Predicament! Possible "custody" dispute in my future?? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 18 Old 11-21-2012, 05:34 PM Thread Starter
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Predicament! Possible "custody" dispute in my future??

Well first off I feel I should introduce myself. I'm Tori, and I'm new here with the purpose of seeking some opinions and advice! I have gotten myself into a predicament while trying to help out a friend. I'm not sure what her situation was, but she needed a place for her horse. This was around late August, early Sept.

My parents own close to 40 acres of pasture with a small barn and that is where my four horses are kept. I offered to keep her horse for a while because 30 acres of grass is enough to keep five horses well fed,and she said she would be out daily to feed him grain as well. She also said he would be gone by November when the grass starts to fade since I made it clear I would not keep him free of charge during the winter because of the cost of hay.

Now as we are nearing December she has not come to even see the horse since the beginning of October. During this time I have covered the cost of having his feet trimmed on two occasions and she assured me she would pay me back. I have recently notified her and said that if he will be staying the winter she will need to buy hay for him, however from things I have heard about her lately I am doubting this will come through. (this is hearsay, and personal judgement only though.)

I have heard from a reliable source that her large dog is also crated for long periods of time and generally neglected. To such a point that my source took photos of the dog in it's own feces and almost reported it as cruelty. My source told me that the dog was left in the cage without food (but possibly with water to begin with) for 46 hours straight while the owner was out partying for homecoming weekend.

We are all college students, and I feel this situation could get very nasty very quick, however I am concerned for the horse. He is a young horse who has very little training. He is moderately halter broke, and somewhat to lunge, however he nearing five years old. I feel that if I were to force her to remove the horse from my property he would very quickly end up in a terrible situation.

I believe this because she really does have no way to provide the care for him and would ultimately have to sell him, and when she does, with what little training he has, I am afraid of the place he will end up. I am taking fighting for custody of the horse (if that's what it's even called?) into consideration if the circumstances continue to decline (No hay, no farrier, etc.) However I do not take this on lightly. The last thing I want to do is take the girl's horse away from her, but her priorities are college parties and her many different boyfriends instead of the horse's well being.

What should I do from here? I am afraid if I threaten to take the horse she's going to try to keep him somewhere else and his care might decline greatly. I get the feeling she is financially irresponsible, and she works almost 90 hours a week which is causing her to be fairly neglectful of her horse. I know now is not the time to step in and take the beast, but I feel as if it will come to that eventually, and I am looking for opinions on how to handle the situation, or what obstacles I might face, or if I just need to let go and let what happens to other people's horses happen.

Thanks for your time guys!

Last edited by AtWitsEnd; 11-21-2012 at 05:37 PM.
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post #2 of 18 Old 11-21-2012, 05:58 PM
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I think your heart's in the right place, but you're going to have to deal with this sensibly, not emotionally.

Firstly - the dog - is irrelevant to this discussion. Let whoever's taking pictures of it take action if they want, don't be drawn into that and certainly don't try to use it as evidence against her. It's just hearsay to you.

Secondly. Don't judge her on what you don't know. You don't get to see her bank statements so you don't know that she is financially irresponsible, you just think that's the case. I'd say that someone who works 90 hours a week doesn't have time to spend very much!

Now the horse. It's on your property and is costing you money. You will find numerous threads on here about people who have let friends board there horses on their land without a proper agreement in place, it often ends in tears! Have a search for some of the general advice given, but here's my shortened version:

- you can't claim custody of this horse, it's not a child and you have no parental right to it. That would serve only to make you poor and a lawyer rich.

- you're not owed any money on him because you haven't entered into a boarding agreement with her, and you haven't I think invoiced her for board or services.

- if you would like to offer this horse a home, you can offer to buy him from her. She doesn't have to sell him to you.

I suggest you do two things:

First - send her a letter giving her notice to remove him from your property. If she wants to board him somewhere over the winter she's going to have to pay for it, and unless you want to end up in a whole big mess with this person, I suggest you DON'T offer to board him for a fee. The evidence suggests that she won't pay it!!

Second, and only if you actually want and need and can afford another horse...... Offer to buy him. At a fair market price. One that reflects his open market value, and not what you think she should sell him to you for. The costs you have paid so far, the farrier and any others..... You can't make her set them against the price of the horse because you didn't have an agreement in place. You can ask, but you can't force.

I'm sorry that there is no magic wand to wave....

Get up, get going, seize the day. Enjoy the sunshine, the rain, cloudy days, snowstorms, and thunder. Getting on your horse is always worth the effort.
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post #3 of 18 Old 11-21-2012, 06:09 PM
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Serve her with a registered letter of your intention to sell the horse to recoup your costs for keeping him.....if she doesn't respond in kind with payment within 14 days......the horse is yours to need to go through the proper channels to do this though. In Alberta it's through the livery/animal keepers act I think.....I'm not sure where you are, but there is a probably some legal channels you can go through to serve her notice and then have legal control over the animal.....
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post #4 of 18 Old 11-21-2012, 06:12 PM Thread Starter
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I understand the dog has no relevancy, I was just trying to show that I was not trying to take a horse away from a competent owner. I understand the rest is hearsay as well, but again I was trying to give an impression of the situation, not an argument I would use legally.

