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W., Homeplaces Magazine
|Once per month, this blog will share my insights on the facinating world of the horse business.
Although I will not be taking comments on this blog, your feedback is welcome - email link
Past Cases of the Month are available at this link
The current Case of the Month is available at this link
New Years resolutions spring to mind this time of year. Here’s one, “I will not be a dope in letting boarders in my barn.”
Having heard the tale of woe from a California stable owner, (plus many others), here are some suggestions; the situation never became a case because it just wasn’t large enough for my private attorney friends. However, an enterprising county attorney will, no doubt, run with it owing to numerous civil code violations:
Enforce a very specific boarding contract after carefully verifying references.
Make sure no extraneous vehicles are parked at your place, “Just for a few days.”
Do nothing to give the boarders reason to accuse you of hurting their horses or equipment.
If you are forced into kicking them out, get a vet out right away to perform a health exam because later the deadbeat boarders will accuse you of physical problems the horses got at your place!
Have a good attorney always “on call” because people like these “deadbeats” are well-practiced at not paying board. There are lots more ideas so just call me at 800-575-1669 for FREE advice.
Don’t just assume the licensed vet you’ve hired to examine the horse you plan on purchasing has accomplished all his or “due diligence.”
I’ve had several cases where the examining vet failed to review prior veterinary records which would have disclosed important problems. The undisclosed history can cause the new owner a lot of grief and money.
The lesson here is to require your examining vet be a bulldog in ferreting out details on old illnesses of your “new” horse. Naturally, the seller must permit the release of all vet records. The specific case I’m referring too involves an inexpensive, ($7500), older show horse.
Case of the Month involved an Andalusian circus-trained stallion that was allegedly injured by a veterinary hospital in Tampa, Florida.
Unfortunately for the plaintiffs they brought in an “expert” who had never appraised a horse in his entire life. Needless to say, the jury didn’t buy one word of his inflated values… especially when the defense counsel asked him at trial if he’d ever even known of a circus horse valued at $140,000; (I had valued the horse in question at $15,000.00 which was a very accurate price after speaking to many “circus horse” owners).
His answer was “no” and the case was decided for the defendant. Lesson to the wise: Always make sure your valuation expert knows what he or she is talking about before hiring them.
Case of the Month involved a fine harness Arabian show horse that got loose during a performance and ran over a spectator resulting in some significant injuries.
The jury awarded much less in damages because she was in the area reserved for “exhibitors only;” (Yes, signs were posted).
Having served on numerous show committees during the years, I can tell you that safety has to be thought of regarding each and every activity.
I was recently asked by opposing counsel if there was ever a specific “safety committee.” “No, the entire show staff is responsible for anticipating as many “what ifs” as possible.
In this case, the fact that signs were prominently posted saved the show from a huge damage award.
This month’s case proves again that no good deed goes unpunished.
A kind grandmother agreed to temporarily house a 1 & ½ year old Thoroughbred colt.
Things went fine until the horse broke out of a less than perfect enclosure causing damage to the plaintiff.
Yup…the nice lady was sued for “negligent confinement” and her homeowners insurance had to cough up some big bucks.
Ignorance of the correct way to house horses is NEVER a defense.
The horse had been eating hay in her stall when her left front foot became caught between the bottom of the stall door and the stall threshold; (the retainer bracket to keep the door close to the front of the stall had rusted away months ago).
The horse eventually died as a result of actually tearing off the hoof wall but not until over $40,000.00 had been spent in trying to heal the wound.
The ensuing litigation for poor maintenance of the stall didn’t go well for the horse’s owner since one of her lawyers was less than stellar in keeping up with filing deadlines.
Because of tardy filing the entire case was thrown out of court: Word to the wise…make sure you know ALL the deadlines as well or better than your attorney.
Case of the Month involved a stallion who was left unattended in a short round pen.
Unfortunately, the plaintiff was walking too close to the pen and, for whatever reason, the quiet-appearing stallion reached easily over the fence and bit off the woman’s left ear.
The remains of the ear were not found in time so the woman had permanent disfigurement.
The lesson should be quite obvious that the negligent confinement of a stallion, even one that looks peaceful, is an irresponsible act.
Case of the Month involved an attractive young paint horse being held by a non-horse person boyfriend while the woman trainer did other duties.
The horse spooked, and the boyfriend not knowing what to do, let go of the reins. Whereupon the horse ran down the barn aisle and into traffic on the nearby street and was struck and killed by a Honda Accord.
The suit against the trainer for failure to control the horse was messy but finally settled.
The lesson to be learned is to always make sure the person controlling the animal can actually “control” the horse.
Case of the Month was actually one I turned down because the “evidence” provided by the supposed plaintiff was clearly fraudulent.
One of the joys of experience is that improper “evidence” is easily recognized.
In this case, a young horse was allegedly seen carrying an Oleander limb in his teeth, thereby showing how “dangerous” the stable facility was.
I immediately informed the attorney that it would have been impossible for the “afflicted” animal to have been seen with the branch since horses instinctively stay away from Oleander.
The attorney wisely explained to his client why he would no longer pursue the case.
The lesson learned is to make absolutely sure that your evidence is correct and not bogus. The lawyer and the expert work too hard to be hoodwinked.
Case of the Month involved a dentist in Tennessee wishing for a retirement plan. His choice of an Arabians stallion farm aroused the IRS who simply couldn’t understand the good doctor’s plans for the future.
Using the services of a tax attorney and numerous experts, (I was one), the taxpayer prevailed at trial in the Tax Court.
Sticking to IRS Section 183 and not backing down to the Fed’s intimidation paid off in a substantial “win.”
The Case of the Month involved an eleven year old horse who had won a series very prestigious horse show divisions and was donated to a New England school.
The taxpayer claimed $125,000.00 as a deduction which in this case was completely reasonable for this very good and sound horse.
The IRS questioned the valuation since their part-time Appaloosa appraiser had seen no horse advertised in the current Boston Globe for more than $6000.00.
The lesson is that for the most part, high priced horses are rarely offered for sale in classified newspaper sections. I carefully explained to the IRS agent that using questionable results from an un-certified appraiser would never stand up at trial. The IRS dropped the charge and the taxpayer was happy.
Always maintain the most recent picture, videos, show and vet records to prove your donation horse is all you claim it to be.
Case of the Month involved the questionable training of the client’s horse. The trainers had taken the horse on the road to show, all while knowing the horse had serious lameness issues.
It was apparent to the client that the only reason in bringing the horse along was to help defray the costs of showing incurred by the trainers.
When the client complained, the trainers said that “it was important for the horse to learn what it was like on the road.”
The lesson to be learned is that even if you are not that wise about the horse business make sure your trainers completely explain the reasoning behind their decisions. After all, it’s your money.
In this case, the client finally verified the proper treatment after speaking to the horse’s veterinarian; taking the horse “on the road” was not one of the vet’s recommendations.
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