Equine Legal Solutions, we receive calls from
thousands of dissatisfied horse buyers who
want to know what their legal options are.
Here, we will walk you through the legal
landscape of a horse purchase.
ELS' callers want to know "what law
applies to horse sales." Whether the
terms of a horse sale are written or oral, the
transaction is a contract. Therefore, horse
sales are governed by contract law. Rather
than written statutory law, contract law is
mostly based upon a series of decided cases in
which judicial opinions describe the legal
principles used to arrive at a decision.
than with respect to certain limited
regulation of agency and commissions in horse
sales, there are no special laws governing
horse sales. For example, there is no cooling
off period in horse sales (i.e., no time
period in which the buyer can rescind the
purchase with no consequences). Although some
states, such as
, have puppy lemon laws, ELS is not aware of
any such laws pertaining to horses. While some
state statutes or regulations may require that
a horse have a recent Coggins test or be sold
with a halter, a seller's failure to provide
these items only means that he may have
violated a state law and be subject to certain
penalties. It does not void the sale.
general, horse sales are understood to be
"as is" and "buyer
beware." This means that the buyer has a
duty to examine the horse prior to purchase
and except as described below, all sales are
as is nature of a horse sale can be changed by
agreement between the buyer and seller. Such
agreement can be written or oral, but of
course the terms of an oral agreement are
generally more difficult to prove. For
example, a seller might provide a buyer with a
very simple bill of sale that says, "I,
John Q. Seller, sell to Suzy Q. Buyer, Mighty
Temptation, a sorrel 5-year-old AQHA gelding,
for the sum of $5,000." With that bill of
sale, whether the seller realizes it or not,
they have just made the following warranties:
(i) the horse being sold is actually Mighty
Temptation, the horse described in the bill of
sale, (ii) the horse is five years old; (iii)
the horse is a registered Quarter Horse; (iv)
the horse is sorrel; and (v) the horse is a
gelding. If any one of those warranties are
breached, the buyer may have recourse against
to popular belief, the as is nature of a horse
sale does not give a seller carte blanche to
cheat a buyer. A showing of civil fraud can
overcome even a written contract containing an
as is clause. Fraud is present when a seller
intentionally makes a false representation to
the buyer in order to make the sale. False
representations can take many forms. The
following examples would qualify as false
seller tells the buyer something about the
horse that isn't true when the seller says it,
and the seller knows it isn't true. For
example, the seller says, "He's totally
sound," but the seller knows that the
horse has navicular.
seller tells the buyer something about the
horse, but the seller has no basis for
believing it. For example, the seller says,
"He's an excellent barrel horse,"
but the seller has no idea whether the horse
can actually run a barrel pattern or not.
seller promises to do something in the future,
but doesn't ever intend to keep that promise.
For example, the seller tells the buyer,
"If you buy the horse, I'll throw in this
pickup truck," but the seller never
intends to give the buyer the truck.
seller gives his opinion to the buyer, but the
opinion is a lie. For example, the seller
tells the buyer, "This horse is great
with kids, a real babysitter," but the
seller knows the horse has a nasty habit of
bolting at the slightest provocation.
there is perhaps a fine line between sales
puffery and representations, advertisements
often contain specific statements that can be
interpreted to be part of the deal. For
example, a buyer who purchased a horse
advertised as having "no vices"
would likely have recourse against the seller
if, upon arrival at the buyer's, the horse
revealed itself to be a vigorous cribber.
Likewise, a buyer who purchased a horse
advertised as "100% sound" would
likely have recourse against the seller if the
horse turned out to have heaves. Note that the
buyer would likely still have recourse even if
they signed a contract that says "as
seller may also have a special relationship
with the buyer that creates its own legal
duties. For example, if the seller is also the
buyer's trainer, the seller has an affirmative
duty to help the buyer select a horse that is
suitable for the buyer. In other words, the
seller/trainer can't sell the buyer a horse
that the trainer knows (or should know) is
unsuitable for the buyer.
seller may also be subject to the provisions
of the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC). A person
earning substantial income from the relatively
frequent sale of horses, such as a breeder,
broker or bloodstock agent, would likely be
considered a "merchant" under the
UCC. (A person who sells one or two horses a
year would probably not be a merchant.) The
UCC provides that merchants give two implied
warranties: merchantability and fitness for a
particular purpose. In the context of horse
sales, "merchantability" would
likely be interpreted as reasonably sound and
healthy with no serious behavioral issues.
"Fitness for a particular purpose"
means that the horse is suited for the
discipline or use that the seller represented
to the buyer. To disclaim these warranties,
the seller must do so in writing.