OLS Solicitors Blog
Horses and the law: A horsey lawyers unique perspective
Horse ownership in the United Kingdom, as anywhere else, is not without its potential legal pitfalls. From horse trading to stable management, every facet of horse-related activities has an associated risk that, if not managed properly, could end up in a legal dispute. While we often enter the world of equestrianism with an optimistic outlook, it’s important to remember that even friendly arrangements can sometimes sour, leading to unexpected legal issues, which we shall explore in this blog post.
The following blog post not intended as legal advice, but rather to raise awareness about some common areas of legal conflict in the equestrian world. It’s always wise to consult a qualified solicitor for legal advice.
Horse Ownership and Buying/Selling Horses
In the UK, the sale and purchase of horses are governed by the Sale of Goods Act 1979 and the Consumer Rights Act 2015. These laws set out the rights of buyers and sellers and the implied terms in a sale contract. For instance, the horse should be fit for a particular purpose that the buyer has made known to the seller. Non-compliance with these laws could lead to legal issues and even court cases.
Boarding stables regularly face legal issues with non-paying boarders or those who are consistently late with payments. In such cases, the horse often ends up as the only asset to negotiate with. UK law allows for a “Lien for stabling and pasturage of horses” (Torts (Interference with Goods) Act 1977). This provides stable owners with a legal right over the horse until the outstanding payment is made.
It’s also important to have a clear boarding agreement that includes the UK’s Animal Activity Licensing regulations and liability waivers. Remember, though, a liability waiver does not absolve a stable owner from all responsibility. If a boarder can prove negligence, a lawsuit could still be possible.
Leasing a Horse
Leasing a horse can offer a win-win situation for both parties, but it’s crucial to have a detailed contract outlining the terms, fees, and exclusions. This can prevent misunderstandings that could lead to legal disputes. The contract should include the lease duration, payment schedule, assigned riding days, and authorized riders, among other things.
Owners of horse trailers should be aware of potential insurance issues when lending out their trailers or offering transport services. Check your insurance policy to see what’s covered and what’s not, as you may find that your home or car insurance won’t cover an accident involving your trailer and someone else’s horse.
Commercial equestrian businesses in the UK typically carry comprehensive insurance due to the high liability risk associated with their operations. It’s essential to understand exactly what your insurance covers. Trainers and riding instructors need to be cautious and consider obtaining coverage for the care, custody, and control of their clients’ horses, as the venue’s insurance policy may not extend to cover them.
Living in fear of lawsuits is no way to enjoy the wonderful world of horses. However, it’s always wise to be prepared by having detailed contracts, consulting with a solicitor for complex legal issues, and securing appropriate insurance coverage for your equestrian activities. This proactive approach is the best way to protect your interests and ensure a pleasant and worry-free equestrian experience
Contact us for expert advice on your horse related matter.