Annapolis Maryland Equine Law Firm
Maryland is horse country, and anyone who participates in owning, riding, or racing horses knows that it can be exhilarating. This region has a long-standing tradition of raising horses, and those who work with horses know how unique their jobs and responsibilities are. This industry is unlike any other, and it requires a specialized skillset to be successful. This industry also has unique and often complex legal challenges that must be addressed, and this requires an attorney who understands the equestrian lifestyle and has in-depth knowledge of equine law.
The Law Offices of Matthew S. Evans, III offers their diverse legal experience in equine law to help anyone that touches this distinct industry. Our team of skilled Maryland equine lawyers fully understand the complex range of legal issues that involve horses, their owners, their riders and service providers, and the land and structures in the state that keeps them sheltered. We work closely with our clients, taking the time to thoroughly assess their specific needs, so we can create customized solutions that fully address their needs, accomplish their goals, and protect their legal rights and interests.
Equine-Related Contracts in Maryland
The law takes a unique view of horses because they might, under a variety of conditions, fill the role of a piece of livestock or personal property, a vehicle, an athlete, and an investment. There are many sorts of contracts related to horses, most of which require the scrutiny of an experienced Maryland equine attorney.
Some of the equine contracts and agreements that we handle for clients include:
- Purchase and Sale Agreements
- Installment Sale Agreements
- Horse Lease Agreements
- Breeding Contracts
- Boarding Agreements
- Equine Real Estate
- Equine Insurance Claims
- Liability Waivers
Horse Purchase, Sale, and Lease Agreements
When you are buying, selling, or leasing a horse, the transaction should be covered by a written contract. This is true even when the transaction does not involve a championship race horse or a horse with an impressive pedigree. Many horse purchase, sale, and lease agreements are done informally, often because the parties involved know each other and/or they are not sure how to put together a written agreement. This can expose parties to numerous legal problems down the road.
A horse purchase and sale agreement (also referred to as an equine bill of sale) documents the sale or transfer of a horse from the seller to the buyer, and it should include several important elements, such as:
- The name of the seller.
- The name of the buyer.
- A description of the horse, including the horse’s date of birth, coat color, sex, breed, markings, tattoos, and registration number (if the horse is registered with a breed or discipline organization).
- Date of sale.
- The price the buyer has agreed to pay for the horse.
- Payment terms – is the buyer making full payment, or will this be an installment sale agreement?
- Details about the horse’s father and mother, including their registration numbers.
- A promise that the seller owns the horse and has the legal authority to sell it.
- Warranties – is the horse being sold “as is”, or is the seller providing any guarantees?
- Disclosures – disclosures the seller is making regarding the horse’s health, previous medical history, and other important information.
- Any other terms, conditions, and provisions that pertain to the specific transaction.
Parties involved in the purchase or sale of a horse should have the contract drafted by an attorney with specific knowledge of Maryland equine law to ensure that the agreement covers all legal bases and fully protects their interests. If the horse purchase and sale agreement was presented by the other party (usually the seller), at the very least, they should have the agreement carefully reviewed by their attorney.
For those who do not want the responsibility of owning a horse, are not ready to make the commitment to buy yet, or who just cannot afford to purchase a horse at the present time, a lease may be a viable option. However, as with buying or selling a horse, there should be a written agreement between the lessor and the lessee – even if this is a more informal arrangement where they are essentially “borrowing” the horse from a friend or someone they know. A written contract in which the details of the lease are clearly spelled out in advance will help avoid misunderstandings, hard feelings, and legal trouble down the road.
Leasing a horse is a much more complicated transaction than most people realize. There are many issues that should be worked out before the parties sign on to the agreement, such as:
- Who is allowed to use the horse?
- What activities is the lessee planning to engage in with the horse (e.g., riding casually, show riding, how often and how long they will ride the horse, etc.)?
- What activities are restricted (e.g., jumping, barrel racing, trail riding, etc.)?
- Where will the horse be boarded?
- Who is responsible for the care of the horse?
- Who is responsible to pay medical costs if the horse becomes ill or injured?
- Who is liable if the horse causes injury to another party?
These and other questions must be resolved between the parties before a horse lease agreement is drawn up. There are also various types of leases to consider. For example, there are partial leases where there are multiple lessees who have access to the horse, in which case questions needs to be answered around how much time each lessee has with the horse and setting a schedule for when each lessee can use it. There are also lease-to-buy agreements for those who want to try out the horse for a while and have a portion of their payments applied toward the purchase of it.
Horse Boarding Agreements
One of the most common types of equine disputes are those that arise between horse owners and equine service providers around boarding and training facilities. If boarding agreements aren’t clearly defined with provisions for issues such as turnout, stall conditions, quality of feed, arrangements for veterinary care and shoeing, training, and possibly even breeding, intense conflicts often arise.
In many of these types of disputes, boarders do not feel that their horses are receiving reasonable care, so they stop paying their bill. If a boarder becomes seriously past due and no resolution can be agreed to, the dispute could end up in court, which can be extremely costly for all parties involved. If the underlying issues are addressed clearly and to everyone’s satisfaction in the original boarding agreement, the cost and hassle of a legal action could be avoided.
Whether you are a horse owner, barn and training facility owner and operator, trainer, racetrack owner, horse vet, or other equine service provider, let an experienced equine attorney ensure that your contractual relationship is sound and there is minimal exposure to litigation.
Why the Law Offices of Matthew S. Evans, III?
At the Law Office of Matthew S. Evans, III, our experienced Maryland contract and civil litigation attorneys truly care about what happens to you and your equine business. Attorney Genevieve Lindner is a lifetime equestrian and deeply understands the unique legal needs in Maryland’s horse community. We stand ready to provide skilled legal counsel for individual horse owners, stable owners, equine service providers, and manufacturers of various equine products. Contact our office today at (410) 431-2599 or online to schedule a free consultation at our Annapolis office.