29 August 2008 17:25
A year ago, I took on a horse whose owner had given up on her. She said I could have the horse for nothing and gave me her passport. I’ve since trained the horse to affiliated level, and now the former owner has resurfaced. She claims the horse is worth more, so I need to pay thousands of pounds for her. Do I legally own the mare?
By Your Horse
Solicitior Martin Pate replies:
If a verbal agreement was reached between you and the owner to have the horse for no consideration (cash) then it is possible that a binding agreement (verbal contract) was reached to that effect.
The fact that she gave you the horse’s passport could be circumstantial evidence to support your case, as legislation states that a horse cannot legally be sold without a passport. However, she may argue that the reason for you having the passport was to enable the horse to compete or have her vaccinations administered.
I suggest you try to resolve this matter with the owner by pointing out that a verbal contract exists, and that you would be relying on it if the matter went to court. Were there any witnesses present when the agreement was reached who could give evidence to the court if necessary?
If this does go to court, the Judge will listen to evidence, taking into account how long you had the horse in your possession, what you have achieved with the horse, how much you have spent and the circumstances surrounding the negotiations.
Your stumbling block could be that the judge may have difficulty in establishing whether the horse was loaned to you or given to you with full ownership.
For future reference, it would be advisable to have a sale agreement put
in place that reflects the decision reached between the parties – something I always recommend as the relatively small fee for such an agreement