INTRODUCTION

            This book was written for those involved with horses in the State of Maryland, for those interested in becoming involved in the industry and for the legal practitioners interested in learning more about “equine law.”  We offer this to you for practical advice and legal guidance. It is intended as a very basic guide as to various legal issues involved in the owning of horses and the operation of equine-based businesses. You may find useful information from the entire book, or from select chapters. Whatever your particular needs are, we hope you find the information contained within of interest and value to you.

            Equine activities in Maryland are comprised of an impressive group of business owners and individuals. Rich in history, fanfare, and pageantry, the equine industry in Maryland offers a vast array of breeds and disciplines, from the work mule and carriage horse to the pleasure and sport horse to the steeplechase and flat track racers.

            In Maryland alone, the horse industry is a significant factor within the economic realm of the state. Agriculture ranks as the number one commodity in Maryland. The equine industry ranks third among the various sub-divisions of the agriculture industry. The vast majority of business operations are considered “small business” entities, not multi-million corporate horse operations as one may have imagined. And, unfortunately, too many of these businesses operate on “borrowed contract language,” Google-searched documents, or oral agreements. These practices are neither good for the business owner or for the participant/clientele of these businesses.

             However, not all equine activities are considered a business enterprise. There are many individuals who own a horse (or two or more) merely for the pleasure of owning a horse. Yet, sometimes, a well-meaning piece of advice from a family member or friend may entice the horse owner to “change” the aspect of ownership from pleasure to business. Understanding how the state and federal government (particularly the Internal Revenue Service) scrutinize such activities and distinguishes hobby from business is important to anyone involved with horses.

            For many horse lovers, thoughts of contracts and conflicts are often ignored until a genuine dispute arises. Unless the activity involves a professional horse sport (and then not always), most participants of equine-related activities have not signed a contract detailing the business relationship or methods of resolving disputes. Knowing who can assist you in these conflicts and learning what resources are available can go a long way to preventing unnecessary conflicts.

            Issues of liability are prevalent in this high-risk activity. In an age of litigating every perceived “wrong,” it is not enough to rely on handshakes and good faith promises in the business dealings of horses. It does not matter whether you are a professional horseperson or just someone who loves the animal and indulges your passion as a hobby. A casual approach to using, owning, and even observing as a fan, could find you defending yourself in a lawsuit.

            Understanding the nuances of the industry and the parameters of the law will assist you in preserving your rights. Although no one single document or any one attorney can guarantee you won’t one day face a dispute or a lawsuit, having the properly-worded documents and a clear understanding of them can help you sleep better at night.

            Those involved with horses often find their activities are not confined to a small parameter. Crossing county lines, state lines, and international boundaries have a distinct impact on how one addresses concerns of liability. Even the most experienced horseperson would be wise to consult an attorney on the peculiarities of each new transaction or venture. A few dollars spent reviewing a contract can save you hundreds, even thousands, of dollars later in litigation.

            Furthermore, maintaining a mutually-beneficial relationship between and among equestrians is important, as the “world of horses” is a small one. Especially with the wide-use of the Internet and ease of travel, most equestrians will, at some point in their life, develop either a business relationship or a friendship with someone other than a person within their immediate circle of friends and family. Establishing a clear understanding of each other’s rights and responsibilities will enhance the current and ongoing dealings with one another. Equally important is preparing for disputes and how best to resolve those conflicts while preserving relationships.

            More often than not, most individuals involved with horses do not seek legal advice until there is a conflict. The participant and professional, whether hobbyist or business operator, should become familiar with the legal responsibilities and obligations one has and how the law may determine any rights or liabilities when engaging in equine-related activities. It behooves those involved in these activities to seek legal advice before a conflict or dispute arises.

            This book will not only address the issue of potential liabilities and disputes found in equine-related activities by reviewing and analyzing the finer points of Maryland law and regulation of the equine industry, but also cover some of the nuances unique to the horse industry. The content of this book is a guide for those interested in the Maryland equine industry. It does not constitute legal advice, nor should it be used as a substitute for a consultation with a qualified legal professional. We have endeavored to be as comprehensive in coverage as possible, but also realize it is not all inclusive.

