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Ask H&H: ownership dispute

Q: Having agreed that an amateur show producer should take on my section A pony for the summer season, and having paid her a great deal of money, the pony has had some significant results. But with the season over, I have asked for the return of my pony and have been met with abuse and threats. I did not sign any paperwork with the producer, and now I have been denied the pony’s return. As the situation is a civil matter, it is going to cost me more money to secure its return. Can you shed any light on this traumatic situation?
LS, Yorks

THIS situation highlights the pitfalls that face trusting horse owners where third parties are concerned and is similar to the problems faced when loaning a horse.

H&H asked solicitor Stuart Farr of Laytons for his advice.

“The precise reason for the producer’s behaviour in this instance is unclear, as I assume that all appropriate fees are paid up-to-date now the season has finished, and there was no agreement for the pony to be kept with the producer for a longer period.

“I assume the producer also acknowledges that legal ownership rests with you, and has not been transferred to her.”

The legal aspect is interesting as many owners in this position would feel compelled personally to take their animal back.

“Always consider your own safety, that of other people and the animal in question,” says Stuart.

“If an owner were to try and recover their pony by entering the producer’s premises without permission, the problems relating to trespass should be considered, especially if you have already received threats and abuse.

“I suggest seeking legal advice on your position and, if appropriate, sending a formal letter requesting the immediate return of the pony. If that fails, you could issue a claim in the county court and seek an order for delivery of your pony (and, if necessary, its passport), together with your costs of pursuing this course of action.

“Producers can provide invaluable assistance and guidance to a horse owner who is keen to progress their animal at a competitive level,” Stuart adds.

“However, like any other equine service or supply, it is important for an owner to ensure that any arrangement with a producer is placed on a proper commercial footing.

“This arrangement should be in writing, in order to ensure each party knows and understands their obligations and responsibilities. Such an agreement might feature specific provisions relating to the collection of the animal after the service has been provided and all agreed fees have been paid. It might even include an express permission to enter the producer’s premises for that purpose,” he concludes.

Information

Stuart Farr, partner, Laytons Solicitors Tel: 0161 834 2100 www.laytons.com

This Q&A was first published in Horse & Hound (4 October, ’07)

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