Only YOU can Prevent Forest Fires! Before Hiring a Hauler, Insure Your Horse!

17 02 2014

Be Vigilant When Using a Professional Hauler for your Horse!

Some of us are lucky enough to have our own horse trailers and the driver’s license required to pull them. Our rig is insured and while our horse may or may not be insured, we know we will be careful with our very own precious cargo aboard. Even if we are the ones doing the hauling, it is a good idea to have full major medical and mortality insurance coverage for your horse if the horse’s value reasonably exceeds the cost of the insurance premium so that it makes financial sense to insure the horse.

However, some of us are not so lucky and are in the position of having to rely on third party haulers to get our horses from point A to point B. For some folks it’s a rare occurrence to hire a hauler and for others it’s common. The more often you use third party commercial horse haulers, the more closely you may want to read this blog entry.

First of all, remember that your personal automobile or homeowner’s or farm owner’s insurance policies do NOT cover the value of your horse if it is injured or killed in transit – whether you are hauling the horse or someone else is hauling. These types of personal policies do not typically cover the value of anything in a transport trailer, whether it is a horse or other property. There may be exceptions for certain types of personal property, but horses are typically not a covered property under these policies.

While many of us realize our personal insurance policies do not cover the value of our horse, many of us do not realize that commercial haulers are not required to have any specific amount of insurance to cover the value of the animals they are hauling. Many haulers do have insurance coverages for this purpose, but many of them do not. And of the ones who do carry the type of coverage which would pay an owner for the value of a horse which is injured or killed transit, most have very low coverages, as low as $1,000-$3,000 per head with a maximum per vehicle amount as well. If you are shipping a world champion cutting horse and it is killed in a collision, odds are that it was worth more than $3,000. Alternatively, if your world champion dressage horse is badly injured but not killed, odds are that the veterinary treatment costs will far exceed $3,000. There may be a few well insured haulers out there but, unfortunately, they are rarer than we would like, probably because good insurance coverage is cost prohibitive for them. The cheaper the cost of hauling, the less likely the hauler will have generous insurance coverage and the more likely they will have no coverage at all for your horse.

Even if your hauler has insurance which covers the loss of or injury to your horse, getting the insurance company to pay you for that loss or cost is not easy. You are then in the position of having to prove that the damage to or death of your horse was proximately caused by the covered person’s negligent actions or omissions. Proving this causation is easier said than done, especially when you are virtually never present when the injury or death occurs because the horse is usually alone with the hauler when it happens. I am reminded of a case where a client’s beautiful warmblood hunter filly prospect was being hauled from the west coast and the hauler cruelly left the filly on the trailer the first three days of the trip. He finally stopped at an equine layover facility on the east coast which happened to be owned by a veterinarian and, not surprisingly, the filly was three-legged lame when she came off the trailer. The veterinarian signed an affidavit attesting to the filly’s poor condition upon removal from the trailer and my client filed a claim with the hauler’s insurance company. The insurance company denied the claim because we could not prove to the company’s satisfaction that the injuries to the filly were caused by its insured hauler. Instead of going through the arduous process of filing a lawsuit and introducing evidence of the horse’s condition when it stepped on the trailer versus its condition when it stepped off, the client opted to drop the case when it discovered that even if it were successful in the lawsuit, the hauler had no personal or company assets (the truck and trailer both had large liens on them) and the limit of the hauler’s insurance coverage was only $3,000 per horse. After spending thousands on veterinary treatments, the client could not afford to pay lawyers to chase such a small sum of money and did not feel comfortable handling a small claims court action alone. In retrospect, of course they wish they had thought to insure the filly with major medical and mortality before she stepped foot on the trailer. If they had done so they would have been reimbursed for much of their expense.

What have we learned? If at all possible, to insure your horse with major medical and mortality for its full value before letting it step onto a trailer, whether your trailer or a third party’s trailer. If insurance is not an option for you for some reason, at least try to haul your horse yourself when you can (assuming you are an experienced, safe horse hauler) so that you have more control over the situation or be prepared to bear the loss of the horse’s value or the cost of the veterinary treatment in the event the horse is injured and survives. Make the choice today about what coverages you do or do not want so that you know what to expect in the event tragedy strikes.

