Leasing a Horse – Horse Lease Agreement
Liability of Lessees and Lessors of Horses
After representing equestrian clients for more than twenty years, I cannot stress enough the importance of written, signed horse lease agreement when leasing a horse. Although we all want to believe people are well intentioned. Even the most knowledgeable individuals can get hurt when they are not protected by a written and signed horse lease agreement or contract. Rarely does a disturbance in a verbal agreement come to an understanding without the assistance of a lawyer. When leasing a horse for example, without a written lease, there is no proof of permission for leasing the horse. In addition, the costs, financial and otherwise, to both the Lessee and the Lessor, can be truly staggering.
Horse Lease Agreement
When leasign a horse a properly drafted horse lease agreement will address the relative obligations and responsibilities of both the Lessee and the Lessor. General lease agreements are available for free or at a small cost on several equine websites, as well as through numerous equine organizations and groups. However, these forms are not a substitute for legal advice. You may want to consult an attorney regarding any transaction to determine whether there are any laws unique to your particular state or jurisdiction. Before simply copying a horse lease agreement off of a website, you need to know what the lease must contain to protect you from liability and preserve your rights. Leasing a horse must preserve the rights of the Lessee and limit the liability of the Lessor to the extent the law permits.
Owner of the Horse
To start with leasing a horse, a lease must state the owner of the horse is in fact the owner. The lease must also include all of the horse’s information. This includes registration numbers and any other important documentation. Contact information of all parties involved need to be stated as well as the effective date and location of the horse. The Lessor and Lessee must agree on the usage and limitations of the horse; some examples include trail rides, travel, frequency of horse shows, and height or difficulty of work, etc.
Horse Lease Warranty
A Lessor should be required to provide a very specific warranty regarding the character and qualities of the horse. She or he must state that she or he is not aware of any negative behavioral, physical, or medical problems, and that the horse is suitable for the purpose for which the Lessee is leasing a horse. Of course, on the other hand, if the horse has any negative qualities, the Lessor must disclose those facts in the lease. Failure to make that disclosure, may leave the Lessor liable for the consequences that may arise as a result of those negative qualities.
Written Horse Lease Agreement
For example, if the Lessor represents that the leased 1.40 meter (4 1/2 feet) jumper horse has a pleasant personality, with no behavioral issues; and the horse proves to be very difficult to handle, does not express said talent, or even possibly hurts someone or itself while out on lease, the Lessee will have a legitimate claim against the Lessor. Without a written horse lease agreement, the Lessor may simply deny making those representations, and the Lessee may have an unsuitable horse with the only recourse being a lawsuit against the Lessor.
If in fact the Lessor does state there are negative behaviors, the Lessee is signing the agreement accepting that she or he is aware of and accept the disclosed behaviors. The Lessor is then not liable for any consequences of the horse’s actions.
Mandatory Language in Leasing a Horse
For the Lessor, the lease must contain the mandatory language that the Lessee understands horseback riding is an inherently dangerous activity; the Lessee knowingly accepts the risk and releases the Lessor from any injury or loss she or he may suffer. Further, the Lessor will insist that the Lessee release the Lessor from any claims made by third parties for injury or damage caused by the horse while under lease with the Lessee.
Another critical clause which the Lessor should require to help limit liability would be an affirmative statement in the lease, that she or he is not making any representations or warranties regarding the horse; that the Lessee has had an opportunity to have the horse examined by a veterinarian, given an opportunity to ride, and become familiar with the horse, and that the Lessee has agreed to lease the horse with this understanding.
Care of The Horse
Since there will come a time when the horse may be returned, the Lessor will insist that the Lessee maintain a certain standard of care for the horse. The Lessor and Lessee must agree and state who is responsible for routine care, such as seasonal shots, veterinary, and farrier care as the horse needs. Failure by a Lessee to adhere to these standards of care could result in liability to the Lessee should a problem arise with the horse long after the lease is over.
Fees, Dates, Late Fees, Etc.
The most basic terms to include in an agreement to leasing a horse are the fees for lease, the date on which these fees are due, and any late fees or interest that may be enforced. Also, the terms of termination are required to be stated as well. Both parties need to agree on the conditions of cancellation, with the Lessor recovering possession when necessary. An equine lawyer will be happy to assist in writing these terms, so all parties can come to an understanding and agreement.
State Horse Lease Agreement Laws
At this time 46 states have adopted laws that seek to insulate operators of equine facilities, to a certain degree, from any liability they may incur operating their facility including the leasing of horses. Be sure to check your State’s laws with regards to operators of equine facilities to help ensure all parties’ rights are covered in any agreements concerning your personal business agreements. Though, many horse owners believe these agreements are straightforward and simple, the issues of liabilities and obligations of both parties in the lease of a horse may become a complex subject if not established in a written agreement.
Providing legal solutions and strategies for you, your horses and horse business.
Steven M. Tarshis, Esq of EquiLaw LLC provides legal representation, solutions, and strategies for individuals, as well as large and small businesses within the equestrian community. Steven offers free consultations. Contact Steven today.
For more information, please see this article from the March/April issue of Elite Equestrian Magazine.