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Half Lease - Whole Problem

The words “half lease” seem unique to the horse industry. In law school, this lawyer never heard the phrase mentioned, and the authoritative legal dictionary, Black’s Law Dictionary, nowhere mentions it. Yet, people in the horse industry, with greater frequency, are entering into arrangements they call “half leases” through which one or more persons (the “lessees”) pay a horse owner (the “lessor”) for shared use of the horse. “Half lease” arrangements might seem budget-friendly, but without careful planning, they could be quite the opposite as disputes could follow.

Paying for Routine Upkeep

Without a written agreement specifying who pays routine expenses, such as veterinarian and farrier, and how these expenses will be split, the parties may be left to guess. Also, if one party to the half lease wants costly attention for the horse, such as equine massage or acupuncture, can that party automatically obligate the others to share the cost?  

You Injured the Horse – Can You Walk Away?

If the leased horse becomes injured while under the lessee’s control, who must pay ongoing expenses for veterinary treatment? What if the time frame for treatment, such as a lay up, is longer than the expected length of the lease? Can the lessees be relieved of their obligations?

Moving the Horse

A party to the arrangement might want to haul the horse out of state, such as to a lengthy show circuit, which would deprive the others in the “half lease” arrangement of their time with the horse. What is an equitable arrangement?

Liability Surprises

All persons in the half lease arrangement could be at risk of liability if the leased horse injures someone while the arrangement is in progress. For example, let’s look at the scenario of a lessee being thrown from the leased horse, and the horse thereafter running loose into the road, colliding with a motor vehicle, and injuring a motorist. The collision also injures the horse.

  • Injured Motorist v. Lessee and Lessor. The injured motorist might file suit against the Lessee (claiming he or she negligently handled the horse, which caused it to run loose) and the Lessor (claiming, for example, that the Lessor negligently entrusted the horse to the Lessee).
  • Lessee v. Lessor. The Lessee might potentially sue the Lessor under the theory that the Lessor, who owned the horse, failed to disclose known dangerous propensities that led to the horse throwing the Lessee and running off.
  • Lessor v. Lessee. Possibly the Lessor might sue (or countersue) the Lessee, claiming that the Lessee is responsible for all damages caused in the accident because the Lessee misrepresented his or her riding experience, and the Lessor relied on the misrepresentation in allowing the half lease arrangement to proceed.  

Could these legal battles occur? The answer depends on the circumstances and the applicable law, but the risk is present. The parties to half lease arrangements have every incentive to protect themselves by communicating up front, using detailed contracts that address foreseeable issues and risks, and considering appropriate insurance.

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

Categories: Contracts, Insurance, Lawsuit, Liability

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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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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