            For the legal practitioner, we have developed this book as a guide for deeper understanding of the exceptional and distinctive characteristics of the horse industry. For the horse professional or horse lover, we have attempted to provide answers to those questions you may have about the legal issues implicated when one involves oneself with that marvelous, unpredictable animal known as the horse. For the individual needing legal advice, knowing you have an attorney on your “team” who can talk-the-talk of horse will allow you to focus on your passion: your horse. We encourage you to seek out those who understand the nuances of the industry and to develop a strong relationship with your attorney.

SAMPLE FORMS and DOCUMENTS


  • "Everything in Writing"
  • Business Plan Outline
  • Articles of Organization (limited liability company)
  • Articles of Incorporation
  • General Partnership checklist
  • Limited Partnership checklist
  • Operating Agreement (limited liability company)
  • Bylaws (corporation)
  • Components of Waiver Release
  • "Top Ten Barn Rules"
  • Boarding Agreement
  • Lease Agreement
  • Purchase & Sale Agreement (cash and installment)
  • Promissory Note
  • Equine Bill of Sale
  • Lien Release

A Legal Guide to Horse Ownership & Activities 

Introduction................................................................v-vii

Chapter 1: 
Sources of Law..........................................................13-22

Chapter 2:
Title and Ownership.............................................. 23-26

Chapter 3:
Equine Health......................................................... 27-32

Chapter 4:
Tort Law................................................................... 33-38

Chapter 5:
Professional Malpractice........................................ 39-46

Chapter 6:
Contracts................................................................... 47-50

Chapter 7:
Premises Liability.................................................... 51-58

Chapter 8:
Insurance & Liability Issues.........................................................................59-64

Chapter 9:
Land Use....................................................................65-72

Chapter 10:
Taxes..........................................................................73-86

Chapter 11:
Employment Law.....................................................87-94

Chapter 12:
Resolving Disputes.................................................95-104

Chapter 13:
Business Organizations.......................................105-122

Chapter 14:
​Specialty Areas.................................................... 123-126

FORMS...................................................................127-166


APPENDICES.......................................................169-186


REFERENCES..................................................... 187-200

MARYLAND EQUINE LAW

A LEGAL GUIDE TO HORSE OWNERSHIP AND ACTIVITIES

TABLE OF CONTENTS

EXCERPTS from the Book

CHAPTER 12 

RESOLVING DISPUTES

 


 
            Inevitably, even with the best of intentions, and even with the most well written agreements (or oral understandings), a dispute will arise, an accident will occur, and damages will be sustained. The need to resolve the dispute, in all honesty, actually goes beyond the compensation of losses. In the “world of horses,” there is a strong need to preserve the relationship between the parties, whether it’s a familial one, or strictly a working business relationship. It is rather predictable that the parties’ paths will cross again, whether at the next sporting event, horse show, horse sale, in the barn, or during personal pursuits. And, if nothing else, the nature of the conflict and the manner in which it was resolved (satisfactorily or not) will be made known to other equestrians and “interested parties” involved in that particular realm of horse activities.

            Resolving conflicts in the equine industry is no different than resolving a dispute in any other walk of life. The significant difference here is the nature of the relationship between the disputing parties, their past relationship, the current circumstances, and the future interaction of the individuals are significant concerns to be considered.

            For the majority of disagreements, disputes are handled in the most simplest of manners: face to face. Usually, the conflict is resolved much in the same way as how the agreement underlying the dispute may have been formed whether informally with a handshake on each other’s “word” or formally through a written contract.

            But often times the personal resolution of a disagreement cannot be reached and suddenly cries of “It’s not the money, it’s the principle of the matter!” or “That so-and-so needs to be taught a lesson, I don’t care how much it costs me!” are heard. But the bottom-line is, in reality it IS about the money. And more often than not, the average horse-person does not have the expendable income to teach another the lesson he or she so sorely wants taught. But nevertheless, damages have been sustained and someone needs to be held responsible. Enter the legal community.

How Best to Resolve Differences


...


There are a myriad of methods for settling disputes – discuss with your attorney the options and explore which option is best for you!