1999 Julie I. Fershtman, Esq. All rights Reserved

Julie I. Fershtman, Attorney at Law
Author of Equine Law & Horse Sense
(248) 851-4111


Geri loves her horse, "Traveler" and especially enjoys their evening rides together after Geri finishes work.  Now, Geri's free time is limited; her employer has just promoted her, and her new position will require longer work hours and more travel.  As happy as Geri is to receive the promotion, she knows that she will have less time to spend with her beloved "Traveler."

Mike takes riding lessons at the boarding stable where Geri keeps "Traveler."  Mike has plenty of time to ride and has approached Geri with an idea.  Mike would like Geri to share "Traveler" through a "half-lease" or "share board" arrangement.  This way, the horse will receive more care and attention, even when Geri is not available.

What should Geri do?

The horse sharing arrangement (sometimes called a "half lease" or "share board" arrangement) may seem sample but involves numerous legal issues.  This article explores five of them.

Issue 1: Who Will Pay the Horse's Maintenance Fees?

When two or more people share the use of a horse, it seems reasonable that they should share the horse's basic expenses and up-keep.  In these arrangements, some expenses that can be divided are boarding fees, hoof trimming and shoeing, routine veterinary bills, de-worming expenses, and other expenses.

Issue 2: What Happens if the Horse Requires Major Veterinary Care?
The possibility always exists that an emergency will arise requiring major veterinary expense (or, in extreme cases, forcing the decision to end the horse's life).  For example, the horse might experience a severe cut during a trail ride or lameness after a strenuous workout.  If this should happen, who will pay the veterinarian's

In some instances, the parties can address these issues in advance. 
As examples:

* The parties can agree that the one responsible for causing the problem, or the last one to use the horse before the problem occurs, must pay the expenses.  In reality, however, the problem is figuring out who bears that responsibility, especially because two different people will be riding, handling, and using the horse.  With some maladies, such as colic, there might be no way to determine who, if anyone, caused it.

* The parties can agree to purchase a policy of major medical insurance on the horse. Also, the parties can buy mortality insurance on the horse, with any proceeds payable to the horse owner.
Issue 3: What if Somebody Gets Hurt?
Every horse-related activity brings the risk that somebody can get hurt.  Geri might be concerned that Mike will sue her if he is hurt while riding or near "Traveler."

In this litigious era, Geri's concerns are, unfortunately, valid.  The horse's owner risks being named in a lawsuit if someone is hurt.  Even if Geri's defenses are powerful, there is simply never a guarantee that she can extricate herself from the case.   Her legal fees could be huge and, without question, the suit would greatly inconvenience her life.

In response to these concerns, Geri has several options.  Here are two of them:
* Insurance. 
Geri could purchase a policy of liability insurance designed to protect her if Mike, or anyone else, should bring a claim or a suit against her based on "Traveler's" actions.  Geri's insurance agent can advise her whether her liability insurance would protect her, or alternative coverages to buy, for the arrangement she plans with Mike.

* Release of Liability (where allowed by law).
Geri could also require Mike  to sign a release of liability (sometimes called a "waiver").  This author, in past articles and in her book, Equine Law & Horse Sense, has addressed releases and waivers.

*  Indemnification Agreement. 
In an indemnification agreement, Mike would agree to protect Geri, hold her harmless, reimburse her legal expense, and pay any other costs if someone else sues Geri because of an injury or damage that Mike caused.  This author has discussed indemnification in several past articles.

Issue 4: Are There Restrictions on the Use of the Horse?
Geri might prefer that "Traveler" should not be used for certain activities, such as hauling or showing.  If so, she would be wise to specify that Mike cannot do either of these things while he uses her horse.

Issue 5: Should the Arrangement Be Reduced to Writing?
The half-lease/share boarder arrangement, like virtually every arrangement in the horse industry, can work best when the parties understand their obligations and put them in writing.  These are just a few elements for a contract:

* Duration of the arrangement.

* A schedule for the horse's use by both parties.

* Payments, when payments must be made, and to whom.

* Obligation to pay the horse's maintenance expenses, or to submit payment directly to someone else (such as the boarding stable, farrier, etc.)

* Who, if anyone, must pay major expenses, such as veterinary expenses for serious lameness problems or colic.

* Obligation, if any, to pay for equine insurance, such as major medical or loss of use insurance.

* Use of the horse, location of the horse, and restrictions, if any.

* Liability release and indemnification (where allowed by law).

* Equine Activity Liability Act language (where required by law).

* How the arrangement will end, and advance notice required for termination.

* Which state's law governs.

* How any legal disputes will be addressed, where, and who pays the legal fees.

This article does not constitute legal advice.  When questions arise based on specific situations, direct them to a knowledgeable attorney.

About the Author

Julie I. Fershtman is an attorney with a law practice serving the horse industry.  In her 15 years as a lawyer, she has achieved numerous courtroom victories and has drafted hundreds of contracts.  An independent lawyer rating service gives her its highest rating for abilities.  She can be reached at (248) 851-4111.

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