What to Know About Broodmare Leases

Leasing broodmares is fairly common, even for some large breeders, and it can provide advantages for both the breeder and the mare owner.  However, based upon the volume of inquiries Equine Legal Solutions receives about lease disputes, broodmare leases are more likely to result in problems than other types of equine leases.  Here are the most common problems we see in broodmare lease situations.

Problem #1 – The Parties Do Not Have a Written Agreement
In most of the inquiries we receive about broodmare leases, there is no written agreement among the parties, or the written agreement is very poorly drafted, cobbled together from various forms found on the Internet.  Without a written agreement, it is very difficult to determine what the parties actually agreed upon, and even more difficult to enforce that agreement.  We can’t say it often enough or vehemently enough:  Take the time to put your agreement in writing!  Having a written agreement at the outset is much more cost-effective than handling a dispute, not to mention the emotional costs involved. ELS offers a downloadable broodmare lease agreement

Problem #2 – The Parties Don’t Agree on the Standard of Broodmare Care
The vast majority of broodmare lease disputes that Equine Legal Solutions has handled center around broodmare care. The breeder and the mare owner simply don’t agree about what type of care the mare should receive, and they don’t realize that they don’t agree until there is a problem.  Here is a common scenario – the owner of a mare kept as a show horse or as a pet leases the mare to a breeder.  The breeder picks up the mare and the owner doesn’t see the mare for a period of months.  Later, the owner drops in to see how the mare is doing and/or picks up the mare at the end of the lease and is horrified to find that the mare’s ribs are showing a bit, she has a coat like a yak, and she’s barefoot.  The mare hasn’t been receiving the supplements that the owner requested, hasn’t been blanketed, isn’t under lights, has no muscle tone.  The owner panics – this is not what she expected when she leased out her mare.  The breeder may not have treated this mare any differently than she treats her own broodmares, but the owner had expected more and now the owner is furious and ready to sue the breeder.  To avoid this type of dispute, the mare owner and the breeder should discuss and agree upon in advance what type of care the mare will receive, including feed (type and frequency), housing (stall, paddock or pasture), hoof care (type and frequency), veterinary care (type and frequency), grooming and exercise.  Each of these points should be fully described in the lease agreement.  Any “extras,” such as keeping the mare under lights or feeding her specific supplements should be clearly spelled out in the agreement.

Problem #3 – The Mare Doesn’t Take: Now What?
Sometimes, despite the parties’ best efforts, the mare does not become pregnant during the breeding season.  Often, the parties have not considered this unfortunate possibility beforehand and disagreements can result – the mare owner hasn’t counted on having another mouth to feed, and the breeder doesn’t want to pay for a mare that isn’t in foal.  Who will take responsibility for the mare’s care now?  What happens if the mare does not become pregnant should be covered in the lease agreement.  The agreement should also specify what the permitted breeding season is – we have seen at least one case in which the breeder continued to try to breed the mare well into September!

Problem #4 – The Mare Suffers Injury or Dies: Who’s Responsible?
What happens if the mare is injured or dies as a result of the breeding or birthing process or even as a result of a freak accident?  The lease agreement should cover who is responsible in these situations, including when no one is apparently at fault.  Even though this point seems vitally important, too many lease agreements leave out this crucial information.

Problem #5: Who Gets the Foal?
Now this question seems very straightforward – typically, the breeder leases a broodmare for the sole purpose of obtaining a foal from her.  However, there are some circumstances under which the breeder may not want the foal, e.g., the foal is a Paint and does not have the requisite color for regular registration papers, the foal has a serious defect or medical problem or the foal does not meet certain criteria for conformation and athletic ability.  The lease agreement should clearly spell out any circumstances under which the breeder would not keep the foal and what would happen to the foal under those circumstances.

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