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Legal Aspects of Buying a Horse from a Sales Agent

Generally speaking, it is completely legal to do business with an agent in a business transaction.  An agency relationship generally exists when one person, such as a horse seller, agrees to allow another person to act on his or her behalf in a transaction. The agent acts on behalf of the “principal.”


Those who deal with parties claiming to be agents can encounter risks, such as:

  • The “agent” might have no authority to enter into the transaction. Is the agent really carrying out the principal’s request to sell a horse?  What if the horse owner never authorized the agent to sell the horse?
  • The agent might be exceeding restrictions. What if the seller gave the “agent” restrictions on the horse’s minimum sale price, but the agent violated those restrictions by selling for less than the permitted price range?

Protect Yourself

Protect yourself when you are dealing with someone who calls himself an agent, or when somebody purports to act on behalf of another. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Confirm the authority of the agent or seller. Under the law of some states, you (the buyer) may have a legal duty to determine the agent’s authority.  This puts the burden on you to ask questions, and the law might hold little protection for you if you fail to do so.
  • Use a carefully worded contract. Ask the agent to specify, and possibly even promise and warrant, that he has authority to enter into the transaction and to bind the seller for whom he is acting.
  • Contact the principal(s). Get contact information for everyone whom the agent is representing in your transaction. Confirm the agent’s role with them.  Insist that all of the horse’s sellers, not just the agent, sign the sale contract.
  • Pay the principal. Over the years, some equine sales agents have been accused of pocketing a disproportionate amount of the sale proceeds and concealing the true price from unsuspecting sellers (principals). Contributing to the problem is the horse industry’s long-standing reluctance to use written contracts.  Buyers and sellers can protect themselves from these abuses by requiring the buyer to pay the seller directly and specifying in the contract which party will pay the agent’s commission for the sale.

Matters involving agency relationships can be very complex. Consider hiring a lawyer to protect your interests.

This article does not constitute legal advice. When questions arise based on specific situations, direct them to a knowledgeable attorney.

Categories: 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 and, and

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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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