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Should You Buy a Horse Sight Unseen?

People occasionally buy horses, sight unseen, based on an ad over the Internet or the recommendation of a friend. Many buyers are completely satisfied with their purchases. Unfortunately, some are not. Legal disputes sometimes follow from settings like these:

  • The horse was represented to be of a certain height, but the horse was actually significantly shorter.
  • The horse was represented to be “bombproof” or “kid safe,” but instead the buyer found the horse to be dangerous and insufficiently trained.
  • The horse may have arrived unsound, and the buyer strongly suspected the problem pre-dated the purchase.
  • In some instances, the buyer was convinced that the horse that came off the trailer was a completely different horse than the horse represented in an advertisement.

Added to the complexity, the parties to these sales frequently have no sales contracts.

Avoiding Disputes

Legal disputes can be expensive. Here are some options for the parties to consider in an effort to avoid horse purchase disputes when the buyer does not physically examine the horse before making the purchase:

  • Get it in writing. If the seller offered the buyer an opportunity to examine the horse in person before the sale, such as allowing the buyer a certain amount of time to hire a veterinarian of his or her choosing, the sales contract can reaffirm this. The contract can also specify whether the buyer has waived this option.

    If the buyer is relying on the seller’s promises regarding the horse, such as a promise that the horse has not been lame or ill, the buyer should insist on including these promises in the purchase agreement. Buyers who are denied opportunities to examine the horse before making the purchase should seriously consider whether to buy the horse.
  • For buyers who cannot see the horse in person but want to buy the horse, consider hiring an independent professional to evaluate the horse. Buyers who cannot inspect the horse in person can nevertheless hire professionals to do the evaluation for them, such as a respected horse trainer and veterinarian. Technology also exists for these people to video rides and evaluations as they occur, allowing the potential buyer to see remotely how the horse behaves and ask questions while the inspections are in progress.
  • Get a drug screen. During the pre-purchase examination, prospective buyers should consider having the veterinarian arrange for a drug screen of the horse.
  • Consider requesting the horse’s veterinary history. Buyers can always ask sellers to produce the horse’s veterinary records before making the purchase. If the seller is willing to do this, the sale contract can specify the names of the veterinarians who attended to the horse while the seller owned horse and that the seller has allowed release of the horse’s veterinary records.
  • “As-is Contract Language.” Horse sellers sometimes include “as is” clauses in their contracts, through which the buyer agrees that he or she is buying the horse “as is.” As this blog has addressed in the past, these types of clauses may be enforceable but not for all claims. Consequently, buyers and sellers should confer with knowledgeable legal counsel regarding the scope of “as is” clauses before making assumptions on how they impact a party’s rights.

Conclusion

To avoid legal disputes involving horse sales, the parties can protect themselves by using carefully worded written sales agreements. Buyers, even if they cannot examine the horse in person, have numerous options to more fully evaluate the horse before agreeing to make the purchase. Careful advance planning could help avoid legal disputes later.

Categories: Contracts, Sales/Disputes

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is considered to be one of the nation's leading attorneys in the field of equine law. A frequent author and speaker on legal issues, she has written over 400 published articles, three books, and has lectured at seminars, conventions, and conferences in 29 states on issues involving law, liability, risk management, and insurance. For more information, please also visit www.fershtmanlaw.com and www.equinelaw.net, and www.equinelaw.info.

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Our Equine law blog (and its author) in the news!

Julie Fershtman, author of our popular and prolific Equine Law Blog, was interviewed this week by the State Bar of Michigan. The interview, which called Fershtman "Lawyer-Blogger," discussed our Equine Law Blog. We truly believe that this blog is the nation's most active blog serving the equine industry on equine law topics, and we thank you for visiting it. Read more here.

Honors & Recognitions

Congratulations, Julie! We're proud to share that Julie Fershtman has received two prestigious awards.

On April 13, 2013, she received the American Youth Horse Council's 2013 "Distinguished Service" Award. As the award itself states, she received it "[i]n recognition of years of dedicated service to the American Youth Horse Council and tireless efforts to touch the lives of youth involved with horses." For more information about the American Youth Horse Council, please visit www.ayhc.com/.

On May 7, 2013, Julie received the 2013 "Industry Award" from the Michigan Equine Partnership for her work over the years supporting legislation to promote and protect the Michigan equine industry. For more information about the Michigan Equine Partnership, please visit www.miequine.com/.

RECENT EQUINE LAW COURTROOM VICTORY

We're pleased to share that Julie just won a case in Michigan where she defended a boarding and training stable that was sued by a visitor who was injured in the barn aisle. Julie cautions that this case might have been avoided altogether if the stable required every visitor to sign its waiver/release of liability. (Julie, interestingly, drafted that stable's release document years ago but the stable only presented it to customers.) Make sure that your release is well-worded and complies with the laws of your state.

Other Articles

"The Seller's Contract Includes an "As Is" Disclaimer – Now What?" - Desert Mirage Magazine, August 2013

Win Equine law Books!

We're always on the lookout for good article and update ideas for the Equine Law Blog. Please share yours! We'll give the sender of best tip of the month a free copy of Julie Fershtman's books, EQUINE LAW & HORSE SENSE and MORE EQUINE LAW & HORSE SENSE. Click here to send your ideas. [For more info on these and other publications written by Julie Fershtman, please visit www.equinelaw.net and www.equinelaw.info or call her directly at (248) 785-4731.]

Large Step Forward for the Horse Industry

We applaud the American Horse Council (www.horsecouncil.org) for its national marketing initiative for the horse industry. The AHC joined together ten national associations and large corporate industry stakeholders to make this happen. We await its marketing plan, which will propose ways to help people become more interested in horses and equine activities, either as participants or spectators.

THE NATION'S MOST SOUGHT-AFTER EQUINE LAW SPEAKER

Did you know Julie Fershtman has spoken at the American Horse Council Annual Meeting, Equine Affaire, Midwest Horse Fair, Equitana USA, US Dressage Federation Annual Meeting, North American Riding for the Handicapped (now PATH International) Annual Meeting, American Morgan Horse Association Annual Meeting, American Paint Horse Association Annual Meeting, US Pony Clubs, Inc.'s Annual Meeting, All-American Quarter Horse Congress, American Youth Horse Council Annual Meeting, American Riding Instructors Association Annual Meeting, CHA Annual Meeting, and numerous others? Consider signing her up for your convention. Contact Julie.

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