About two years ago, my parents surprised me by adopting my lease horse so that he would become mine. He was given to my family for free, but the catch was that he was not allowed to leave the property for boarding purposes. My family was still responsible for paying full board, vet, and farrier bills. Last year I had a couple different people approach me saying they had heard about this situation and told me that the barn who gave my family this horse was taking advantage of us and that it wasn’t really a “legal” thing to do. So my question is, has anyone heard of a barn selling a horse and including in the agreement that the horse cannot leave the property or else ownership reverts back to seller?

Look at the sales contract. That is the ONLY contract that legally exists.


( noticing that at this moment, this is your one & only COTH post … that’s ok, just for the record)

No one could answer this definitively until you provide more information about the several contradictions in your story. “Adopting my lease horse” … why do you use the word “adopting”? Was this the usual adoption contract and the horse is from a rescue?

“Adopting” doesn’t match “given to my family for free”.
An adoption is usually a transaction with a horse rescue and normally has different terms than “given”.

“Given” doesn’t match “the catch was that he was not allowed to leave”.
If there was a paper transferring ownership of the horse, then any conditions would be written there. Conditions on “not allowed to leave” doesn’t sound like the horse was given to anyone, more like allowed to use.

“or else ownership reverts back to the seller” doesn’t match “given” or “adopting” …
In a giveaway or an adoption, there is no seller. A sale happens when money changes hands.

The answer comes down to what legal document you have transferring ownership to your family. And what conditions are written and agreed to in that document… A bill of sale; an adoption contract; a signed paper transferring ownership to you with no money or anything else of value given in exchange. Or whatever else you have that gives your family ownership. (And it would be good to know what family members are named in the contract, because transactions are between individuals, not families.)

If there is no legal document and this ‘transaction’ (if it was one) was entirely word-of-mouth, your ownership situation may be very much up in the air.

You say your parents acquired the horse to surprise you. So they will have the paperwork that documents how (and if) ownership was transferred, and what conditions were agreed to.

(Are you by chance a younger person not experienced in horse transactions? Nothing wrong with that, but responses can take into account that you may need some background information. :slight_smile: )


It rather sounds like your parents were offered an on-farm “free lease” or “care lease” on the horse. You pay all the horse’s expenses, but the horse does not really belong to you.

This is a great way to have a horse without the up front cost or the long-term responsibility, I’ve been the grateful recipient of one of these myself.

Hopefully everything is in writing so that there are no misunderstandings between your parents and the horse’s owner, and they can explain exactly what they agreed to and what the restrictions are.


Haha, I guess giving the shortened version did not work in my favor. Yes, this is my first time using COTH, and i am a younger person not experienced in horse transactions.

I did get my horse from a rescue, which is why i am using the term “adopted” as it was put in the contract. “In consideration of the sum of $0.00 adoption fee” is what’s written in the paper, so we did not actually purchase this horse with an exchange of money. Thats why i said “given.” My mother and the barn owner were the ones who signed the adoption agreement of my horse.

The reason I ask the question if anyone has heard of a similar situation is that i’m looking to move my horse to a private barn that will provide him better care than the rescue will, but i’m not sure how to go about this process.

For clarity - does your horse currently still reside at the rescue’s farm?

Also - in your paperwork does it say anywhere that ownership is being transferred or just a “adoption fee”?


You’ll hear over and over “Well, what does the contract say?” That’s not because we’re trying to be difficult. It’s just that whatever contract your parents agreed to is “the law” – both sides accepted certain terms for the horse, and both sides have to live by those terms. It doesn’t matter if it seems unfair and sometimes those terms end up not being so great for one side or the other.

Did the contract include the written requirement to not move the horse?

It’s possible that the contract that your parents signed is so bad that it’s not enforceable. But only a lawyer can decide that, and you are not going to get that service for free online. This is what they’re paid to do. It’s not free, just like you can’t expect to get groceries or your car repaired for free.


that contract is not enforceable as there was no consideration


OK, but if the contract is not valid, that would mean that the transfer of ownership didn’t actually occur, right? It’s not as if you get to say “You don’t get to enforce your side of the contract, but I still keep the horse and take him whereever” The unfortunate reality is that if you prove the contract is flawed, that may mean the ‘sale’ is invalidated.


These types of contracts are all over the map on what they say the person receiving the animal may or may not do. Some restrictions are lawful, some are not. Some restrictions are flat stupid even if they may be lawful. You are wise to follow the contract involved until someone who knows tells you that an restriction is unenforceable.

If this horse is, in fact, the property of the rescue it came from then this is a lease, they are lessor and you are a lessee. This means you have a right to possession and use of the animal IAW the terms of the contract. You have the duty to exercise proper care of the animal, at your own expense. The contract will have terms under which you must return the horse if they ask or may return it if you can no longer keep it IAW the standards of the contract.

If it was a sale then you may deal with the horse in your own way. If restrictions were placed in the sale contract then you can evaluate them and determine if you will, or won’t, comply with them. If you agreed to them then you should comply. If circumstances have changed and your compliance is no longer reasonable then you should speak with the rescue and negotiate the changes you need.

