Cheap Horse – Expensive Problem
An online ad shows a beautiful horse for sale, and the buyer is drawn in. The ad describes the horse as a perfect show horse, unflappable trail horse, kid-friendly, easy-keeper, and free of vices. The price is low, and the buyer rushes to make the purchase. The buyer makes the purchase sight unseen and sends money to the seller, a total stranger. The buyer sought no veterinary pre-purchase examination and no drug screen. The parties had no written contract.
After the horse arrives, serious problems become apparent. The horse might show none of the characteristics that were so glowingly advertised. Registration papers might not exist. The horse might be seriously lame or ill. The horse might be downright dangerous or untrained. When the buyer complains, the seller refuses to rescind the deal.
Certainly, buyers in these situations may have options available to them for legal recourse. But most buyers will keep the horse rather than invest in legal fees.
Avoiding Equine Sale Disputes
With careful planning, buyers can help avoid purchase disputes. Here are a few suggestions to consider:
- Don’t purchase a horse sight unseen. Get valuable, knowledgeable opinions regarding the horse before you buy. Hire an independent veterinarian (not one recommended by the seller) to conduct a pre-purchase veterinary examination, along with a drug screen. Hire a respected equine professional, such as well-recommended trainer, instructor, or judge, to assess the horse, especially if the buyer has special goals for the horse's use after purchase. If the seller refuses to allow these evaluations, don’t make the purchase.
- If you cannot be present for the veterinary or professional exams, arrange for them to be videotaped. Watch them. Consider sending a video of the veterinary exam and results to your regular, local veterinarian for a second opinion.
- Insist on seeing a copy of the horse's registration papers before you sign the contract or send payment. Do they match the horse? Is the seller even listed on them?
- Protect yourself by using a well-written sale contract that covers details that are important to you. The simplest elements can include, at a minimum: If the seller insists that the horse has never been injured, lame, or ill, put that in writing. Have the seller specify how long he or she has owned the horse. If the seller promises that the horse is registered and that the seller will sign over the papers, get that in writing. If the seller describes the horse as an “easy keeper,” put that in the contract and have the seller explain in writing what he or she means. (Example: How much feed and hay the horse receives each day, what type of feed and hay the horse receives, feed supplements, and how frequently the horse is pastured.) If the seller promises that the horse has never received treatments, such as joint injections, put that in the contract. Always make sure that the seller promises that he or she owns the horse and has the legal authority to sell it free of all liens and encumbrances. Consider an attorney fee clause in case a dispute arises. Send payment only after the buyer and seller have signed the same contract.
Unscrupulous horse sellers exist, and they expect buyers to refrain from taking legal action against them. Horse buyers have every incentive to proceed cautiously and protect themselves. A knowledgeable lawyer can help.
This blog post does not constitute legal advice. Discuss your legal matters with a knowledgeable lawyer.
Julie Fershtman 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.View All Posts by Author ›
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Honors & Recognitions
Equine lawyer, Julie Fershtman, has received these prestigious equine industry awards from respected equine organizations:
"Excellence in the Advancement of Animal Law Award" - American Bar Association Tort Trial & Insurance Law Section Animal Law Committee
"Distinguished Service Award" - American Youth Horse Council
"Industry Service Award" - Michigan Equine Partnership
"Catalyst Award"- Michigan Horse Council
"Outstanding Achievement Award" - American Riding Instructors Association
"Partner in Safety Award" - American Riding Instructors Association
"Associate Service Award" - United Professional Horseman's Association
"National Partnership in Safety" Award" - Certified Horsemanship Association
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Handling breach of contract, fraud/ misrepresentation, commercial code, and other claims involving equine-related transactions including purchases/sales, leases, mare leases/foal transfers, and partnerships.
Litigating disputes in court or through alternative dispute resolution (arbitration, mediation, facilitation).
Defending equine/farm/equestrian industry professionals, businesses, and associations in personal injury claims and lawsuits.
Drafting and negotiating contracts for boarding, training, sales, waivers/releases, leases, and numerous other equine-related transactions.
Representing and advising insurers on coverage and policy language as well as litigation;
Advising equine industry clubs and associations regarding management, rules, bylaws, disputes, and regulations.
Representing some of the equine industry's top trainers, competitors, stables, and associations.
Counseling industry professionals, stable managers, and individual horse owners.
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