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. And you can always buy the first hour of my time for $250 (my usual hourly rate for 2014 is $350). Lots of folks will save up all their equine (and some corporate or real estate) legal questions and short documents and sit with me for an hour and we will do as much as we can during that hour and it’s only $250. You can check out my Twitter feed @nchorselawyer as well as our firm’s Equine Law Group web page at http://www.rl-law.com/equine if you’re interested, and yes, in addition to providing what I hope are interesting and informative stories, this blog and the Twitter feed referenced above are also (in one way or another, I guess) an advertisement for legal services.

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WANT YOUR EQUINE INSURANCE CLAIM PAID? BE SURE TO GIVE PROMPT NOTICE TO THE INSURANCE COMPANY OR YOUR CLAIM MAY BE DENIED!

19 11 2013

A recent federal court case in the Midwest strongly upheld an insurance company’s complete denial of an equine mortality insurance claim because the owner of the horse failed to give the company prompt notice of an injury to the horse – an injury that ultimately resulted in the horse’s death. The company successfully argued that if it had received notice of the claim in a timely fashion, it could have secured better veterinary treatment of the very valuable horse – treatment which would have likely resulted in the animal’s full recovery and thus avoided the owner’s devastating decision to euthanize the animal. This case reminds us all of the critical need for us to carefully comply with the terms of our equine health and mortality policies or the result can be that we receive no claims proceeds at all – even when we end up losing our beloved animal.

An insurance policy is a contract. Virtually all insurance contracts require that, as a condition to coverage, the company be given immediate or prompt notice of any potential claim. Such a requirement makes sense. The insurance company wants the opportunity to proactively participate in the resolution of the claim so as to hopefully help reduce the loss for you, especially when you are facing an equine lameness or health issue. Prompt notice can further aid insurance companies with conducting a thorough, timely investigation into an equine death, a critical factor for mortality companies because of the rampant insurance fraud which riddles many sectors of the equine industry.

Many people are afraid to contact the insurance company because they fear an increase in premium in the future. We all know the feeling of deciding whether to allow our automobile insurance company to pay for a small claim or whether to pay for it ourselves after we consider our deductible and the possible impact the claim might have on our insurance rates in the future. And as a result, most of us end up paying small claims ourselves. Claims on our homeowner’s policy are similar. If someone breaks into our home and steals a $500 television, we weigh the advisability of filing a claim with our homeowner’s insurance company and what it might cost us in increased premiums in the future.

The critical difference here is that horses are not automobiles nor are they homes. We need to stop thinking of them that way when it comes to insurance claims. They are more like people, frankly, at least in this context, and we need to consider whether we would let our health insurance company know if we ourselves had a serious injury or not. What if the health insurance company could refuse to pay our medical bills if we did not notify them of our injury quickly enough? They probably could deny the claim, truth be told, but our health system is structured so that we often cannot obtain medical treatment at the doctor or hospital without telling them our insurance information first. Then they notify the company of our injury or illness for us. We do not really have a lot of choice in the matter. If equine veterinarians required us to share equine insurance information up front, this article might not be as timely because the veterinarians would likely be notifying the insurance companies for us and we would not have the decision to make about when and whether to notify them. But typically, at least where I live, equine veterinarians do not ask for insurance information before they treat the animal. I cannot remember ever having a veterinarian (or their staff) ask me for insurance information. I am sure it probably happens more and more as more people insure their animals and/or veterinarians become increasingly concerned about getting paid, but it is not the norm around where I live at this point in time. And may not be where you live either.

Moral of the story – if your horse turns up lame or is injured or sick, advise your equine health or mortality insurance company as soon as possible because they may have a national network of contacts which could help your horse receive more or better treatment sooner – treatment which may end up saving his or her life and perhaps his or her soundness as well. The equine insurance carriers are your partners, not your adversary. Use them as such! Get your money’s worth and utilize all the loss prevention tools they have available for you. And it would be a terrific idea for you to right now, while you hopefully do not have a claim, to call to speak with your company’s “loss prevention” or “risk management” department to see what resources they may have for you in the event you do have a claim. You might be surprised how much they can help you and your horse!

