH within 30 days and will need a veterinary surgeon to complete the identification documents.