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Protect Your Horse From Rogue Dealers When Loaning

19 Apr 2012

Risks of loaning and re-homing

The recent conviction of Brooke Lee for fraud and trading without professional diligence highlights the risks owners face when loaning or re-homing a much loved horse.

Many owners consider loaning their horse at some point, maybe on a temporary basis perhaps due to university or pregnancy or maybe on a more long term basis because the horse is unable to do the work the owner requires of it. Although there are many people who look to loan horses for genuine reasons, the conviction of Brooke Lee has highlighted how things can go wrong.

Ms Lee had taken on horses that were offered as companion animals due to old age, illness or injury. She said she would offer them a retirement home for life but then sold the horses on. At least two of the horses subsequently ended up being slaughtered.

Other such horror stories abound, including cases of horses being sold whilst on loan, of the person loaning claiming that they own the horse, or of horses being neglected whilst on loan.

Avoiding problems

So what can owners who want to loan out their horses do to help them avoid problems?

Firstly make sure that your horse is easily identified. Should the worst come to the worst and your horse does go missing you need to be able to identify him in a sale ring, an advert or at an abattoir. If your horse has a microchip make sure that the microchip number is recorded in the passport and is held by the passport issuing office. You should also get your horse freeze marked, as unlike micro-chipping it doesn’t require any special equipment or training to read a freeze mark number, it can even be read from a photograph. Ideally have the freeze mark on the horse’s shoulder where it is not obscured by the saddle. Make sure that the freeze mark number is recorded in the passport, with the passport issuing office and that the freeze mark company have your details recorded against the horse.

Next, you should make sure that the horse’s passport is up to date. Ensure that your name is on the horse’s passport and that your horse’s details are correct. You will need to send the passport with the horse as the passport should travel with the horse but you should take a copy of the passport and keep this as a record. Ensure that your horse’s details on the National Equine Database are accurate and up to date, associate yourself with him and record the fact that he is on loan.

Now that you can identify your horse you should ensure that you can also identify the person intending to loan your horse. Make sure you get proof of their identity, their address and phone number. Remember that many fraudsters use multiple identities and also that many horse owners realise too late that they only have the address of a livery yard or field and no home address. Ask to see a driving licence or passport together with a utility bill and keep copies as evidence.

To ensure that a genuine home awaits you should also consider taking references, undertaking visits prior to the horse moving and visiting regularly once he has moved. If the horse is to be kept at livery make it known to the livery yard owner that you own the horse and that it is on loan, this could be vitally important if things go wrong and you need to take your horse back.

Finally and most importantly any owner seeking to loan out their horse should ensure that they have a formal written loan agreement in place. Without such an agreement it is likely to be difficult to prove that the horse is on loan and has not been sold or gifted. It might also be difficult to get your horse back if the horse has been neglected or other conditions of the loan are breached. Remember that with nothing in writing it is likely to come down to a case of one person’s word against another.

Loaning agreements

Although generic loan agreements are available these are only a starting point it is advisable to get a tailor made agreement drafted on your behalf to cover your precise circumstances. Such an agreement can include clauses about terminating the loan, about standards of care, an option to buy and any other specific requirements. At Richard Nelson LLP we can draft bespoke loan agreements tailored to your unique circumstances to give you maximum peace of mind.

If you would like further information about loan or lease agreements contact us on 0115 986 3636 or email us help@richardnelsonllp.co.uk.

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