A contract is a very important document and should be followed by the parties but it’s not a “suicide pact.” If for any reason you cannot meet one of the terms then negotiate a change. Or return the horse. Last resort is to break the rule(s) that you can no longer follow and be ready to defend what you have done based upon change of circumstance in the event the rescue sues you. The probability of a suit is generally pretty low but that does not mean “non existent.”

Read what your parents agreed to then make your decisions. Good luck as you go forward.


*Personally, I don’t use the term “adoption” when dealing with animals. You adopt children; you buy, lease, or accept a gift of an animal. Animals are chattels, personal property. And this true no matter what the contract might call them. Pretending horses are what they are not just muddles the law and creates work for lawyers (for whose services somebody has to pay).


LOTS of contradictions (highlighted in red) in that short post! As everyone else has mentioned, you need to look at whatever contract your parents have on this horse and see what it says. But it does sound like it’s intended to be a on-farm lease to me.


There are in fact 3 players here, and each might have separate interpretations of the situation.

There is the barn, the mother, and the OP who is a child.

The OP needs to give us the exact wording of the written contract.

But also who wants to move the horse?

I can imagine a scenario where a horse is being kept at a lower cost barn, the child wants to move to a higher cost higher prestige h/j show barn, but parent has no intention or perhaps cash to make that move.

The agreement here is between the barn and the mother who pays the bills. If the mother is happy with the situation the horse won’t be moving whatever the contract says.

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There are several recent threads about this topic. Many “rescues” have a variety of clauses to limit what can happen to the horse after placement - cannot be resold, cannot be moved, etc.

Even if there is a written “contract” it may not be enforceable. Just because someone writes it down does not make it legally binding in a way that will be upheld in court.

So, yes, the key is knowing what the contract actually says. And then whether or not it is enforceable, which could depend on the state you live in.

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To add, if the contract is signed by mother and barn owner, the OP likely has 0 say, but the move to a different barn would be something the mother or BO would have to take up and discuss with the rescue.
IOW the only people who can renegotiate the contract are the people who signed it, none of whom are the OP from what I can tell.

Further if OP is younger than… [18?], I’m not sure she could even legally sign a contract even if she and the rescue wanted to enter into one.

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If you want to “own” a horse, ALWAYS pay at least a dollar for it, and get a receipt for this amount, signed by the previous owner selling the horse. Avoid sticky situations like this one. If you do not own the horse, you are looking at the care reverting to the actual owner, who has been free leasing you the horse up until now. Good luck.


I believe OP has more of in the lines of an Agreement in Kind arrangement that might have been presented as a contract of sale

I am not an attorney but for a few decades had to deal with contract law regarding suppliers to a major manufacturer

I am also unclear on where the rescue fits in

Is the current barn also a “rescue” operation that leases and boards horses too? If so, is the barn a nonprofit society or just a private place?

Or did the current barn acquire the horse from a rescue society that stipulated the horse can never be moved or sold? In that case the barn may not be legally able to sell the horse.

Or does “rescue” just mean that the horse was vaguely thin when the barn bought him out of some field or auction?

In other words, does the barn have the right to sell this horse?

Is there a rescue operation in the background with a limiting contract with the barn?

OP are these questions you can answer, or find an answer to?


Would the rescue’s interpretation of this contract preclude you from taking the horse home? That assumes you have a place at home for the horse.

Do you have the ownership papers for the horse? The questions outlined by scribbler and others are those you need to ask.

Back when we were showing, I recall a rule change that certain youth classes required the youth to “own” the horse. That rule was to preclude using a push-button a horse for the purpose of showing it. The goal was to even the playing field. That resulted in some rather shady “purchases” that were not purchases at all. Not saying that is what happened in this instance.

I’m guessing a paying boarder helps to offset the costs for other horses at this rescue. Is that the motivation for this clause? Some rescues do have limiting clauses in their contracts. Some of those clauses are off-the-wall odd. This is the first time I’ve heard of one that wants to keep the horse. Most want to ensure a good home and open up space for new rescues.

Most attorneys will give you a free consultation to assess if you want to move forward with legal action. You could try that route to find out what is possible.

I think, from reading the OP’s posts, that
the rescue organization operates the boarding barn where the horse is kept;
no money changed hands; and
the agreement provides she owns the horse only so long as it remains on the property of the rescue/boarding barn.
If she tries to move the horse, ownership of the horse automatically reverts to the rescue.
Is that right, OP?
If so, then I think you have what most of us would think of as a free lease that requires you to keep the horse on the owner’s property. These agreements are very common in the horse world.
Also if I’ve read your posts correctly, I don’t think you can move the horse.
But I’m not a contract attorney, so my free advice is worth exactly what you paid for it. :slight_smile: Good luck!


If the horse reverts to the rescue, he also reverts to being on their bill.
We’re coming into winter now, so it’s an ideal time to say, “Hey, I’d like to move this horse to the following establishment. Oh, you won’t let me? In that case I’ll have to give him back. Board at the approved barn is currently $xxx.xx, btw. I’ll let the barn owner know he’s yours again.”