Documents that cover a wide range of equestrian arrangements
Equestrian legal documents are one of our specialties. The writer of these documents has ridden for many years and has bought and sold many horses and ponies for recreational use, to back and sell on, and for the family-run stud. The document is carefully considered to include practical matters as well as legal issues.
The documents, although varied, contain common elements, such as standards of care and disclosure of vices.
Why you should use an agreement to record your arrangement
Using a legal agreement might seem overly formal when you are dealing with someone who is also passionate about equestrianism, and perhaps who is a friend.
But just as in any business arrangement, an informal agreement can lead to numerous problems later. Without having the deal in writing, there may be confusion as to who agreed to pay vet bills, what level of service was agreed, or even to whom the horse actually belongs. Arguments can be time consuming, expensive and can cause worry. They can also end friendships.
If you use one of these agreements, the terms are clear and agreed, so there is far less likely to be any misunderstanding. The risk of conflict is also drastically reduced because each side knows what he or she has committed to and that a court claim will follow if he or she ignores that.
A good, readable contract provides a marker to your efficiency just as much as a tidy yard and contented horses.
Use of plain English will remove any worry from your clients that they need are signing a document that they need a solicitor to check before signing.
Whatever agreement you choose, remember that there is a strong psychological advantage in you being the party who presents the first draft document to sign or for discussion. You have the opportunity to frame the deal in your terms. This applies of course to any situation where a legal document is required.
Matters related to care of your horse
You may take it for granted that arrangements for horse care and management are covered very thoroughly. Each agreement contains different arrangements according to what is reasonably required. Here are some examples:
feed and exercise
use of third party professionals such as a vet or farrier
who pays for damage caused by horse
insurance: what is covered and who pays
obligations of the owner
safety on and off the yard
You can use our livery agreements to explain how the yard works and to set down your practical rules and expectations. Yard procedures are given at the end of the document, and you can edit these to your exact requirement.
You can use one of these agreements as a hand-out for each client to sign and exchange parts with you or you can present a client with a draft and agree to negotiate each as a special deal.
It is not enough to post a copy on the wall of your tack room. That is useful as a reminder but it will not be binding. You need a signature.
These agreements are drawn primarily to protect the yard owner but the tone and content are intended to avoid offence by a client. However, as you read it, you may decide to soften some of the strictest suggestions we have made. You can easily change anything that does not suit exactly what you want.
Many horsemen simply agree to a training deal casually under the assumption that the owner will turn up from time to time for lessons on her ever-improving horse. It is easily done. But that leaves you open to numerous potential problems. Without the terms of training written down, it is likely that at some point you will disagree with your client about exactly what they should reasonably expect from you.
For example, you will want to know about:
the present stage of the education of the horse
whether the real purpose re-training
if it is for backing, how far will the process be taken
whether the work be driven by a target outcome, or simple by a number of weeks
whether the work includes rider training as well
We suggest you write the precise terms into a schedule to the agreement.
Before you sign up to a sharing agreement, it is important to sit down and talk over each item. These agreements are not drawn to favour one side over the other. There will be small practical points you will decide to add, for example, one person might not want to deal with a farrier, or it may be important that one of you has access on Wednesday afternoons for a riding club attendance.
Consider the areas where something may go wrong with the proposal or your relationship and ask “What would we do if . . .” Those issues must be covered in the way you want.
Sharing ownership of a sport horse has advantages for both the rider a backer. It can give a rider a financial or motivational incentive to perform, and it can reduce the upkeep costs and the responsibility of the backer.
The aim of our sharing agreement for a competing horse is to set out not only a record of ownership, but of agreed responsibility: for management, care and competitions. With it, backers will find that they aren't just a never-ending source of finance.
The British Horse Society (BHS) publishes two documents: what they call "an example of a Livery Contract which could be used as a basis upon which to draw up an agreement" and an agreement for loaning a horse to someone else.
We think that the BHS documents fall far from the mark. The reasons are that the agreements are sponsored by the British Equine Vets Association, the ILPH and the RSPCA.
The documents are more about setting standards of care for the horse than the legal protection of humans party to the contract. They do not cover many legal or practical matters except relating to care.
While we think that it is beneficial to animal welfare and equestrianism that these organisations are trying to nudge owners into doing things in ways that they think best, it is disappointing that the model contracts the BHS publishes don’t provide adequate legal protection for their members.
We admire the work of the ILPH, but their aim is to protect horses. Their constitution is not relevant to the average yard owner. The RSPCA now has a political agenda. As for the BEVA, we simply fail to understand the relevance of a third party contract to their membership. Horses need their professional help in every equestrian sphere. A legal contract to which their vet member is not even a party, cannot affect that.
Matters relating to sale
When buying a horse, the old phrase "buyer beware" applies. Unlike many other transactions, in your purchase of a horse, you have no statutory legal protection (unless you buy from a dealer). A horse may seem sound when you view it, only to show problems shortly after you take it home.
After all, it is only natural to want to show a horse or pony in a good condition or talk up its achievements, both to maximise the price and to increase the chance of a sale. The seller may not intentionally be trying to dupe you, but it is all too easy to include bute in feed the day before you view it or say that the horse is a good competition jumper when in fact it has only jumped in the neighbour's arena. In short, few horses are perfect and there are ways of hiding problems that a seller won't be inclined to tell you about.
A vet's report will give you some assurance that the horse is medically sound, but you shouldn't rely on a report alone. Vets can make mistakes, particularly since they are only looking at the horse at a point in time, and are unlikely to know about historical injuries. Of course, a vet cannot tell you anything about the horse's temperament, ability or suitability for you.
No agreement can mend a broken horse. But both parties to a contract can benefit from warranties by the other of them. A warranty is a promise about some fact or state or future action. If it turns out that a warranty was untrue, the agreement is breached and one party can claim from the other.
If you are the seller then you may prefer to use an agreement drawn primarily to protect you. The Net Lawman version here still protects both parties, but prefers your interest. Presenting your agreement allows you to set the terms and warranties.