Saturday, 20 November 2010

Horse Ownership: My Bat, My Ball & I'm Going Home....

Make Sure Everyone Knows What Is Expected
My own forays into horse ownership have produced mixed results. All the horses I've owned to ride myself have been other peoples' cast offs, but I've managed to sell all of them well, except one. My current horse I've turned away offers way beyond his value, because I've finally become too emotionally attached to him. He's as much part of the yard as the indoor school or the cross country schooling field is.

Beyond this I have previously competed horses for others (in Europe) and owned numerous 'legs' in racehorses, eventers, and other such equines. Whilst I have experienced disputes within these syndicates, we have always managed to keep these very professional thanks to solid legal agreements (more on that in a minute). I have seen several friends go through the mill and legal system in ownership disputes, that have risen from all manner of issues, that have brought about nothing but misery and ill-will.

As you will probably already have seen on Eventing Nation or John Lechner's Blog, Australian WEG rider, Peter Atkins, is the latest to have suffered at the hands of the 'gentlemans agreement' school of law and a greedy owner. A few words about Peter first. I've never met the guy, but the following he's managed to generate for his "Run Henny Run" website, is avid, and you really get a sense that his horse (Henny) is part of the family, so you can only sympathise when such unsavoury circumstances bring about this sort of unpleasantness.

What's more surprising is, and I say this with no disrespect to Peter, but I wouldn't have thought this horse was worth all the hassle, I know he's made it round 4 star, and a WEG, but this horse is more a personality than a world class talent, so I can't see it being worth say, the sort of price tag that Michael Jung's WEG winner is worth ($1-2M). I'd personally value Henny at around US$70-80K, and certainly wouldn't risk time in clink for that.

All of this brings me neatly to my point. Always get a solid legal agreement in place when agreeing to ride, own or otherwise financially or emotionally participate in a horse. Anything I write here should be construed as 'commercial' advise and not legal advice, you'll need a lawyer for that.

Don't Let Friendship Suffer At The Hand Of Business
Your agreement needs to cover some straightforward scenarios; Change in Ownership, Change in Rider, Care & Stabling Arrangements, Dispute Resolution Process, and most importantly needs to be written more along the lines of a shareholder agreement than anything else, as 'legal' ownership of the horse is where the power to act lies, not 'registered' ownership or 'registered keeper/carer'

In my humble opinion, the industry as a whole would be well served by their national organising bodies if a sample agreement were produced from central coffers, in much the same way as we have in horseracing for a variety of commercial arrangements.

Without clear and concise legal agreements these shenanigans will continue, with midnight flits and general horse rustling setting an unsavoury tone from the olympic horses all the way down...

I'll let others more eloquent than me take up the emotional stand point. Suffice to say, I hate this type of behaviour, it's totally unnecessary and unprofessional, and I'm a firm believer in sharing for mutual benefit.

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