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. And you can always buy the first hour of my time for $250 (my usual hourly rate for 2013 is $325). Lots of folks will save up all their equine (and some corporate or real estate) legal questions and short documents and sit with me for an hour and we will do as much as we can during that hour and it’s only $250. You can check out my Twitter feed @nchorselawyer as well as our firm’s Equine Law Group web page at http://www.rl-law.com/equine if you’re interested, and yes, in addition to providing what I hope are interesting and informative stories, this blog and the Twitter feed referenced above are also (in one way or another, I guess) an advertisement for legal services.





When You are Dealing With Horses Across State Lines, Be More Cautious Than Usual

16 10 2013

Oftentimes the horse you are considering buying or leasing is in another state. Or perhaps you need to send your horse for treatment or training in another state. Or you regularly show your horse in another state. What is the legal impact of crossing state lines in those situations? The various issues that can be impacted are many more than this article could cover in the allotted space, but hopefully we have highlighted some common concerns for you. Examples always seem to help illustrate these types of issues best, so we will use a few here.
Imagine that you live in North Carolina and you are looking for the perfect reining horse. You find an amazing two year old gelding prospect with a stellar lineage in Wyoming. His price is high, $75,000, but the Seller is a well-known and successful trainer who is willing to keep him for 6 months and put him into her intensive training program for you before sending him to North Carolina. Thrilled with your find and the proposed terms of the transaction, you hire a reputable, local Wyoming veterinarian to conduct a thorough prepurchase examination on him, including radiographs of all four legs and feet and he checks out beautifully. You make arrangements with the Seller to pay for him and for her to start him in her training program. Then you line up a shipper from Colorado to pick him up and bring him to North Carolina in six months on one of his regularly scheduled routes to the east coast.
What can go wrong?
Example #1: When the gelding arrives in North Carolina, he is fine at first and then goes lame on the left front. Your North Carolina vet checks him out, takes radiographs and advises you that he has significant navicular concerns and that there is no way that the Wyoming vet could have missed these concerns if he had truly conducted a thorough prepurchase examination with the radiographs you requested.
So it appears here you were the victim of veterinary malpractice.
Example #2: When the gelding arrives in North Carolina he is sound, but based upon his physical condition and his lack of education, he does not appear to have been in a training program for the last six months. The Seller claims he was in training and that you simply do not understand how to ask him to do what he has been taught to do.
So it appears that the Seller has failed to provide the training promised and thus has breached your agreement with her.
Example #3: You get a call when the shipper picks up the gelding after his six months of training and he confirms the horse is in great condition when the Seller puts him on the shipper’s trailer. The Seller contacts you and also lets you know the horse is in perfect condition when he gets on the trailer and even takes pictures on her iPhone and texts them to you so you can see how beautiful he is when he is boarding the trailer. The shipper advises you that it will be at least 3 days before he can get the gelding to North Carolina because of the distance and the need to stop and stable the horse overnight along the way. You try to contact the shipper every few hours to check on the horse and after the first day the shipper stops returning your calls or providing you with updates. You become concerned and the next telephone call you get is from a veterinarian in Lexington, Kentucky who owns an equine layover facility. Apparently your gelding was delivered to the facility for an overnight stay and when he was taken off the trailer he was three-legged lame with multiple lacerations all over his face and legs. The veterinarian asked the shipper what happened and he claims that the horse would not climb off the trailer for the last 36 hours so he just left him on and the horse apparently became agitated and thrashed around inside the trailer, hurting himself. In short, your gelding ends up spending a week in Lexington at an equine specialty hospital being treated for multiple injuries caused by the excessive time on the trailer before he can come home to North Carolina – and even then he may never be sound again. And because of the trailer trauma, the gelding understandably now has an intense fear of trailering and will have to be tranquilized in order to get him on any trailer in the future.
So this time the Seller is not at fault, but a shipper from Colorado has been negligent in shipping him and has caused harm to your horse.
The Common Thread
The common thread here is that you have a real, valid legal claim against another person or company who resides in (or is based in) another state. Can you sue someone in another state? Absolutely! You can certainly sue where he or she is located and maybe where you are located, depending on his or her relationship with your state (whether they do business there or have other types of connections there). And since the amount of your damages is arguably over $75,000, you may be able to sue in federal court as well if you and the potential defendant reside/are headquartered in different states.
So what is the problem? The problem is that is incredibly expensive to sue someone, period. And especially so in another state or in federal court. But when you add thousands of miles to the picture (or the complexity of federal litigation), the dollar signs keep increasing. Definitely in Example #1 (and perhaps all the examples) you will need to hire an expert to testify on your behalf about what was the proper thing for the defendant to do in your situation. Experts are typically very expensive (several hundred dollars an hour).
Also, in lawsuits you engage in something called “discovery” which involves, among other things, taking depositions of key individuals in the case. To take someone’s deposition, you are generally required to go where that person resides. That could mean traveling with your lawyer (who is also expensive) to Colorado or Wyoming (and perhaps Kentucky in Example #3). Out of state depositions typically cost anywhere from $2,000-$5,000 per person by the time you factor in all related expenses.
The bottom line is that pursuing someone in another state is extremely expensive, so you should take as many precautions up front as possible to make sure you minimize the chance of a legal claim (e.g., have two different veterinarians do pre-purchase examinations if the horse is expensive; buy health and mortality insurance on the horse before shipping; carefully research shippers and check several of shipper references; and buy travel insurance for the trip from Wyoming to North Carolina). In short, be very, very careful when entering into transactions over state lines so you can avoid the stress and heavy expense of an interstate legal dispute.

