Why do you want to lease a horse? Are you unsure of the responsibility of horse ownership? Or perhaps finances are a bit tight? Has your child’s skills improved so that she requires a more accomplished show horse? Or are you an adult with little free time who wants to enjoy the horse life?
Regardless of the reason, leasing a horse carries its fair share of responsibilities. Along with loving and riding your furry friend, you need to make sure you and the horse’s owner understand “who is supposed to do what.” A great way to communicate what is required is to have a formal lease agreement.
I’m sure you’re thinking, “We’re good friends. We don’t need a contract like this. A handshake will do.” And sometimes, not often though, this may work. Mostly it doesn’t.
Without a lease agreement stipulating what you can and can’t do with the leased horse, you open yourself up to all kinds of legal trouble. If the horse gets sick or injured, who is responsible for paying the vet bill? What if the owner decides you’ve been negligent in caring for the horse? A proper lease agreement can clear up many potential misunderstandings.
Obtaining a good, effective equine lease agreement is fairly easy if you contact a reputable equine lawyer in your state. Dottie Burch, Equine Attorney at Ragsdale Liggett PLLC, suggests that you don’t try to draft the lease agreement yourself and to not assume that any lawyer will understand the issues with equine transactions. Most lawyers don’t know one end of a horse from the other and have no experience with equine legal matters. These agreements will vary greatly according to the circumstances of your particular situation. Many people find they need to modify existing agreements to provide for issues they did not think about when they entered into the lease. And when you change horses or owners, you almost always need to update your lease.
And while an effectively written equine lease can go a long ways towards protecting you legally, remember that even if you and the horse owner sign a written lease agreement, it does not prevent you from being sued, especially if, say, your leased horse injures a third party. Dottie Burch often tells her clients that “anyone can sue anyone for anything if they really want to – whether they have a legal basis for it or not. They may not win, but they can cost you a fortune in legal defense costs before you can manage to prevail in the case. So my advice to my clients is to always, as with any business transaction, find a lawyer who has experience with your type of transaction, equine or non-equine, and allow them to help protect you before you sign anything. Equine leases are definitely one of those areas in life where an ounce of prevention is worth many pounds of cure! You can spend a little money now and potentially save a pile of money later - because a good agreement can deter many people from suing you because everyone knows up front what to expect in most scenarios.”
Did that catch your attention?
In addition to a clear and concise lease document prepared by an accomplished equine attorney in your state, there are two kinds of insurance you will need to consider whether you own a horse or lease a horse. Equine Liability Insurance protects you from third party lawsuits should your owned/leased horse injure a person or their property. The second kind of insurance you should carry is Equine Mortality in case the horse dies or is stolen during your leased period. In addition, Equine Mortality insurance typically offers an option for a Major Medical/Surgical rider (i.e., equine health insurance) to help cover your horse’s veterinary bills due to accident, injury, illness or surgery.
Leasing a horse should be a wonderful experience for you, the horse and the owner. It’s definitely worth taking the time upfront to clarify how the horse is to be treated, both in sickness and in health, until the lease terminates.
As always, Star H Insurance is here to help you. Do not hesitate to call us with questions, concerns or assistance with a claim. Dottie Burch’s contact information is listed below as well, if you are in North Carolina and you decide you want to give an equine lawyer a try. She would love to hear from you!
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Call us before you buy that new horse or horse farm.
Dottie Burch, NC Equine Attorney
Ragsdale Liggett PLLC
* The information provided here is intended to be a brief summary. Please contact Star H Equine Insurance and/or review your policy for more detailed information.
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