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Is It Horse-Friendly Property? Know The Answer Before You Buy

A caller years ago, had a difficult legal problem. He recently bought a home and surrounding land, converted a back yard work shop into a horse stall, set up new pasture fencing and moved in his horse. His life-long dream of owning a horse property within his budget, he thought, had just been realized.

Within weeks, however, his dream seemed to shatter when he received a notice from the municipality that his horse and fencing had to go. What he had not known, until that point, is that his municipality’s zoning ordinances included set-back restrictions for fencing. The ordinance required that his fence lines be within a substantial distance from his property line. Unfortunately for him, his lot was very narrow and compliance with the ordinance would make his horse pasture the size of a dog run.

This problem could have been avoided with some advance planning.  If you plan to buy property with the goal of stabling horses on it, get clear, reliable and preferably written answers to these questions before you sign documents:

  • What is the property's zoning classification?  Ask for details.  Look further. Nowadays, this information is often online. Find out whether the classification for your property allows horses to be stabled on the property.
  • Do local ordinances affect your plans to install new fencing?  Look up the municipality‚Äôs fencing ordinances. You might be surprised to learn that they impact your fence types (PVC or electrified rope fencing might be forbidden) and locations. 
  • Will the property's size and configuration allow you to add new structures, such as another residence, manager's residence, new barns or an indoor arena while remaining in compliance with zoning ordinances and restrictions?  If you intended to make these improvements, find out whether the community forbids them and how the municipality treats requests for variances and modifications.
  • Does the municipality have manure disposal restrictions?  Can you pile the manure? Can you spread it through the pastures or designated areas?  Find out whether the municipality has restrictions that could impact your planned operations.


People sometimes buy horse property with the expectation of spending extra money on improvements such as new arenas, observation rooms, storage sheds or expanded barns. Legal expenses necessitated by resistance from the municipality rarely fall within the budget.  By planning ahead before you make the commitment, you might be able to avoid problems before they occur.

Categories: Zoning & Land Use

Photo of Julie I. 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.

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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.

Julie Fershtman’s Recent and Upcoming Equine Law Speaking Engagements Include:

National Conference on Equine Law in Louisville, Kentucky on April 29, 2020. Topic will be on Waivers/Releases of Liability Involving Minor Participants. 

U.S. Hunter Jumper Association (USHJA) Annual Convention in Denver, Colorado on December 10, 2019. Topic will be on Equine Liability. 

IRMI Emmett J. Vaughan Agribusiness Conference (“AgriCon”) in Sacramento, CA (April 2019), and Richmond, VA (June 2019) and in Des Moines, IA (September 2019), on topics of “Equine Activity Liability Acts” and “Equine Mortality Insurance Disputes.”

National Conference on Equine Law in May 2019 in Lexington, KY, on the topic of “Equine Activity Liability Act Updates” and liabilities involving hosting of equine clinics. 

Agricultural Claims Conference in Kansas City, MO, in March 2019 on topics of “Loose Livestock Liabilities.”

2018 American Bar Association Annual Meeting in Chicago, IL, on “Equine Mortality Coverage and Disputes.”

November 2018, American Horse Council webinar on “Equine Liability.”

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 

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. 


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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