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. And you can always buy the first hour of my time for $250 (my usual hourly rate for 2013 is $325). Lots of folks will save up all their equine (and some corporate or real estate) legal questions and short documents and sit with me for an hour and we will do as much as we can during that hour and it’s only $250. You can check out my Twitter feed @nchorselawyer as well as our firm’s Equine Law Group web page at http://www.rl-law.com/equine if you’re interested, and yes, in addition to providing what I hope are interesting and informative stories, this blog and the Twitter feed referenced above are also advertisements for legal services.





NC Liens for the Care of Horses

19 06 2013

The two most common calls I seem to be receiving these days in my equine practice are from people who (a) have had horses left in their care for which they are not being paid board or (b) have allowed someone else to keep their horses only to find out later that the person has given away or sold or euthanized their horse without their knowledge or permission.

This article addresses the former situation. You have a horse on your property and the owner or other possessor of the horse (lessee, family member, etc.) is not paying the agreed upon boarding fees. What can you do? Well, assuming you have an agreement for how much they are supposed to pay you for board (written agreements are obviously best, but an oral agreement, especially if made in front of a witness, can be okay too), you may be able to successfully assert a boarding lien, also known as an agister’s lien or a stablemen’s lien, on the horse in your possession.

The statutes that you need to read are N.C. Gen. Stat. Section 44A-2 through 44A-6. You can find them at http://www.ncleg.net/gascripts/Statutes/Statutes.asp. Just put “44A” in the top search box. These statutes explain how to go about asserting a lien on a horse in your care when you aren’t being paid proper board for the animal. Basically they provide, in summary, that if you board animals for people for pay and you don’t get paid, you have a preferential lien on that animal so long as you don’t voluntarily give up possession of the animal and so long as you follow the requirements of those statutes. The statutes provide that once you have not been paid for a period of 30 days you may begin the process to assert your lien on the animal. After 30 days of not being paid you can serve a notice on the owner of the animal (or person with whom you dealt regarding the animal) that contains very specific factual information set out in the statute and giving them ten days from the day that they receive the notice to respond via certified mail and, if they disagree with your assertion of the lien, to request a hearing before the court to determine whether you have a lien. If they do not request such a hearing and you have met all statutory requirements, then you will be entitled to sell the animal at a public or private sale, depending on the situation. Typically a public sale is better because you are permitted to buy at that type of sale whereas you cannot buy the horse yourself at a private sale.

