Contracts Make Lasting Friendships

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Clear advance communication is key to preserving your horse-world relationships.

By Carolynn Bunch, USDF Region 6 Director

Reprinted from the June 2017 issue of USDF Connection.

You’ve heard the saying that fences make good neighbors. Well, I’m here to tell you that, in the horse world, contracts make lasting friendships.

In our equestrian lives, there is a lot of crossover between friendships and business relationships. We spend a lot of time and money on our equine partners and therefore with the people surrounding that relationship. I myself would not want to feel like just a paycheck to my trainer, or an unwelcome visitor at the boarding barn. But cordial relationships can quickly go south when business disputes arise, and that’s why I’m an advocate of contracts in equine business dealings. I am not a lawyer, but here are some situations to consider.

Boarding contracts. Most of us are familiar with boarding contracts. If you are at a boarding barn without a contract, well, go with your gut on that one.

Lease agreements. Leasing a horse is a great way to mix friends and money. I am guilty of both leasing and being the lessor without a contract, and I have had a friendship damaged in the process. A written contract would have prevented most of the issues we encountered.

Be clear on the details of a lease agreement. Are you “care” leasing or “paying” to lease? Care is normally paying the horse’s expenses; in a paid lease, the lessee pays the expenses and also pays a fee for the use of the animal. The contract should spell out who will pay for which expenses during the lease term—board, farrier, regular veterinary care, major-medical vet bills, hauling off site, showing, and insurance (loss of use, mortality, and liability).

Show-management contracts. The licensee is the person or group who applies for the license to host a dressage competition.
The licensee may not be the show manager or secretary, however. A dressage competition requires many people, all with differing responsibilities. If you don’t clearly outline who is supposed to do what, something is going to get missed or duplicated. The competition-related contracts need to stipulate the many details, from who hires the judges and who rents the port-a-potties to who will transport the officials to and from the airport and who will renew the show’s license for next year. What about insurance for the show staff? Are they responsible for procuring their own, or will the show provide coverage? Are staffers independent contractors? Who owns the documents created in the course of producing the show— the vendor list, volunteer list, prize list, program, sponsor list?

You can quickly see how the relationships we grow in this industry can go in the wrong direction if we aren’t clear with one another. If you are worried that you are going to offend someone when you want to talk about a contract, be honest with that person. Tell them you want to make sure that everyone is covered, that all are clear on the responsibilities, and that you continue to have a great working relationship or friendship.

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