I Bought a Horse with a Behavior Problem. Now What?

An equine lawyer addresses buyer options after purchasing a horse with an unknown or undisclosed behavioral issue.

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As an attorney for Equine Legal Solutions, I frequently help unhappy horse buyers decide whether they have a viable legal case against the seller. Here is what I look for during the initial consultation:

Did the buyer try the horse before buying it?

If the buyer tried out the horse before buying it, noticed the behavior problem, and bought the horse anyway, the buyer probably doesn’t have a viable legal claim against the seller. This is true even if the seller offers speculation about the cause of the behavior problem, such as, “I think he bucks because of an old saddle fit issue.” (That is, unless the seller knows exactly why the horse bucks and deliberately lies to the buyer about it).

Does the horse actually have a behavior problem?

To have a viable legal case against the seller, the buyer has to be able to show that the horse does in fact have a behavior problem, and that the behavior problem is serious. Serious behavior problems might include bucking, rearing, bolting, biting, kicking and any other habitual behavior that is unreasonably dangerous for the horse’s rider or handler. However, there are many possible explanations for bad horse behavior. For example, even some very well-broke, been-there-done-that horses will test a new owner to see what he or she will tolerate.

A horse, especially a green one that hasn’t been very many places, will often be more energetic, spookier, and more nervous than it was when the buyer tried it at the seller’s place. If the buyer changes the horse’s diet or exercise, the horse could be more (or less) energetic and uncooperative in its new home

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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 www.equinelegalsolutions.com.

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