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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.


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

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 and, and

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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 this week 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.

Honors & Recognitions

Congratulations, Julie! We're proud to share that Julie Fershtman has received two prestigious awards.

On April 13, 2013, she received the American Youth Horse Council's 2013 "Distinguished Service" Award. As the award itself states, she received it "[i]n recognition of years of dedicated service to the American Youth Horse Council and tireless efforts to touch the lives of youth involved with horses." For more information about the American Youth Horse Council, please visit

On May 7, 2013, Julie received the 2013 "Industry Award" from the Michigan Equine Partnership for her work over the years supporting legislation to promote and protect the Michigan equine industry. For more information about the Michigan Equine Partnership, please visit


We're pleased to share that Julie just won a case in Michigan where she defended a boarding and training stable that was sued by a visitor who was injured in the barn aisle. Julie cautions that this case might have been avoided altogether if the stable required every visitor to sign its waiver/release of liability. (Julie, interestingly, drafted that stable's release document years ago but the stable only presented it to customers.) Make sure that your release is well-worded and complies with the laws of your state.

Other Articles

"The Seller's Contract Includes an "As Is" Disclaimer – Now What?" - Desert Mirage Magazine, August 2013

Win Equine law Books!

We're always on the lookout for good article and update ideas for the Equine Law Blog. Please share yours! We'll give the sender of best tip of the month a free copy of Julie Fershtman's books, EQUINE LAW & HORSE SENSE and MORE EQUINE LAW & HORSE SENSE. Click here to send your ideas. [For more info on these and other publications written by Julie Fershtman, please visit and or call her directly at (248) 785-4731.]

Large Step Forward for the Horse Industry

We applaud the American Horse Council ( for its national marketing initiative for the horse industry. The AHC joined together ten national associations and large corporate industry stakeholders to make this happen. We await its marketing plan, which will propose ways to help people become more interested in horses and equine activities, either as participants or spectators.


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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