EQUINE LAW

 

Whether horses are a hobby or your livelihood, each transaction deserves the same level of care as any business decision. Consider costs, risks, potential for growth and security prior to assigning any asset or embarking on a new investment.

 

Equine Law ServiceS

EPL’s equine law services include lease and sales negotiation, contract drafting, insurance consultations, pre-purchase evaluations and planning as well as business formation and IRS defense. As a lifelong rider in the hunters and jumpers, Erin is a successful advocate for members of the equestrian community. Services include all areas of the equine industry; from contract disputes, equine liens, stallion syndications for racehorses, to tax litigation and property rights. Erin represents both plaintiffs and defendants in equine law cases, she is an effective mediator and has reached a number of large settlements for her clients. One of the biggest misconceptions in the horse industry is that a fillable form sales agreement will adequately protect the trainer, buyer and seller. EPL is passionate about increasing transparency in horse sales and imports to protect the client from fraud and misrepresentation, the trainer from agency liability and the seller from civil suit.

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Taxpayer Representation

Erin represents horse-related business in equine tax cases and disputes with the IRS called “hobby loss” and “469” cases. Often times, the IRS will deem a horse business to be a hobby, not operating for-profit and request back taxes from the taxpayer for deducted losses. To defend such a claim, an equine tax attorney will prepare a thorough account of the business transactions from the years in issue to show that the equine activity was in fact, operating for-profit. In recent years, the audit report from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has show a spike in the amount of audits addressing taxpayers who take business tax deductions for activities not engaged in for profit. In these cases, the IRS will request proof that an equine professional has materially participated in the equine activity to justify previous year tax deductions. To help mitigate the risk of IRS audits, carefully file your taxes and keep current and accurate records of all business transactions.

ON-DEMAND CONTRACTS FOR Equine Sales and Leases

The horse industry leaves too much to chance by operating without legal assistance. Horses are risky enough investments without leaving more to chance with an incomplete lease or sales agreement. Equine lawyers effectively mitigate this risk by providing comprehensive contract protections. Whether it is a lameness issue, colic, behavioral issues, training issues, show nerves, suitability, inflammation—clients should let the horse be the risk component of any equine transaction. It is prudent to hire an equine lawyer that knows the industry to work with the buyer, seller, trainer, and veterinarian to ensure all parties are aware of their legal rights and obligations is invaluable to long-term success in the horse world.

Erin is passionate about helping members of the equestrian community make informed decisions about their legal obligations and rights. As a rider herself, she can more efficiently assess and advise on an equine law cases because she’s seen it first hand.”
— Richard Craigo

Remember, there are multiple ways to negotiate every lease and sale. When a 5 or 6-figure horse is at stake, it is important to ensure not only that your pre-purchase veterinary evaluations are clean but that both parties are on the same page about insurance, injuries, training, competing and suitability. Many trainers are making sales are so busy running a barn they unavoidably leave legal issues unaddressed and their clients exposed to liability. By working with an equine lawyer, clients avoid the old means of letting your trainer handle the whole deal with a boilerplate sales agreement. These “one-size-fits-all” agreements are at best vague on terms and lead to confusion down the line, at worst it is a good way to risk losing thousands of dollars.

SUBSCRIPTION SErVICE FOR SALE BARNS

In order to mitigate potential contracting errors, EPL offers trainers a subscription service to ensure their client’s agreements are drafted correctly. Once a trainer supplies the contact information for each party, Erin will consult with both buyer and seller to ensure the terms of each sale or lease are contracted properly and the document is fully executed prior to the transfer of funds. EPL offers tiered on-demand drafting services for trainers and sale barns to utilize so they are always one phone call away from a customized consultation between the client and seller, as well as a properly drafted agreement.

Speaking Engagements

Erin started practicing equine law as a way to give back to the industry that has provided her with so much. EPL is dedicated to the growth of the equestrian industry by helping horse business owners implement best business practices. Erin Each attendee at Erin’s talks will receive a free worksheet which outlines the talk topic and includes good business practice tips for equine sales, training, and taxes. Visit the Contract Us page for availability.

 

Liability Waivers

Equine activities are inherently dangerous, whether you are a grand prix jumper or western trail riding, horseback riding is viewed as a high-risk activity in the eyes of the law. Liability waivers are required for equine riding facilities. Written correctly, these waivers discourage and mitigate losses for people sued from equine related injuries or accidents. An effective waiver must make a signatory aware of the risks they are waiving and agree to accept those risks. Consult with an equine attorney to ensure your business’ liability waiver accurately reflects specific dangers about the property or animals on property. For example, a show-jumping stable should include specifics about the injury potential for schooling over fences. The waiver should also account for every party involved, including the owners, employees and independent contractors. Be sure to have each guest on property sign a waiver, not just your clients. 

Equine lien law

Almost every horse boarding or training facility has a horror story about a client who failed to pay board and/or training for their horse. In most cases, the equine professional is forced to come out of pocket to care for the client’s horse. However, the stable owner is not without legal remedy, failure to promptly pay board is an actionable offense in California. Under Cal. Civil Code § 3080, any provider of services to horses (excluding breeders and veterinarians who have their own remedy) can place a lien on the horse until the client remits payment. Once the lien is enacted, it takes priority over all other security interests in the horse and will cover costs incurred by the stable owner to enforce the lien (including attorneys’ fees). The lien prohibits an owner from taking the horse from the property without paying and is enforceable through the sheriff’s department. Should the client refuse to reimburse the stable owner for delinquent boarding expenses, he/she can obtain a court order to sell the horse and mitigate the loses on delinquent board charges. Consult with an equine attorney to see if using a livestock lien is a suitable remedy for your legal issue.

 

PET TRUSTS

For those of us who know our pets are family, make sure their care continues uninterrupted in the event we become incapable of caring for them ourselves through specific care instructions in a pet trust.

Statutory Pet Trust

All 50 states have statutory pet trust laws that vary slightly from state to state. Statutory pet trusts do not require a pet owner to make as many decisions regarding the continued care of their pet on inception because they are governed by default protections to fill any gaps left in your pet care planning. California's statutory pet trust, Cal. Prob. Code § 15212, provides that "a person can create a trust for the care of a designated domestic or pet animal for the life of the animal." The limiting language in a statutory pet provision like "for the life of the pet" as opposed to having an option to set up a trust for all pets your currently own, as well as those acquired after you draft the trust. 

Traditional Pet Trust

A pet trust is a legally enforceable document that provides for the care of domestic or pet animals, if and when the owner becomes incapacitated or dies. An effective pet trust will name a pet caregiver and impose a duty upon the trustee to manage and distribute the trust funds for the benefit of your pet(s). A pet trust can work in conjunction with your current estate planning documents or can be its own separate trust document. A pet trust can be in the form of a Living Trust (created during lifetime and takes effect immediately) or Testamentary Trust (created during your lifetime but does not take effect until death). Your estate plan may also include a pet power of attorney, durable powers of attorney for your pet's healthcare.