What can you do if an Owner won't take back his horse?

There are two main aspects to horse possession disputes, they are exact opposites "Give it back!" or "No, I don't want it back!" but they have the same underlying reasoning.

Horse possession disputes often occur between owner and lessee, owner and stable, owner and business partner, or owner and trainer.

The hallmarks of the possession issue is 1) there is a dispute over money owed and the horse is used as collateral, or 2) there is conflict over who owns or has the right to use the horse.

In one situation, the owner refuses to take a horse back until all alleged monies are paid in full.
In the flip situation, someone refuses to give the horse back to the owner until money or possession rights are settled.

This post focuses on the first situation: what do you do if the owner refuses to take his horse back?

A stubborn owner can make you want to just set the horse loose.  Read on for some better options!
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Consider that you are leasing a horse from an owner.  There is a one year lease agreement for how much you will pay for the horse lease, as made in installment payments.  The lease agreement is vague, but implies that if something happens to the horse so that he cannot be used for the remainder of the lease, then the lease is cancelled.  Perhaps lameness, injury you didn't cause, sickness, death, or other reasons.
Or, maybe the lease has ended and you want to relinquish the care of the horse, and the Owner doesn't want to be responsible for the horse, but because you are not the Owner, you can't sell it.
I think horses must know when there is a vague contract clause, so the horse of course becomes unable to complete the term of the lease.
You call the owner and tell him that pursuant to the lease agreement, you will not be making any more installment payments and the horse needs to go home.
The owner disagrees with your interpretation of the lease agreement and refuses to take the horse back.
The horse is in a show barn, so you are paying top dollar show barn fees plus partial-training costs, since all boarded horses must be in training.
You are spending thousands of dollars each month on high-end board and care on a horse that cannot perform, that you do not own, and money you need to put to a new usable horse.

What can you do?
1. Try to resolve the dispute as quickly as possible, but give yourself a timeframe of how long you will continue to care for the horse at show barn prices (for a horse that isn't fit for showing).  You may want a lawyer to write a formal letter requesting the owner re-take possession.
2. Safely deliver the horse back to the owner's care (this is typically a very difficult action because you may not be permitted entry to the barn, you need to make sure that the horse's welfare takes priority and that he is under someone's care back at the owner's barn, and you also do not want an altercation to erupt on the owner's premises)
3. Get a court-ordered injunction requiring the owner to re-take possession of his horse (presuming ownership itself is not in dispute; the likelihood of your success in getting the injunction depends on your circumstances)
4. If you written lease permits, move the horse to a safe but cheaper stable or a retirement or rehab facility.  Depending on your circumstances you may or may not want to tell the owner of the horse's relocation.  If you do, the owner may decide to take the horse back rather than have it move, or the owner may become angrier and try to get an injunction to prevent you from moving the horse, or the owner may agree to the facility change.  Your defense in moving the horse is that you have a duty to "mitigate your damages" in the event of litigation, which means reducing the amount of money that you would claim the owner should pay to you for your unfairly extended care and keep of the horse.
5. Depending on your lease agreement (such as whether you can assign the lease to another party or not), the horse may actually be suitable to be a pasture pet or a therapeutic riding center horse.  If litigation continues for a year, this could be a nice way to save some money and give the horse a suitable job.  The owner could become extremely angry to not have control over the horse, or the owner may agree that the relocation is reasonable, or take the horse back.  In some circumstances, you may not have a duty to volunteer the information to the owner.

To reduce your own risks:
1. Never do anything to hide the location of a horse that is in dispute
2. Never do anything that would jeopardize the horse's health or well-being
3. Have veterinary documentation of the horse's condition prior to any stable or program changes, protecting against claims that you have lowered the horse's value by relocating the horse
4. Never act out of vengeance or anger, but clearly and reasonably address the practical and legal reasons why this horse should be moved to a different environment suitable for his condition, and continue to communicate this in writing to the owner.

Clear communication and written documentation are two vital foundations of all equine law issues, be sure that in every circumstance your horse transactions rest on these pillars

It is hard to imagine someone NOT wanting to take his or her own horse back, but particularly when money and anger are on the table, it is surprisingly common.  Let me know if you have ever heard of a situation like this, or which option you would might take.

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