Once you’ve reached the point where you are permitted to sell the animal, you have to give notice of the sale to the owner (or person with whom you dealt regarding the animal) and that notice has to contain very specific information as well. If you follow the letter of the statute properly with regard to all the notices and the sale itself, the buyer at the sale will take title to the horse free and clear of any liens and the proceeds of the sale will pay, first, your reasonable expenses in pursuing the debt (the statute does not include attorney’s fees specifically, but you may have an argument that you are entitled to them), second, the past due boarding obligation owed for the animal’s board and care; and last, any surplus must be paid to the owner (or person with whom you dealt regarding the animal) or, if you cannot find him or her, into the clerk of court for the county in which you have been boarding the horse.

This is of course a very simplified summary of the law regarding liens on boarded animals, but hopefully it has given you a flavor of how the lien process works. And we are of course assuming here that you can actually find buyers to come to your sale if you have one. Right now there is a surplus of horses and in many situations, even where the statutory procedure is followed perfectly, there will be no buyers present at the sale to bid on the horses being sold. If that is the case then you’re still unfortunately out of luck when it comes to that horse. If you’re having a public sale, you can bid in at the amount of your damages and the horse becomes yours. That may be good or that may be bad, depending on your perspective (and the horse!). Then you have a choice to make about whether you keep the horse for yourself or donate the horse to USERL or similar organization. In some cases, I have had clients who asserted a lien on a horse which was left at their property without payment, sold the horse at a public sale, had to buy the horse themselves for the amount of their lien (basically just forgiving the debt to themselves) and ended up selling the horse to a buyer in another state whom they strategically located and contacted about the horse because of that animal’s specific attributes. That is a rarity, of course, but can actually happen and it is truly wonderful when it does!

My recommendation is to hire a good equine lawyer at least for the first time you decide to assert a boarding lien on a horse in your care. Once you’ve been guided through the process once by a legal professional and developed an internal procedure for asserting such a lien, the next time you just might be able to handle it all by yourself!

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. And you can always buy the first hour of my time for $250 (my usual hourly rate for 2013 is $325). Lots of folks will save up all their equine (and some corporate or real estate) legal questions and short documents and sit with me for an hour and we will do as much as we can during that hour and it’s only $250. You can check out my Twitter feed @nchorselawyer as well as our firm’s Equine Law Group web page at http://www.rl-law.com/equine if you’re interested, and yes, in addition to providing what I hope are interesting and informative stories, this blog and the Twitter feed referenced above are also advertisements for legal services. I have to tell you that in bold, says the State Bar.





Do You Really, Really KNOW Your Trainer? Part One

18 01 2013

I’ve gotten several calls lately with a theme and it worries me a little…or a lot, depending on how I think about it.

The casual and relatively close-knit nature of the horse world lulls us into feeling like if we really like someone, or if someone we know and respect really likes someone, they are fine.  And that’s usually the case.  But the calls I’ve been getting lately point out to me that such is not always the case.  So, my next two posts will address this issue and offer some suggestions:

Case No. 1 – North Carolina gentleman we will call Sid entrusts his young but very well bred dressage horse Wellington to a seemingly well known trainer we will call Herman in another state.  Herman had a nice website and did a good job with some of Sid’s friends’ horses.  What Sid didn’t realize was that Herman had also done a really poor job with several horses and had been sued several times by his clients as a result, but Herman had moved around from state to state hoping his reputation didn’t catch up with him.  Over a period of a couple of years Sid paid Herman upwards of $30,000 in board and training fees, thinking that Wellington was going to come home a superstar.  That didn’t happen.  Instead what came home was a horse that was 2 years older and still barely green broke with injuries which were consistent with being quite overworked, especially for a horse Wellington’s age.  Wellington’s injuries have likely caused permanent damage in some of his joints.  So now what could have been a $75,000-$100,000 horse is now, at best, a $10,000 horse and that’s only IF Wellington is able to stay sound while being trained by a truly good trainer.

Moral of the Story?

