When I tell people I am an equine attorney, a lot of people think I represent horses in legal actions. That’s not quite how it works, although I hope that horses benefit from the work I do with humans. An explanation of equine law might help explain the wide breadth of this area of law and what I can do for you.
Equine law focuses more on the community it serves rather than a specific area of law. As an equine attorney, I work with people who have horses in their lives. My clients can run the gamut from a person who has a horse in the backyard as a companion animal to someone who competes at the national level. I also work with individuals and companies, both for profit and non-profit, who are involved in the horse industry. These people have different legal needs depending on their role in the horse world. Some of the people who require equine legal services include horse trainers, riding instructors, boarding barn owners, clinicians, breeders, horse sellers, horse purchasers, equine vets, horse chiropractors, and horse massage therapists.
In order to meet the various needs of the horse community, equine law encompasses several areas of law. Business law applies to many horse-related activities, especially when dealing with contracts. The horse industry has historically conducted business “on a handshake,” but that leads to many problems. Contracts are a way for all parties involved to make sure everyone has the same understanding concerning the transaction. Some of the contracts necessary to the horse community are boarding contracts, sales contracts, breeding contracts, and liability releases. Business law also applies if a person wants to create a company or a nonprofit. Many horse people are great with horses, but not with the business side of being a horse professional. Hiring an equine attorney allows you to feel confident that you have picked the right business structure and that it has been set up properly.
Estate planning is an important legal area to include when thinking about equine law. In Massachusetts, an individual can have a horse trust, which ensures that a horse or horses are taken care of if the owner is incapacitated or dies. You may think your will is all you need in those situations, but a will has no effect if you are incapacitated, and it must go through probate before it can take effect when you die. Money and other assets are not available until the will is probated, which can take several months or even years. A horse trust gives you peace of mind that your horse is taken care of as soon as you are incapacitated or during the time your will is probated.
Other legal practice areas include real estate law, which can come into play when a horse person wishes to buy horse property, whether for personal or professional purposes. Equine law also can also include legal matters concerning equine insurance. Finally, litigation, which many people want to avoid, may be an option of last resort if a contract is violated or harm is done to a horse or person. I generally do not handle litigation matters, so I refer clients to other attorneys who do.
There are only about 100 attorneys in the country who practice equine law. To be a good equine attorney, the person should obviously be a good attorney but she should also have a solid working understanding of the horse industry. The more experience an equine attorney has around horses, the better she will be able understand the many scenarios that can happen and she will be able to craft solutions to avoid problems or to handle them if they arise.
I practice preventive equine law, which means that I work with clients to avoid problems that may lead to litigation. When you talk to me about your legal concerns, I understand your problems because of my experience as a horse professional and personal horsewoman. An attorney without knowledge of horses and the horse industry is not able to understand basic terms and broader situations that we, as horse people, do. You don’t have to spend time explaining basic concepts to me, such as your horse colicking, because I know the term and have gone through the experience myself with my horses.
If you would like to discuss how equine law can help you and your horses, I offer a 30-minute consultation for $100. We can talk by phone or Skype, and I also make on-site visits to equine facilities to meet with people and give presentations. Contact me today, and we’ll set up a time to see how I can help with your equine legal needs.