Join Date: Jul 2010
Location: East Central Illinois
People worry about this stuff all of the time. It's true that the horse is property and unless you pay for him, he is NOT legally yours. However, your vet can attest to the neglect, and once you pump feed money and Vet bills into him, the owner will need to reimburse you to get the horse back. The only clearly doesn't have or won't spend the money to properly care for him, so it's doubtful that he or she will be able to pay you back, hence, you will own the horse in the end.
Still, pumping money into a horse that isn't currently your property is a gamble. It's like, if I understand my DD who recently took the bar, the law of adverse possession (with regards to physical property like land) states that you can own said property if you spend time and money improving it AND, after 20 years, the owner does not claim title, then YOU will have acquired title. But, this is land.
If it were me, I would think long and hard about how $much this horse is worth to you, and what your top $offer is, then contact the owner and lowball your first offer, and see what happens. We used to do this at horse/tack auctions all of the time. Sometimes we got good deals, and sometimes not, but it is a good strategy.