Legally, she has no proof of ownership of the horse, and as I've been counselled, possession is nine tenths of the law. As I am told, if I show I am the one that has been providing care, the horse is mine. You are right, they are not like children. I have written agreements that she would repay me for the farrier work done, as well as a written guarantee that she will provide hay for the winter. If she does not, and I am stuck feeding the horse (as I have not had to incur feeding expenses yet) would this be grounds for me to be able to not so much, take custody, but claim ownership, if I wanted to?

Yes, it would be easier to just tell her to get the horse off my property, but I live in a rural town and horses like him don't last long around here with the way the economy has been. I was in a similar predicament when I was 16, and when I did tell her to take the horse off of my property I found out he headed into some dark times after she was unable to provide care and sold him off.

Offering fair market price for the horse, I would be fine with, but I feel as though she will not see it as fair, or will unreasonably not want to part with him. I am considering trying to claim ownership only as my last option. Trust me, I plan to use diplomacy as far as it will get me, this girl is a friend to me, but this horse's care is most important in this situation. I have the means and desire to give this horse a good future, if she resists to part peacefully (selling) then do you think I will have grounds to claim ownership legally?
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post #5 of 18 Old 11-21-2012, 06:38 PM
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If there are written agreements signed, you can sell him for money owed. I believe any leftover would go to her. As far as claiming ownership, unless she gives you a bill of sale stating that he is yours, then he is still hers. Possession is 9/10 ths of the law, but you already stated it is on paper that he is her horse. The only thing you can do is give her x amount of days to pay, then sell him to get your monies back.
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post #6 of 18 Old 11-21-2012, 06:55 PM
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Originally Posted by AtWitsEnd View Post
Legally, she has no proof of ownership of the horse, and as I've been counselled, possession is nine tenths of the law. As I am told, if I show I am the one that has been providing care, the horse is mine.

You're right, as long as a) reasonable amount of time has passed since she last came to see the horse and b) you have made an effort to contact her. I would send her a registered letter and also use any other means you have of contacting her. If there is no law pertaining to this situation in your area I would wait at least 90 days from the last time you saw her before selling the horse.

If you can afford to keep the horse, there's no harm in doing so as long as you turn it over to her if she does show up. You would then have to get your money back directly from her though.
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post #7 of 18 Old 11-22-2012, 05:05 AM
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I agree with the others on many points.

You can't just claim ownership of a horse. You can sell it to recuperate recorded costs, but not just keep the horse as payment, unless agreed upon. You say she has no proof of ownership, yet in your emails to her you would call it her horse - something that she can use to show that at least you consider the horse hers.

Usually the right to sell a horse to recuperate outstanding costs is in a boarding contract, as she hasn't agreed to this clause that might not even be an option for you.

So I think that, realistically you have four choices.
1. You can ask her to remove her horse by registered post, writing in a clause that the horse will be possessed by you if not moved within 14 days or whatever.
2.Second, you can continue as you have been going - keeping the horse and paying his costs, ensuring his welfare for now, but taking a loss and knowing he'll be taken one day.
3. Offer to buy the horse off her, and then if she refuses tell her you want the horse gone, and follow up with registered post.
4. Talk to her. Offer agistment if she wants it but charge an up front fee. Have her sign a contract that states that she is liable for any charges, and if these remain unpaid for 21 days or something you can seize her horse for your purposes. If she neglects to pay agistment, the same.

Good luck, keep us posted.
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post #8 of 18 Old 11-22-2012, 06:54 AM
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If you want to claim the horse under a Stablemen's Lien, you have to do it legally. You can't just decide to send her a registered letter and state you'll be taking the horse unless X amount is paid in X number of days. Doesn't work that way, unfortunately.

I'm glad you have everything in writing, because proving your case for seizure is a whole lot easier than with just verbal agreements.

You do need to ask yourself though, can you afford another horse time wise as well as financially? I understand you don't want to see him wind up in a bad situation, but if it stretches your resources too thin you may have to let him go. You're not responsible for every animal that crosses your path, and some simply can't be saved.
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post #9 of 18 Old 11-22-2012, 11:59 AM
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do you know where she lives ? load the horse in the trailer, take it to her house, unload, ring the doorbell, hand her the lead line and drive away.

You cant sell the horse for unpaid board. You dont have a board agreement. Possession may be 9/10ths, but that last 10th will get you. She can simply ignore any letters you send. Lesson learned, never allow someone elses horse on your property without a contract.
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post #10 of 18 Old 11-22-2012, 12:08 PM
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Hmm the most disturbing part of this post is
have heard from a reliable source that her large dog is also crated for long periods of time and generally neglected. To such a point that my source took photos of the dog in it's own feces and almost reported it as cruelty. My source told me that the dog was left in the cage without food (but possibly with water to begin with) for 46 hours straight while the owner was out partying for homecoming weekend.

Read more: Predicament! Possible "custody" dispute in my future??

Who has access to a dog to take photos and thinks it is in a crate for 46 hours and does nothing about it?
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