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Your Horse equine law column – I have a horse on full livery, what are my rights?

Q – I have a horse on full livery. Recently the yard started having problems catching him. So they give up and leave him in the field, sometimes alone (which is against their policy).

If alone, he becomes stressed and he can jump out if panicked. They sent me a letter saying they won’t be liable for any injuries if they leave him alone. I’m worried sick about his welfare as he is simply being abandoned. I can catch him OK, but don’t have time as I work and sometimes I’m away hence the full livery! What are my rights?

A – A bailment is a legal concept which occurs when one person passes control, but not legal ownership, of any possession to another person. The recipient then has a duty to provide reasonable care of that possession until it is returned to its legal owner.

In putting your horse on full livery you have passed control of your horse to the livery yard and they have a duty to take good care of him. The fact that you are paying the yard owner for the livery serves to increase the level of care expected.

You have instructed the yard to bring your horse in at night and made them aware that due to the temperament of the horse he is at risk of sustaining injury in the event that he is left out without a companion. Were your horse to sustain injury, you would be in a position to allege that the fact that he was left out against your instructions and sustained injury is evidence that he had not been adequately cared for.

The agreement that you had with the yard was in line with their policy which they are now breaching. If the yard wishes to give you notice to move your horse then it may do so however in the meantime it continues to have a duty of care to your horse. If it breaches said duty and as a result you horse sustains injury you would be able to pursue a claim in negligence for any financial losses that you incur.

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