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What Stables and Owners Should Know About Resolving Past-Due Board Disputes

If you’re a horse boarding stable, it’s a matter of time until you encounter a customer who falls behind on board payments. Here are some ideas for owners and stables.

Boarder Options

If you have fallen behind on your board payments, it may be time to take a serious look at whether you truly can afford horse ownership. Regardless of how you try to budget expenses, horse ownership brings unplanned expenses such as a sudden injury requiring emergency veterinary care. For those who believe they can still afford to own horses, here are a few ideas:

  • Try to negotiate a payment schedule with the stable. Maybe the stable owner will give you extra time to pay off the past-due balance. When a stable allows these arrangements, particularly if the stable agrees to waive interest and late payment fees that the boarding contract might allow, all parties benefit from a written agreement. Caution: Boarders should insist on proof of every payment they make, such as cancelled checks or receipts.
  • Show good faith. Boarders who make no payments are almost certain to prompt the stable to seek drastic legal action. Boarders who try to make a stream of payments, by comparison, might encourage the stable owner to be patient.
  • Working off the debt. Some boarders arrange to work off some or all of their board fees by doing barn chores, such as cleaning stalls. Caution: Stables should consider very carefully whether these arrangements generate extra liability risks. Consult first with an attorney and insurer to determine whether you are properly protected. 
  • Use the horse in lessons. Other stables, with the boarder’s consent, use the boarder’s horse in their riding lesson program to offset board fees. Caution: Everyone should make sure they are properly protected against possible liability risks.

Stable Options

When dealing with non-paying boarders, stables have several options. The more drastic options allowed by law include the following:

  • Sue the boarder. The stable can sue the boarder to collect unpaid boarding fees. Depending on the terms of the boarding contract and the applicable state law, the stable might also be entitled to recover interest, attorney fees, and court costs. If the stable wins a judgment, the law might allow it to enforce the judgment by eventually selling off the boarded horse. Since judgment creditor laws can be complicated, stables should consult with counsel.
  • Stablemen’s lien proceedings. As this blog has explained in previous posts here, and here, most states have laws designed to allow stables certain lien rights when boarders fall behind on payments. Caution: All of these laws differ.  Before attempting to sell off a boarded horse, stables are cautioned to follow the applicable law to the letter.
  • Parting ways. Some stables would rather ask non-paying boarders to leave soon rather than allow the unpaid board debt to grow. Afterwards, stables can consider whether to sue to collect the unpaid balance. Caution: Stables that allow the horse to leave the property could lose their stablemen’s lien rights, depending on the state law.

Conclusion

Payment disputes can generate serious legal issues. Proceed carefully and seek knowledgeable counsel.

Photo of Julie I. Fershtman
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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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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. 

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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