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Part 2: What Can The Boarding Stable Do With an Abandoned Horse?

When boarding stables are not paid, they sometimes ask for trouble by taking matters into their own hands without following the law.  For example, some have been known to give away the boarded horses, sell them to offset the debt, or place the horses in their lesson program without first receiving clear permission from the horses' owners.  These actions are usually illegal.

Stables that accept horses for boarding and keeping do not automatically own them when board is unpaid. To become the owner, the stable must follow the law.  Depending on state law, legal action that can include:

  • Stablemen's lien foreclosure proceedings based on the applicable state's stablemen's lien law (sometimes known as the agister's lien law).  Through them, the boarded horse is sold, with legally proper proceedings and advance notice to the owner.
  • Legal proceedings where a court is asked to examine all of the evidence and declare a boarded horse to be abandoned with the stable being granted title.
  • Lawsuits against the horse's owners(s) to collect the unpaid board.  After the stable wins a judgment against the owner, state law usually allows the stable, as judgment creditor, to arrange a sale of the horse to offset or satisfy the debt.


Here a few suggestions for stables faced with the problem of non-paying boarders:

  • Ask the non-paying customer to leave now before the debt grows too large, even though parting with the horse could potentially impact other legal rights, such as a stablemen's lien sale.
  • Consider allowing the customer to pay off the debt in weekly or monthly installments, if he or she is capable.
  • To reduce future debt while keeping the client, consider negotiating a change to the boarding arrangement by decreasing services that the horse receives, for a reduced board fee.  For example, maybe the stable and owner can agree to pasture board the horse instead of a box stall.  Or maybe the horse's training schedule can be reduced.
  • Sometimes the horse owner and stable will agree to give the stable full ownership of the horse in exchange for canceling the debt.

Most of these options call for a carefully worded written agreement.  And remember that the stable must continue giving the boarded horse "reasonable care" (the degree of care that a prudent and careful horse keeper or stable would use under similar circumstances), even when fees are not timely paid.

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 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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