Your Guide to Equine Health Care

I Bought a Lame Horse: Now What?

Find out what legal recourse you might have against a seller after you buy a lame horse.

Horses and the Law Blog | I Bought a Lame Horse: Now What?

As an attorney, I frequently help unhappy horse buyers decide whether they have a viable legal case against the seller, and if they do, whether I’m the right attorney to represent them. Here is what I look for during an initial consultation.

Did the Buyer have a Prepurchase Exam?

If the buyer had a veterinary prepurchase examination, I always ask to see the written report. What the buyer remembers the vet said may be very different than what the written report says. If the prepurchase report says the horse was lame in the same limb now causing the problem, this is a red flag. The buyer, on notice that the horse was lame, would have had a duty to investigate why the horse was lame before buying, not after. Typically, a prepurchase veterinarian will recommend radiographs or other diagnostics to determine the cause of lameness and/or recommend the horse be re-examined at a later date. If the buyer elects to buy the horse without investing in the diagnostics, the buyer probably won’t have a viable legal case. This is true even if the seller offers speculation about the cause of the lameness, such as, “I think he might be brewing an abscess,” (that is, unless the seller knows exactly why the horse is lame and deliberately lies to the buyer about it).

Is the Horse Lame?

Opinions on lameness from the buyer or the buyer’s trainer aren’t sufficient. To have a viable legal case, the buyer needs an expert opinion that the horse is in fact lame today, and how lame the horse is on a scale of 1 to 5. That expert opinion needs to come from a veterinarian who has examined the horse in

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Written by:

Rachel Kosmal McCart is the founder and principal attorney of Equine Legal Solutions, PC (ELS), an equine law firm based near Portland, Ore. McCart is a graduate of the Duke University School of Law and licensed to practice in four states: California, New York, Oregon, and Washington. She is also admitted to practice before the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon. ELS represents clients in litigation, helps resolve equine disputes, drafts customized equine contracts, represents clients in horse industry disciplinary hearings, and incorporates equine businesses. Learn more at

One Response

  1. re: I Bought a Lame Horse: Now What?

    Just be smarter next time.  If you don’t know how to check out a horse before you buy get the help from someone who knows horses and  a vet check.  

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