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“Free Leases” Are Not Free

In these challenging financial times, more and more horse owners have entered into arrangements they call “free leases.” No legal dictionary, to our knowledge, recognizes the term “free lease,” but in the horse industry it has come to mean a horse that is leased to another with no lease payment to the owner (the lessor) as long as the lessee provides the horse care and attention.

In our experience, lessors (horse owners) usually enter into these arrangements to avoid costly horse care. In an effort to save money, lessors rarely insist on contracts. Not surprisingly, disputes arise. For example:

  • The lessee might view the horse as a “gift” and refuse to return the horse to the lessor. Or, the lessee might sell the horse, with no notice to the lessor, and pocket the proceeds.
  • The lessee might view the horse as “abandoned” merely because the lessor did not visit the horse.
  • The lessee might expect the lessor to pay for some or all of the ongoing maintenance expenses such as farrier or veterinary attention and then send a large bill to the lessor later on, demanding payment.
  • The lessee might abandon the horse at a boarding stable, which could prompt the stable to take drastic action under its stablemen’s lien law, including sale of the horse, but with no notice whatsoever to the lessor.
  • The lessor might try to take back the horse, only to learn that the lessee (and the horse) have moved away and cannot be located.

What do these disputes have in common? Almost always, the parties had no written contract. Lease disputes often create very complex legal issues, the resolution of which can be tremendously expensive. Plan ahead and try to prevent disputes by using well-worded contracts, and only “free lease” your horse to someone you trust.

Categories: Boarding, Contracts

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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 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

Equine lawyer, Julie Fershtman, has recieved 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 

What our Equine Law Services can Provide

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. 

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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