A written contract serves two important, and related, purposes: It sets out the expectations and obligations of the parties to the agreement and establishes a legal relationship between the parties. The former reduces the possibility of a misunderstanding about who will do what under the contract; the latter allows one party to seek enforcement of the contract in court if there is a breach of the agreement by the other party.

Whether a contract actually accomplishes those purposes depends on how carefully the document is written and whether the language used actually expresses the wishes of the parties. This can be more difficult than it sounds, even when the contract in question is a simple one like a bill of sale.

A bill of sale documents the transfer of ownership from seller to buyer, identifies the horse, spells out how the purchase price will be paid, and addresses any warranties made by the seller. A standard clause in a bill of sale and other contracts is a provision that the written agreement is the “entire agreement.” In other words, if something isn’t in the written contract, it doesn’t count. The bill of sale also may, or may not, specify additional conditions of the transaction. These conditions might include restrictions on future use of the horse and the seller’s right of first refusal if the buyer decides to sell the horse in the future.

When novice trainer Kathleen Costello bought the 12-year-old Thoroughbred mare Grand Forks from Rick Trontz, owner of Hopewell Farm near Midway, Kentucky, earlier this year, the bill of sale included such an additional condition. The mare was a doubl