Having a trainer in another state can be problematic because (a) it’s incredibly expensive to move your horse there and back, not to mention the cost of getting yourself there and back (which you should do relatively often so you can keep up with the progress and condition of your horse); (b) it’s frustrating to conduct litigation from afar if you have to sue the trainer at some point; (c) you usually have to hire a lawyer licensed in the state where the trainer is located if you have to sue him or her because you will probably have to sue him in state court where he is located (unless your damages exceed $75,000 and then you can sue in federal court if you are residents of different states); and (d) the odds of you hearing any horror stories about an out of state trainer are much lower than if you were using a local trainer in your own state (even if a few hours away).  Also, there are a lot of horse trainers who train horses for the love of the animal or because that’s all they know and not for the money.  As a result, lots of horse trainers are not flush with cash or property which they could use to pay a judgment which you might get against them if you sue them and win.  Can’t get blood out of a turnip and all.

Sometimes there are circumstances which make sending your horse to an out of state trainer a necessity.  If that’s the case, PLEASE do some solid research on the trainer BEFORE sending your horse out to him/her, research on the facility (is it owned by the trainer? Leased?  If leased, leases end and your horse could end up somewhere not as nice) and be very thorough.  Google the trainer, run a background check on him/her, talk to lots of folks whose horses he/she has trained over the years, be sure he/she has a lot of experience (preferably several years) and good results (ask for show records), ask to see his or her trainer/instructor liability insurance policy and get the name and number of his or her insurance agent and look at the litigation records in the states where you know he/she has lived to see if he/she has been sued a lot (or at all).  And, if you can afford it, get major medical and mortality insurance on your horse before you send him or her away (and make sure your horse is covered while outside your state – they usually are (see my former post on this issue), but double check with your agent.  And go to visit your horse while he or she is in training to ensure that progress is being made and that you can SEE that progress with your own eyes and/or feel it with your own backside (if you’re a rider too).  Sending your horse off without going to physically check in on him or her is a dangerous proposition.  I would probably make it a surprise visit if you can so that you will get a real feel for how and where your horse is being kept.  A good, honest trainer will not mind if you show up anytime.  If they require lots of notice before you can come, I would be wary.

All of the concerns and suggestions stated in this post are magnified and multiplied 100 times if you are considering sending your horse out of the country for training.  Do even more to investigate the trainer and facility BEFORE agreeing to send the horse and be more picky about what you require.  It’s very, very difficult and very, very expensive to engage in litigation across borders of countries.

That’s part one of “Do You Really, Really KNOW Your Trainer” and part Two will come soon!

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.  And you can always buy the first hour of my time for $250 (my usual hourly rate for 2013 is $325).  Lots of folks will save up all their equine (and some corporate or real estate) legal questions and short documents and sit with me for an hour and we will do as much as we can during that hour and it’s only $250.  You can check out my Twitter feed @nchorselawyer as well as my web page at www.rl-law.com/professionals/dorothy-bass-burch/ or our firm’s Equine Law Group web page at www.rl-law.com/equine if you’re interested, and yes, in addition to providing what I hope are interesting and informative stories, this blog and the Twitter feed referenced above are also advertisements for legal services.  I have to tell you that in bold, says the State Bar.

Be careful out there and Happy New Year!





NOT a Good Practice to Have a Seller Veterinarian do Your Prepurchase Exam

30 05 2012

I would think this principle goes without saying but, based upon my experience recently, it may not, so I will say it:

If you are purchasing a horse from a vet, do not rely on him or her for your prepurchase examination of that horse. 

While most vets are wonderful, honest folks, there are a few who are not and you can avoid worrying about which is which if you have an independent, neutral veterinarian conduct your prepurchase examination on any horse you are considering for purchase from a veterinarian.  Frankly, most of the good veterinarians I know would refuse to do the prepurchase examination for you if they were selling you a horse for fear of having it even LOOK like a conflict of interest – and wanting to avoid that concern altogether by having a neutral vet come in to conduct the prepurchase exam.

