Island Life Magazine Ltd February/March 2007 - Page 52

life - EQUESTRIAN Loan or not to loan? If you intend to loan a horse BEWARE there could be many pitfalls! by Mark Charter Equine law is becoming rather complicated, especially in the age of claim, claim, claim. However, in each issue of Island Life we will try to demystify some of these laws and explain what the implications could be for both rider and member of the public. The legal implications of loaning horses. Before finding an equine friend to have on loan you should always consider what sort of horse you are looking for, eg a schoolmaster, hunter or merely a companion. It is no good taking an ex-race horse on loan when ideally all you want is a quiet hack to ride at the weekends. Once you have found a suitable horse, make sure you ask lots of relevant questions such as whether the horse is good to box, shoe, clip, what is his temperament etc. Asking questions at the outset will hopefully mean you will not have to return the horse within the next week because you find out he is traffic-shy and you have to hack down a main road to get to your local bridleway. It is equally important that the horse owner vets the borrower to ensure they can provide your animal with a suitable home. Do they have the relevant experience and knowledge to take your horse on loan, and are you happy with the level of care they propose? If your horse has been stabled all of its life, should you loan it to someone who intends to keep it outside all year round? Ownership Loaning a horse or pony generally means that you are ‘borrowing/ lending’ that animal. It does not usually infer any rights of ownership. Remember that even if 52 you do not ‘own’ the horse you will still be responsible for the welfare of the animal and you could also be liable if there is an accident involving the horse whilst in your care. It is important that the horse’s passport accompanies him on loan. The passport is only a form of identity and does not prove ownership, so by giving the passport to the borrower you are not transferring title to the horse unless this has been expressly agreed. However, it is advisable to keep a copy. Loan Agreement It is vital to record what has been agreed between the horse owner and the borrower in a written agreement. Although verbal agreements are recognised in law, it is much more preferable to put the agreement in writing so each party is clear about their responsibilities. Even if you are good friends with the person you are loaning the horse to/from, putting the agreement in writing will hopefully prevent disputes in the future. Imagine the scenario that you have just put your daughter’s beloved schoolmaster on loan to a local family, the Jones. You know them well and they plan to use the pony for pony club. Suddenly you get a call at midnight saying the pony has been diagnosed with a twisted gut and has undergone a major colic operation and the invoice will be sent to you in the next few days. You had always assumed that while your pony was in the Jones’ care they would pay for veterinary treatment. You are now faced with a large vet bill and the Jones refuse to pay. A loan agreement would determine who is responsible for vet fees and in an emergency, the loan family should contact the owner in the first instance if practicable. bound. It is important that you read any loan agreement carefully and that you understand the responsibilities you have agreed to undertake. Make sure that both the borrower and the horse owner keep a separate copy of the agreement. It is often a good idea to review the original loan agreement from time to time, particularly if the loan is for several years as the parties’ circumstances may have changed. As the circumstances for horse loans can be wide and varied, it is recommended that the agreement is drafted by a solicitor to preempt problems and protect the interests of both parties. Most loan agreements will cover issues such as: Thousands of horses are successfully loaned each year with no problems, but it is always wise to err on the side of caution and have an agreement in place in case a problem arises later which proves costly and time-consuming to resolve. • Length of loan • Contact details • Responsibility for vet/farrier fees • Notice period for return of horse • Responsibility for insurance • Who will own a foal from a mare? • Where horse is to be kept • Any fees? • Permitted use of horse • Tack/equipment • Owners’ visiting rights. For more equine law information please contact Kerry Dovey or Sarah Joppe of Blake Lapthorn Tarlo Lyons’ Equine Team on 01489 555282 or email kerry.dovey@ bllaw.co.uk or sarah.joppe@bllaw. co.uk and see our website www. bllaw.co.uk A loan agreement is a contract and once you sign it you will be legally Sponsored by Froghill and Brickfields