Equine Contracts and Genetic Conditions – Horse Owners Beware

equine contract

Some horse breeds are known to be predisposed to certain genetic conditions. Arabians can produce foals that are immune-deficient. Appaloosas are prone to eye problems. Quarter Horses are more likely to tie up. It’s only been a few decades since researchers discovered these conditions that impact certain breeds, but this knowledge should now play a role in any equine contracts that you decide to sign.

What is a Breed-Related Disorder?

Horses have a genetic blueprint, just like any other living animal, and it’s possible for something to go wrong in those genes. A horse’s genes will control everything from coat and eye color to kidney and liver function. Even the behavior and stamina of a horse has roots in its DNA, which is evidenced by the fact that some breeds are more cantankerous or calm than others.

Several types of genetic disorders can occur in a horse:

  • A Mendelian or “simple” genetic disorder.This is the most common type of disorder in horses. Severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID) that mostly impacts Arabian foals is an example.
  • An abnormal number of DNA-containing chromosomes inherited from the horse’s parents.A common example is the “63.X.karyotype” in which a female horse is missing an X chromosome and will fail to develop a normal reproductive system.
  • Abnormalities of more than a single gene.This requires the input of several genes, is more rare, and continues to be studied.

Common Genetic Issues Among Quarter Horses

One example of breeding that spreads genetic issues is among Quarter Horses. Researchers discovered that the muscle disorder hyperkalemic periodic paralysis (HYPP) was linked to the Quarter Horse sire “Impressive.” Over two decades ago, the American Quarter Horse Association mandated that all Impressive descendants be tested to prevent the spread of this condition. Currently, any foal that tests positive cannot be registered with the organization.

Beyond, HYPP, other common genetic conditions that affect Quarter Horses are Polysaccharide storage myopathy (PSSM type 1), Glycogen-branching enzyme deficiency, malignant hyperthermia, overo lethal white syndrome (OLWS), and hereditary equine regional dermal asthenia (HERDA). There was a recent case referencing HERDA which emphasizes the need to use caution before entering into equine contracts.

Federal HERDA Case

A 2016 Texas Federal Court case proves that mare owners should pay attention to the language in their breeding contracts. The plaintiffs in this case were the owners of an American Quarter Horse mare, which had never been tested in the past for HERDA and that had been bred for cutting.

The horse owners wanted to find a stallion for breeding that was not a carrier of the HERDA gene so that they could reduce the risk of producing a foal that is affected by the disorder. According to the lawsuit, the plaintiffs asked the owner of the stallion whether their horse was a carrier of the HERDA gene. The response was verbal, and not in writing, that the stallion had been tested and the results were “N/N,” which means double negative.

The stallion owner did not put anything on their website about the horse’s HERDA status, but the plaintiff argued that the stallion’s owner advertised that the horse was not a carrier of the gene for HERDA. Based on this information, the two parties entered into a Stallion Service Contract for the breeding. Unfortunately, the contract did not mention the stallion’s HERDA status either way.

The foal that resulted from the contract ended up being affected with HERDA, which the owners discovered when the horse began its training process. The owners of the mare filed suit against the stallion owner with attorneys raising a variety of legal claims such as fraud, breach of contract, violation of the state’s Deceptive Trade Practice Act, negligence, and more.

Because there was no mention of HERDA in the contract, the stallion owner moved to dismiss the breach of contract claim, which was dismissed by the court. The other claims were permitted to proceed, however.

Speak with an Experienced Maryland Equine Law Attorney

Equine contracts often involve a great deal of time, effort, and money. When there is a breach of contract or fraud involved, the financial consequences can be steep. Whether you intend to purchase or breed a horse, it’s essential that you have detailed provisions in your contract that will provide the appropriate protections.

Contact the Law Office of Matthew S. Evans, III, to speak with one of our experienced equine law attorneys about how we can protect your rights and property. Call our office now at (410) 626-6009 or reach us online to schedule a free consultation.

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