Do you own a horse property? You most likely started your equine business because it sits at the intersection of your passion for horses and your entrepreneurial spirit. One thing you possibly overlooked when you started your business was what protections you should put in place to safeguard your property, family, and business.

Just like riding a horse comes with inherent risk, so does operate a horse property. You have individuals engaging in life-threatening activities daily. On top of that, you’re managing relationships with various people, including boarders and trainers.

Often, horse property owners neglect to spend the time or money necessary to produce contracts that protect their business from not only liability but also financial hardships. And even if they have, the documents used are from online sources. They’re boiler-plate and are not customized to their specific business.

#1 Trainer use agreements

Agreements between you and the trainers who operate their businesses on your property are critical. At their core, they (in a very detailed manner) define your business relationship. Not clearly defining your relationship with trainers will expose you to liability and can even cost you lost income. Here are some things your trainer agreement must cover to avoid this.

Insurance coverage

Horseback riding and even stepping foot on a horse property comes with risk. And that risk can occasionally result in serious injury or the loss of life. In either case, a lawsuit will follow with you and the trainer being named. It’s critical to ensure your trainer use agreement requires that the trainer names your business as additionally insured on their liability insurance policy and carries a minimum amount of liability insurance. Generally, I recommend that trainers carry anywhere from 3 to 5 million in liability insurance. But, that number will always change depending on your specific situation, so don’t interpret that as legal advice.

The terms of leaving your property

You’re running a business, and you depend on payments from boarders and trainers to pay the bills. Imagine one day a trainer decides to move their horses and business to another stable. This would severely impact your business, right? So, just like property management companies require notice before terminating a lease, you too should require notice before a trainer can remove their business from your property. This gives you time to fill vacancies and minimize the impact on your income. It is important that the notice requirements in your boarding agreement and trainer use agreement be the same.

Use of property

All trainer use agreements (as the name implies) should clearly define how a trainer can use the property. It may seem straightforward at first what parts of a property a trainer can (or can’t) use, but it’s best to set clear boundaries. For example, you may have arenas you don’t want trainers to use, or areas of the property for boarders use only. This should be outlined inside of your agreement.

Outlining how a trainer can use your property helps retain business long-term. Clearly defining their use of your property will set correct expectations up front, reducing conflict downstream.

#2 Boarding Agreements

Most likely, your horse property offers boarding to trainers and horse owners. It’s essential to view this part of your business from more of a real estate lens than an equestrian one. In many ways, it’s very similar to renting out an apartment, but most times, it’s much more complicated. A boarding agreement should include a variety of items, but two of the most important are addressed below:


Your responsibilities as a business

The very core of your boarding agreement will address the services that you will provide. These services will be and should be specific to your barn and business. It should include what you will do but also what you won’t do. Some things to consider including in your agreement are:

  • What type of hay will be fed, how often, and how many flakes will be given at each feeding?
  • How frequently you will muck stalls and drag arenas?
  • Will you blanket and turn out horses for boarders, or is that a service that costs extra?
  • What you can do in the event of an emergency?

Your rights in the event of non-payment

Unfortunately, owners sometimes stop paying their board. And in many states, property owners are afforded the right to place an agister’s lien on a horse. This lien allows you to sell the horse to recoup your costs of boarding, feeding, watering and caring for that horse. This is all well and good, except for the fact that (at least in California) you’ll have to file a lawsuit in the superior court. This can be very costly. One thing to consider is including language in your agreement that gives you the right to sell a horse in the event of non-payment to recoup your costs.

IMPORTANT: This is not legal advice and should not be treated as such. Your situation is unique, and you should talk to a qualified attorney in your state for legal advice.


Written by Polly Hey Panos,

Polly Hey-Panos is the co-founder, and partner at Hey & Hey Attorneys at Law, who has dedicated her profession to offerings a full range of equine legal services to individuals and businesses in California.

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