The less savory seller vets will tell you that they will do the prepurchase for you at a discount to lure you into thinking that’s the way to go.  And before folks yell at me for that statement, I will say that I am certain there are perfectly fine, nice, honest vets who sell horses and offer a discounted prepurchase examination if you use them.  But my point is that you will not know which are the good folks who are genuinely trying to help you by doing the exam themselves and which are the vets who are trying to get you to let them conduct the prepurchase examination for their own selfish reasons.  So, in my professional opinion, the best practice is to avoid the scenario altogether and get a vet who has no connection whatsoever to the seller of the horse.  For example, they didn’t go to vet school together, they weren’t in each other’s weddings, their kids don’t play little league together….you get the point.  Just like when hiring a lawyer, you want a vet doing your prepurchase examination who ONLY has YOUR interests at heart and does not have any vested interest – financial, social or emotional – in the seller vet or in whether you purchase the horse or not.

Good luck out there!

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. And you can always buy the first hour of my time for $250 (my usual hourly rate for 2012 is $325).  Lots of folks will save up all their equine (and some corporate or real estate) legal questions and short documents and sit with me for an hour and we will do as much as we can during that hour and it’s only $250.  You can check out my Twitter feed @nchorselawyer as well as our firm’s Equine Law Group web page 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 and the Twitter feed referenced above are also advertisements for legal services.  I have to tell you that in bold, says the State Bar.

Happy Riding!





Drug Test That Horse Anyway!

7 03 2012

Recently have discovered a new trend with unsavory sellers in the equine world.  They can be very creative, I’m afraid.

Here’s the newest trick.  You go to try a horse and it is delightful.  You decide to buy it so you very responsibly have a licensed equine veterinarian come out to conduct a pre-purchase examination.  When you get to the point where your vet is going to draw blood, the seller pipes up “Oh, we had to tranq him yesterday to (shoe him, clip him, load him, etc) and so there’s no point in drug testing him because he will have Ace in his system from that.”

Of course you have no prior notice they are going to say this or that they had tranquilized the horse for any reason, but it sounds reasonable and drug testing is expensive, and your daughter is standing there with tears in her eyes at the idea of NOT being able to take this horse home with you today so you relent and “trust” the seller.  Never, ever trust the seller blindly.  Even if you have dealt with this seller for years and he’s related to you or whatever, you are still responsible for protecting yourself, even from people you know and love.  A good, trustworthy seller will understand completely where you are coming from and that it’s not a personal attack on the seller if you want a drug test on the horse he or she is selling.  That’s just plain smart and a good, honest seller will tell you that it’s a good idea.  If you feel bad about pushing for the drug test, feel free to blame it on that lawyer Dottie Burch who says buyers should always conduct their own independent investigations into the health and well being of any equine he or she is purchasing.  Unless of course you are prepared to lose all the money you have invested in the animal and are okay with that.  Most of us don’t have money to throw away, but if it’s a $50 horse, maybe you take a chance?  Well, even then the horse could be carrying Equine Infectious Anemia or something just as bad and you would still want to know that before you put that horse with your other horses or at a barn with other folks’ horses.

Everything about keeping and caring for horses is so expensive that even if the purchase price isn’t high, you still want to protect yourself with a pre-purchase examination by an independent equine veterinarian (no, it’s not okay to use the seller as your pre-purchase exam vet if the seller just happens to be an equine vet – which is not that unusual around here – lots of equine vets have horses and buy and sell horses) coupled with a drug test if you can possibly afford it.  If you can’t, just be prepared that you are taking a risk and that risk could have dire, or at least expensive, consequences.

So what to do in this case?  Go ahead and drug test the horse anyway or wait and come back to test later.  If you go ahead and test, be sure to inform your independent equine veterinarian about exactly what the seller told you they gave the horse and when.  And then let your vet speak with the seller to get confirmation of that information. The vet may suggest waiting, leaving the horse where it is for a while and coming back to draw blood and ride the horse when the tranquilizers are supposedly out of its system.  If so, wait and test later so you will know for sure.  Otherwise, it’s a crap shoot which you might just lose.

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.  And you can always buy the first hour of my time for $250 (my usual hourly rate for 2012 is $325).  Lots of folks will save up all their equine (and some corporate or real estate) legal questions and short documents and sit with me for an hour and we will do as much as we can during that hour and it’s only $250.  You can check out my Twitter feed @nchorselawyer as well as our firm’s Equine Law Group web page 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 and the Twitter feed referenced above are also advertisements for legal services.  I have to tell you that in bold, says the State Bar.

Happy Riding!