It is common for professionals in the horse industry to be asked to act as an agent in the purchase of a horse for a client. This is a common practice undertaken by professionals in this industry, but the parties involved need to be aware of the potential risks.
What is an agent?
An agent is a person engaged by another person (called the principal) to act on the principal’s behalf. In this example, the professional is asked to find and purchase an appropriate horse for the principal in exchange for a fee, which may be based on a percentage of the price of the horse or as otherwise agreed.
As an agent, the professional is under obligations to:
- Act in the best interests of the principal in accordance with anything the principal has said, honestly and in good faith;
- Avoid conflicts of interest including any profit made from the transaction other than the agreed agency fee; and
- Exercise reasonable care and skill including only acting within the applicable authority.
An agent acting within his or her authority can bind the principal to an agreement.
If you are a client paying your trainer to act as your agent in the purchase of a horse, you need to make sure the limits of the agent’s authority are clear to reduce the risk of a dispute. We recommend that you contact our office to have a written agency agreement drafted that will spell out the scope of the agent’s authority. For example, you should consider placing limitations on the authority such as:
- The available budget;
- The requirement for a pre-purchase examination;
- Whether you wish to give final approval for any purchase;
- Any specific requirements for prospective purchases, for instance no stallions or horses under or over a certain age.
As an agent, you have the power to enter an agreement on behalf of your client, so be careful that you are acting within your authority and review the terms carefully. If you are unsure, check with your client that he or she is happy with the horse as well as the price, payment terms, transport and other terms of the agreement.
It is possible for a client to be bound by an agreement the client is not happy with, in certain circumstances. If this has happened to you, whether you are the agent or the principal, you should contact us for advice.