What is equine law? Some of the legal issues you may encounter

Being responsible for a horse is a serious business, imposing many responsibilities on owners, riding schools, livery yards, horse related professionals and online businesses. But what is equine law?

Equine law refers to a diverse area of law setting out your rights and responsibilities as a horse owner. In this article, we look at some of the basic regulations involved in owning a horse.

Horse passports are a must

The legal requirement to have a current horse passport is one of the most important things to know. A horse passport contains key information about your horse. Keeping a horse without a valid passport is a criminal offence and, without one, you are limited in what you can do with your horse and where you can take it.

You must keep it with you at the stables and when you transport your horse. Council officers may do a spot check and ask you to produce a legitimate horse passport and if you are unable to you could face a fine.

Contracts and disputes when buying or selling a horse

If you are selling a horse, as a private individual rather than a business the basic rule is caveat emptor; let buyer beware. However, it is sensible to provide the buyer with full and accurate information about your horse, such as its state of health and behaviour. Otherwise, you could end up in an equine contract dispute or face a claim for misrepresentation. You will also be required to hand over the horse passport to the buyer when the sale is concluded along with the sale agreement.

If you are buying a horse, check the horse passport carefully to make sure it is legitimate and current. After your purchase, you must tell the relevant passport issuing organisation of the change of ownership and an updated passport will be sent to you. If you are buying a foal it is your responsibility to apply for a new passport before the end of the year in which it was born or within six months if born between July and December. The horse passport will be valid for the entire lifetime of the horse. It enables you to transport, sell, export and breed your horse and enter it into competitions.

If you are loaning a horse, both you and the loanee should carefully consider the terms of the loan agreement. At Warners Solicitors, we are experienced in advising clients if a horse is to be loaned.

When your horse dies

In the unfortunate event of your horse’s death, you must return the horse passport to the passport issuing organisation that issued it within 30 days of its death. They will then update their records and the passport will be invalidated.

Transporting rules

All horse owners will need to transport their horse from time to time, whether to a livery business or the vets, to competitions or for general horse riding away from stables. Any transportation must be done safely in accordance with specific requirements. This includes making sure the handling and transporting of the horse will not cause undue suffering or injury, for example, by ensuring the flooring is non-slip and that your horse has sufficient space.

As a horse owner, you can be liable to third parties for damage caused to them or their property by your horse. If you are transporting your horse in the course of business, there are additional requirements to be aware of which we can explain to you.

Horse welfare

There is a raft of animal welfare law which applies to horses, particularly the Animal Welfare Act 2006 which imposes a duty of care on those responsible for horses. It is not enough to protect your horse from injury and illness: you must also ensure it is kept in a suitable environment, has a healthy diet and is able to behave in a normal way. Owners who do not abide by the rules could find themselves at risk of prosecution.

If you need advice on any equine law matter, please contact Warners Solicitors on 01732 770660 or email [email protected].

This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Please note that the law may have changed since this article was published.

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