Tricked into leasing a lame horse
Not sure if this is in the right forum, I apologize if it's not.
My wife and I rent out a barnkeep's apartment in an equestrian community, and thus live very close to about a dozen horses. I've never owned a horse, but my wife did when she was a girl, and some members of the community ask her to feed and care for their horses sometimes when they are out of town, which she is more than happy to do because she just loves being around them.
Recently, one of the couples in the community approached us with a proposal. They have 19 year old mare named Mel that they have not ridden for a while due to having two younger horses that they are training. They intend to sell the mare, but until they find a suitable buyer, they asked if my wife would be interested in leasing the horse for the cost of the stall fee (60/mo). The owners would still feed and care for the horse, all they wanted was the stall fee payed and the horse to get exercise. We were told the horse was sound, and bomb proof. My wife happily agreed, it sounded like a fantastic arrangement. We just agreed to an informal arrangement for the short term, until we decided if we wanted to write up a lease for a set period of time.
A week after riding, my wife took the horse over some tiny jumps (less than a foot) and heard popping from the horse's legs. She immediately called the owner, and was told the horse had arthritis and shouldin't be jumped. My wife apologized and agreed not to do it again, but was confused since the owner didn't mention any kind of medical conditions when we started the lease. The horse didn't show any signs of discomfort after the jumping, but my wife didn't ride her again for several days just to be safe.
A week later, the owner's husband invited my wife to come along with him on a trail ride because his younger horse would not enter the woods without another horse. She agreed, but told him she'd be comfortable riding the third horse, a 6 yr old gelding, instead of Mel, since she was arthritic. He said don't worry about it, Mel needs the workout, and she saddled up and followed him. He set the pace, nothing more than a trot, and they were back within 30 minutes. My wife wanted to let the horse roam the pasture a bit to cool down, but the owner put her back in the stall immediately. The next day, there was a sign on the door that said LAME HORSE, NO RIDING. The horse was limping a bit, but it was hard to tell just how bad since the owner refused to let her out of the stall. My wife and I immediately cancelled the agreement, sa we were becoming very distrustful of the owner. We'd been lied to about the soundness of the horse, and did not like the owners growing resentment towards my wife.
Now, it has been a week since we cancelled the agreement. We did not ask for the other half of our money back, but the owner is now standing around whispering with the other women in the community, who are all treating my wife like a leper. She is blaming us for the horse being unsound, now claiming that she can't sell the horse. We've even overheard her say something about personal injury and small claims court.
Not knowing anything about horse law, are we in any kind of position that she can hold against us? My wife was lied to, told to push the horse and get her some exercise, and when she pushed the horse even a little, the horse was suddenly lame? I don't know if this makes sense or not, my wife says it doesn't. We never signed anything other than a liability waiver saying we can't sue the community if we get hurt by a horse, which we signed anyway when we rented the apartment. We never agreed to be responsible for the health of the horse, in writing or otherwise. We only paid to ride the horse.
Any advice / insights would be appreciated. I apologize for the long post!
I guess there are different laws in different states. I personally would just not touch horse anymore and would ignore the owners and what they say and the gossip thrown around unless it somehow creates problem with the work or your kids. You can't change people, you know, and true friends won't care about the gossiping. I'm sure it'll calm down with time.
Well... that's poopie. It's actually a big problem in the horse world. People can be jerks. I think in any world actually. I'd just leave the horse alone and continue on as if nothing ever happened. The other horsey folks will eventually see the reality of the situation (hopefully).
Welcome to the horse world. This person is not the last person you'll meet that acts this way. Just ignore this person, and act like nothing is wrong.
I agree with Kitten_Val.
I just want to say, to me it does not sound like you were horribly wronged. It sounds like you assumed some things that maybe you should not have (unless they are just pieces left out of your long story) and you were very reactive.
Horses get lame. Heck, the mare could just have a hoof abscess. That makes them VERY lame but it is very fixable and not that big of a deal.
The horse having arthritis at 19 is pretty much a given.
Did your wife ask up front if she could jump the mare? Jumping is one of those things that you just do not do with other people's horses with out asking them first. Considering your say your wife's last horse experience was growing up, and even you knew this mare had not been worked in sometime, I am sure the owner never imagined the mare would be taken out to jump.
I am not sure why you reacted so harshly when you found out the mare was lame. This could have ended very differently if you simply asked about the mares condition, etc.
Edit to add - Just re-read your title. You were not tricked into leasing a lame horse. Geez. Your wife thought it was sound enough to jump it.
Welcome to the forum.
My take on your situation is that it will be difficult for the owners to prove exactly what caused the lameness..in a court of law and otherwise. The horse has existing arthritis. Further, the owner permitted a trail ride (in fact, insisted on a trail ride to give Mel exercise) following the jumping your wife did. So, I'm not sure what kind of claims they could present in small claims? Hopefully, the owners will investigate the lameness if it persists and get help for their horse.
As far as the gossip, my advice is to let them talk. As Farmpony and others have said, you will find many people like these women in horse barns everywhere. Maybe suggest that your wife rise above it? However, if I her, I wouldn't be volunteering my time to help the likes of anyone in that barn again lol. Lesson learned!
Hope it all works out for you..
I'm sorry you feel so wronged by this situation but I also believe you're really overreacting. Almost all horses get some form of arthritis as they get older, its practically a given. Having arthritis would hardly make a horse be considered "lame'" unless it was severe in which case your wife had bo business jumping the horse. Not to mention who randomly decides to jump a 19 year old horse who hasn't been ridden for awile? That's quite irresponsible. I'm sorry if I'm comming off as harsh or rude, that's really not my intention.
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The owners told the OP's wife that Mel was sound and bombproof...not that she had arthritis. It was only after the wife reported the popping sounds did the owners reveal to her the horse had arthritis.
OP's wife sounds responsible and compassionate to me as evidenced by immediately stopping the small jumping she was doing and then reporting to the owners what she heard. She could have kept the info to herself but she didn't. Further, she suggested to the owner she not ride Mel on the trail ride after learning about the arthritis but the owner insisted Mel needed the exercise. Also the OP stated his wife rode the horse for a week before allowing the horse to take the small jumps so it wasn't that she randomly decided to jump the horse. And at the time of the small jumps, she didn't know the horse had arthritis.
I don't think the OP is overreacting at all. He and his wife are concerned they may be taken to court over the situation. It's no fun either to be the brunt of gossip. I can totally see why he feels the way he does.
OP - I don't see a legal case for recovery by Mel's owners but then I'm not an attorney. I do see a case of hard feelings all the way around which is unfortunate because I think your wife had the best of intentions. The owners are just pissed now because they can't sell the lame horse. They're playing the blame game.
My horse has arthritic changes (x-rays to prove it), but I would not consider him lame.
So, Mel is sound. And I am not sure what bombproof has to do with the conversation.
You do not jump a horse with out FIRST asking the owner. Period.
Add, if you know the horse has been out of work for some time you certainly do not start jumping it a week into riding it.
Not even close to responsible, really!
An abscess makes for a dead lame horse. It is in no way terminal or long term. That could be all that is wrong with Mel.
Lets add how ridiculous it is to think that arthritis is something that immediately equals unsound.
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