Why Can’t I Send my Lame Leased Horse Back to the Owner?

13 09 2011

One provision that folks always ask me about in horse leases is whether or not they can return the leased horse if it goes lame. After all, nobody wants to pay board on a horse they can’t ride! They need to free up that money to pay board for a horse they CAN ride…..

If you’re lucky and the horse’s owner is a real softie who wants his or her baby back home if he or she goes lame, then you may be able to negotiate in the lease your ability to send the horse home if it’s lame for more than a certain number of days (in a row or in total, just depends on how the lease is written). That’s ideal for lessees because you aren’t paying for something you can’t use. Even if you lose your lease fee (pretty typical that you would), at least you’re not having to pay board every month.

Now, more typical when the quality of the horse goes up (and the price, of course), is for the owner of the horse to provide in the lease that you cannot return the horse if it goes lame. When I first entered horse leasing world I thought that was the most outrageous thing I’d ever heard, especially as a lawyer. There is no where else in law where if what you’re leasing “breaks” you can’t have a resolution that “fixes” things for you.

Well, as we all know, horses are anything but typical and similarly horse business transactions are anything but typical.

The truth of the matter is that if you own a really nice horse, it’s scary to lease it out. You try to do research on the lessee but you never know how someone will treat your animal when you’re not around. So, if your lessee knows that they will be responsible for paying to board this animal even if it goes lame, they are very likely to make dang sure the animal does NOT go lame. That means better, more attentive care for the leased horse. I have to say that now having seen so many situations where lameness was an issue, if I owned a horse I wanted to lease out, I would probably have a provision making it my option whether the lessee had to keep the horse or send it back if it went lame. It would likely depend on the person leasing and how much I knew about them. You’re balancing your desire to force the lessee to take good care of the horse and keep the horse healthy with your desire to take care of it yourself if something does go wrong, so it’s not an easy decision for the owner.

But now you understand why so many owners, especially when we’re talking expensive animals, will not allow a return of the animal for lameness during the lease term!

If you get into a bind and need assistance or just want to ask some questions to avoid getting in a bind, feel free to email me at dburch@rl-law.com. I often will answer a short and simple question for free if I have time and know the answer off the top of my head! If you don’t hear back from me quickly, it’s not because I don’t love you or think you have a great question or because I don’t know the answer (usually), I’m probably just really busy and haven’t had a chance to email back. You can check out our firm’s Equine Law Group at www.rl-law.com if you’re interested, and yes, in addition to providing what I hope are interesting and informative stories, this blog is also an advertisement for legal services.  I have to tell you that in bold, says the State Bar

Happy Riding!

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