horse farm sitting

Q. My friend is going on vacation and is paying me to take care of her farm, horses, and dog while she is away. Should there be a written contract or document that we sign to protect both her and I in the event that something happens out of my control while she is away (e.g., horse becomes extremely sick, dog runs away, property gets damaged, etc.)?

—Jennifer, via email

A. A written contract is a smart move to set appropriate expectations on both sides and to limit your liability. On a farm, anything can (and probably will) happen!

If the contract spells out everything you are expected to do (you could include tasks in the body of the contract or as an attachment), you and your friend will both have peace of mind knowing you have a specific plan for caring for her farm and animals.

I’ve drafted a number of ranch-sitting contracts, and here are some items to consider including in yours:

  • Reimbursement if you need to purchase supplies, feed, or anything else while your friend is gone; 
  • Authorization to seek veterinary care for her animals while she is away; and 
  • Authorization to deal with household emergencies such as burst pipes and fallen trees.  

You may not be able to reach your friend right away if an emergency happens, so it’s important for both of you to know that you can use your judgment to handle the situation as you see fit.

Also, be sure your friend leaves a detailed list of emergency contacts in case a problem arises while she’s away. This way you can reach out to veterinarians, farriers, and other service providers of her choice if need be.