Could Vices in Horses be the Basis for a Legal Battle?

A researcher discusses what counts as an equine vice and where the fault might lie in a court of law.

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You find your dream horse. Your veterinarian gives him a stamp of approval, and you sign the check. You get him home and then–wham. The problems begin: cribbing, kicking, biting, wind sucking, halter pulling, head tossing, or any number of unpleasant surprises known as vices. And you begin to wonder whether this dream horse isn’t actually some sort of nightmare.

Unfortunately, a great number of these vices aren’t picked up on during a prepurchase veterinary exam, according to Marianne Sloet van Oldruitenborgh-Oosterbaan, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ECEIM, Specialist KNMvD Equine Internal Medicine, from the Department of Equine Sciences at Utrecht University in The Netherlands. She and an attorney recently reviewed available legal material about equine vices in The Netherlands over the past 20 years, and they found that a wide variety of these vices become the subjects of legal battles. Sloet presented her findings at the 2011 International Equitation Science Conference, held Oct. 26-29 in Hooge Mierde, The Netherlands,

Sloet explained that equine vices can be arbitrarily divided into four categories:

  • Aggressive vices (biting, charging, crowding, fighting, kicking, rearing, striking);
  • Fear-based vices (avoiding and evading behavior, halter pulling);
  • Performance-related vices (barn sourness, running, head-tossing); and
  • Stable vices (cribbing, wind-sucking, pawing, self-mutilation, stall walking, weaving, stall kicking).

However, by far the most common legal complaint was simply that the horse did not perform as well as expected, Sloet said

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Written by:

Passionate about horses and science from the time she was riding her first Shetland Pony in Texas, Christa Lesté-Lasserre writes about scientific research that contributes to a better understanding of all equids. After undergrad studies in science, journalism, and literature, she received a master’s degree in creative writing. Now based in France, she aims to present the most fascinating aspect of equine science: the story it creates. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.

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