Central PA Law Offices
Pennsylvania has a long history of equestrian tradition and competition that have major impacts on the state’s economy and jobs. Horse ownership and related activities are fulfilling and rewarding, but can also require a significant investment of time and resources. Our equine practice focuses on helping you achieve your goals, while protecting yourself and your investment in your animals.
Monica’s equine practice takes long-standing legal principles and combines them with more than 20 years of equestrian experience to find solutions that will be tailored to the specific needs of her clients. Her understanding of the language of equestrians, as well as the financial and emotional connections we enjoy with our horses enables her to ensure that your interests receive strong legal protections.
Whether you ride recreationally, compete professionally, own racehorses, or own a boarding facility, Monica can assist you in protecting your family, your horses, and your property rights. She also represents horse buyers, sellers, breeders, and other industry participants in the preparation of legal documents drafted specifically to deal with equine issues. Monica can draft equine specific documents that can help you avoid costly legal battles.
Horse Sale and Purchase
Equestrians are infamous for entering into agreements for the sale of horses without written contracts. While this sometimes works, there are several reasons buyers and sellers should protect themselves with a personalized, written contract. Have you considered what would happen if the horse were injured or even killed during the transport? Who covers the risk of loss during this period? What if you later find out that the seller of your new horse did not own 100% interest in the horse? Similarly, if you co-own a horse, what would you do if your co-owner sold the horse without your consent? These situations occur all too frequently and are easily avoided with carefully drafted contracts.
Many people who are not ready for the commitment of horse ownership look to the option of leasing a horse. This can become an extremely complicated situation, because there are so many aspects of the horse’s life that are not taken into consideration until it is too late. A well-written horse lease will contemplate many details such as: whether the lessee will cover lessor’s insurance cost, veterinarian choice, the location of the horse and how much time should be allocated to the stall, pasture, training and competing, whether there is an option to purchase after the lease period, and so many more details.
Another frequently used lease document is a lease in contemplation of purchase. It is very difficult to truly know whether a horse is right for you after a couple visits. Prudent buyers will take the opportunity to have a day to day relationship with the horse before making the purchase commitment. There are many ways we can ensure this transaction goes smoothly, including holding the full purchase price of the horse in escrow until the end of the lease period. Other lease documents include leases of mares and stallions for breeding seasons.
Equine Escrow Accounts
Escrow accounts are common in real estate transactions, and we have taken this practice and put it to use in the sales and leases of horses. After the buyer and seller or lessee and lessor have negotiated a price, we draft the contract with escrow terms. Prior to the commencement of a lease in contemplation of purchase, the lessee should deposit a check for the full purchase price of the horse in our escrow account. If the lessee purchases the horse, the money will be transferred to the lessor, and if there is no purchase, the check is returned to the lessee. Placing the breed registration papers in escrow is also a great way to ensure that the buyer receives the papers when their check is transferred to the seller. Escrow accounts are very useful in all types of horse transfers, whether temporary or permanent.
Boarding seems like one of the most basic parts of equestrian life. But a well-drafted boarding agreement will contemplate many topics, such as payment terms, veterinarian choice, and phone call lists for emergency situations. What would happen if your horse was in need of a life-saving surgery, and you were unable to be reached? A stable owner must be bound to a process that has been agreed upon by horse owner and themselves. Many major medical and mortality insurance companies require immediate notice when an injury occurs to the horse. If this phone call is not made, you may not receive your insurance funds to cover veterinary cost or the loss of the horse. There must also be arrangements addressing whether a vet should bill the stable or the horse owner directly. While a horse owner needs to ensure their horse is taken care of properly, a stable owner must also ensure their own protection in the boarding agreement.
Because race and sport horses can be extremely expensive purchases, many people find it advantageous to purchase only a percentage of a horse. We can draft ownership agreements that contemplate many of the issues that will arise with multiple party ownership. We can lead you through choices such as the stabling location, the hiring of trainers, the location and timing of competition, and the choice of healthcare professionals. A carefully drafted agreement helps you to maintain a healthy relationship with co-owners.
Similarly, we can use ownership agreements to contemplate foal-sharing arrangements prior to breeding.
Breeding contracts can become extremely complicated, and it is important that the mare owner knows exactly what he or she is receiving in exchange for what can be a very expensive stud fee. Similarly, it is very important that the stallion owner fully understands what their rights and responsibilities are within the breeding plans. Because breeding has become so costly, it is important to contemplate how many breeding opportunities you will have in one season, and how the terms will be set. Stallion service contracts typically offer a one-time breeding right, but a personalized contract can set other conditions. Would you want your contract to guarantee a live foal? And have you considered how to define a live foal in your contract? A live foal could simply be defined as one that stands and nurses, or it could be defined as a foal who survives the first 48 hours. Other clauses we can include in your contract are payment structures, multiple breeding attempts in a season, and limits on mares that can be bred to a stallion.
Stallion Service Contracts
The day to day routine of a highly sought after stallion can become hectic and complicated. A stallion management contract will clear up questions of where the stallion will be stabled, who will serve as the stallion manager, and how all decisions will be made. Stables can also utilize a Stallion Standing Contract to ensure their rights to stand and advertise a stallion on their farm.
Training and Performance/Race Contracts
A training contract will set forth the obligations of the trainer and the horse owner and terms such as payment schedules, horse location, disclaimers and warranties of the trainer, and authorizations for special events such as claiming races. Contracts for the performance or racing of a horse should contemplate where the horse will be trained, in which states and countries it will compete, and which silks will be worn in each state. Especially in the case of racing, it is becoming increasingly common and important to contemplate how a decision to retire will be made and how the horse will spend his or her retirement.
Estate Planning for the Horse Owner
Have you considered what would happen to your horses after your death? It is very important to keep your animals in mind when we draft your will. Planning can be as simple as giving your pet to a specific person upon your death, or it can be more complex. In Pennsylvania, trusts can be created for the care and maintenance of animals. This can be accomplished either inter vivos (during life) or a trust can be formed after your death with instruction from a will. Especially in the case of horses, trusts are very necessary because of the expense of the care and maintenance of a horse. Your will can specify to whom your horse will be transferred and how much money will be placed in a trust for the care of the horse. In the event you do not have anyone who can take over the responsibility of your horses, we can discuss other options to ensure their long-term care. Ask Monica about including other animals in your estate planning.
Equine Business Planning
Within the horse world there are several reasons one might wish to structure themselves as a business. We can assist you in deciding which entity type works best for your needs, how to restrict the transfer of your business, plan for future succession of business interests, and decide how the business should be governed. Please refer to our “Business Law” page to see more specific options, which can be translated into your equine business.
A trademark is a word, symbol or phrase used to identify a good and distinguish it from others. Every spring thousands of breeders welcome foals with hopes of making them into the next super horse. Pennsylvania breeders have succeeded at producing several horses that have become household names. Once your horse begins to gain popularity, its important that we use a trademark to protect the name and your marketing rights of the horse. Similarly, your equine business can be trademarked for the same reasons. The type of trademark you choose will be governed by state and federal laws.
General Equine Advising
In addition to several contracts, we also provide general advising on setting up stables and protecting yourself from liability. Pennsylvania is one of the many states with an equine activity liability statute. While this statute can protect many equine participants from liability, it will not provide a complete shield from liability. We can discuss what this statute protects, what it does not, and how to set up your stables, contracts, and releases to protect yourself as much as possible. Contact us to discuss how we can evaluate your equine business and decide which contracts you should be utilizing to protect yourself and your horses.