Equine Legal Services FAQ
1. How can I protect myself when I sell a horse?
There are many things you can do to protect yourself during the sale process. As most sale/purchase disputes boil down to allegations of misrepresentation, sellers may reduce the risk of such a dispute by the way the sale is conducted. For example:
- Ensuring any advertisements, descriptions or information given to purchasers are true and accurate.
- Having the correct medical history for the horse, or being honest about not having it – for example, if you obtained the horse through a rescue and are unaware of its history prior to you adopting the horse, make that clear.
- Having a properly prepared sale contract in place which deals with issues such as purchasers wishing to return the horse.
- Encouraging purchasers to inspect the horse and to have a pre-purchase examination (PPE) conducted – if you are selling horses sight unseen, from videos, by way of auction or without PPEs, then these circumstances may need to be covered in the sale contract differently.
- Carefully observing the potential purchaser’s handling of the horse and querying experience, management style and aspirations of that potential purchaser to make sure they are a suitable match.
2. If I purchase a horse and it turns out to have behavioural or soundness issues, can I return the horse?
This will depend on many factors and is one of the main reasons that we recommend a proper sale contract be drafted and executed by the parties, so that everyone is ‘on the same page’ as to if/or when a return may be possible. A detailed inspection and PPE will also assist in establishing whether there are any areas of concern prior to purchase.
Purchasers should keep all advertisements, videos and written communications about the horse. They should ensure that they know the details of the actual person or entity who is selling the horse as the type of owner (private owner, company, sole trader business etc) and your ability to locate that person may affect your ability to return the horse or otherwise resolve the dispute – another reason to have a properly drafted contract!
Purchasers should be upfront and honest about their level of experience, the environment and management practices the horse would experience in that purchaser’s care, and what they wish to do with the horse so that the seller is aware of these factors, and have this conversation in writing.
3. If I have sold a horse and the owner is now unhappy and wants to return it, what do I do?
Purchasers may or may not have a right to return the horse. This will depend on the terms of the contract and who the seller is – for example, it is important to know whether consumer law may apply to you as the seller.
It is best to be very clear about the terms of a sale, especially if you wish to avoid accepting the horse for return. It is important to deal with this in the contract, and to also understand where you may not be able to avoid dealing with an unhappy purchaser due to consumer law restrictions. It is important to seek advice so that you understand what your rights and obligations are.
It is also important to consider the sale in the wider context – for example, if you are a breeder, you do not want dissatisfied professional customers who will not purchase youngstock from you as your reputation and business may suffer. In some situations, it may make more commercial sense to accept the return rather than be involved in a huge dispute – every situation is unique and you should consider your options. If you have a relationship with a lawyer who has drafted your contracts and knows your business, it’s so much easier to know where to turn if a dispute pops up.
4. I’m starting a teaching business but I only have a few students. Do I really need to do anything to set this up?
The short answer is yes, as one accident leading to a large claim could devastate you financially as well as damage your business and personal reputation. The type of business structure, insurance, waivers, contracts, signage, work health and safety requirements, tax considerations etc that you will need may vary depending on the jurisdiction you are teaching in, as well as where you are teaching (your own facility versus travelling to clients) and your own unique circumstances and risk factors. You should reach out to our office for assistance in setting up your business.