#TBT: Equine Law — Never Look a Gift Horse In The Mouth

Actually, do. Kjirsten Lee explains.

Flickr/Alberta Armstrong/CC

Flickr/Alberta Armstrong/CC

It’s every horse-crazy kid’s dream: they wake up Christmas morning and sneak downstairs, to find a pony under the tree with a bow around its neck! While the logistics of getting the pony in the house are tricky enough, the other details involved in giving a horse as a gift can be even more complicated.

The first consideration, of course, is whether the person receiving the horse (and their parents!) is ready to be a horse owner. As most of us quickly realize, buying the horse is often the least expensive part of horse ownership. Being a responsible gift-giver and horse owner means making sure that the horse will be well taken care of.

An equally important consideration is whether the horse and rider are a good match. Often, a gift horse is one that the recipient has been riding or working with for some time. Particularly when buying a horse for a child, it is very important that the horse and rider will get along in order to save any heartache or money that could result from buying the wrong horse.

From a legal perspective, the person gifting the horse should have some paperwork drawn up to indicate that they are transferring ownership of the horse to the recipient. If a parent is buying a horse for their child, this can be a bill of sale between the parent and the seller, as should happen in any transaction. Make sure the bill of sale is detailed enough to protect both parties. It is always a good idea to have a knowledgeable attorney draft or at least review the bill of sale before it is signed. Another circumstance may be a gift between friends. In this case, the “giver” may have a bill of sale for signature indicating that the horse is being “sold” for what we call “nominal consideration” – essentially, $1.00 will suffice as a “purchase price” to indicate that there is some transfer of value and create a valid contract.

The person receiving the horse should also have the opportunity to conduct a post-purchase exam, and the seller or giver should be willing to take the horse back if the results are not acceptable. This goes against the old saying “never look a gift horse in the mouth”! Conducting a post-purchase exam ties back to making sure the horse and rider are a good match. It is important to make sure the horse is suitable for what the rider wants to do and there aren’t any lingering health concerns that the new owner won’t be able to address.

Finally, make sure any registration papers are transferred properly. This includes breed registrations, discipline registrations, and USEF registrations. For more on transferring registration, check out a recent article on this topic.

If you have decided to give the ultimate horse lover the ultimate gift of their very own horse, here is a handy video for wrapping that horse:

Happy Holidays, and Go Riding!

For more of Kjirsten’s articles on equine law, click here to open a list.

Kjirsten Lee, J.D., is an equine attorney with rb LEGAL, LLC, in Golden Valley, MN. She has written on topics such as the Horse Protection Act and use of drugs in racehorses, as well as general legal issues that horse people may encounter. You can follow her on Twitter at @KMLee_Esq. Kjirsten and her OTTB Gobain, compete in dressage and eventing.

Disclaimer: Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is created by reading and/or commenting on this post. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact an attorney directly.

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