What can we do?

Hello all.
A year ago my sister left for college leaving her horse at home. She was under the understanding that she was to start trying to rehome him. A year later he’s still at home and she has no intention of coming back home any time soon. She doesnt pay for his feed, shavings or any sort of care. My parents are older going on 70 and 60 and really cant take care of him. He desperately needs to get his teeth floated but she refuses to pay for it and my parents cannot afford it. He doesnt get along with other animals so I have to board my horse at another barn while we are home from college.
Weve inquired about rehoming him with some rescues but no rescue will take him since my sister is over 18 and hasnt/wont signed over her ownership. My parents have tried asking her for board, she agrees then never sends any money. They have asked her to sign over her ownership to them she agrees then never does.
Legally what can we do? Any advice?

Eek. I am sorry. This is a recipe for division and hurt in your family due to your sister’s lack of responsibility and unwillingness to take care of things herself.

This is tricky legally because it sounds like A) your sister owns the horse (is there documentation proving this?), B) the horse lives on your parents property in which case animal lien laws likely won’t apply in most states because your sister was not paying board for the horse to live there, and C) there likely is not (you’ll need to check your state) laws clearly outlining what happens with abandonment of livestock when there was not a clear contract defined to begin with.

That’s a longwinded way of saying “you need a lawyer’s counsel for this.”

I realize family dynamics can be immensely complicated, but have your parents called her and said “the horse cannot stay here any longer, either come and deal with this in the manner we’ve asked or the horse is getting euthanized?” I realize no one probably wants this outcome and it is immensely unfair to the horse, but at this point threats might be the only way to get things done.

I am sorry your sister is being a deadbeat. The horse is the one that is suffering for it.


I would contact an equine lawyer before you do anything. If she has agreed to sign him over to your parents or you, and you have proof of this agreement, you may have a leg to stand on there, but you NEED to talk to an equine lawyer in your state. I’m sorry you’re going through this!


this is on your parents. They need to step up and deal with this or she is going to keep pulling things like this. She is living beyond her means and now is a great time to learn what being responsible means.

They need to give a hard deadline and act on it. They need to invest in some legal advice.

There is no magic answer but what you describe , so far, there is very passive, roll over behavior on the part of the parents.


That’s strange. How would the rescue know that this horse did not belong to your parents (e.g. the people on whose property it lives, the people who spend money to feed/board the horse?)

Obviously if you tell a rescue “my sister owns this horse” they might want her to sign off on it. But if you called a rescue and said “I have a horse I want to donate” - why wouldn’t they believe you? What proof could your sister offer that she owns the horse anyway (as opposed to your parents?)

Bottom line - this is on your parents. Does your sister rely on them financially for college?


If your sister hasn’t paid for his upkeep in some time, you could maybe look into abandoned property laws in your state, or a stable lien.

But honestly, this is up to your parents to discuss and hash out with your sister. You can pay for the floating yourself, if you can afford it, but your parents need to put their foot down and give your sister a deadline for having the horse moved, sold, given away, or euthanized.

Your sister will not magically change. She considers the horse no longer her concern. Been there, done that. Paid all the damn bills, and was the one holding the lead rope when those horses had to be put down. Why? Because my mom and dad did the same thing YOUR parents are doing, and left me holding the bag when my mom died and my dad couldn’t pay the bills for my older siblings’ horses anymore.


Not a Lawyer

the saying possession is 9/10 of the law may come to play here. what proof can your sister show that she owns this horse. What record of bill paying and support. If she can prove ownership, parents can prove abandonment. They hold the property and can show noncompliance with requirements


When did your sister get the horse? If she was a minor and your parents are the ones actually on the bill of sale, then it’s their horse unless they signed it over to her after she turned 18.


She was a minor when she got him. I do believe they are on the bill of sale so that may help.

Weve wanted to be honest when rehoming but lying about that might be our next go to

First, be absolutely sure the rescue is legit - as in 501 3© - and not a hoarder in disguise. If your parents on the bill of sale, they are the owners and can provide that proof to the rescue. Don’t lie. The rescue should not have to be involved in family drama - as in she shows up saying the horse is hers. The alternate, as responsible owners, is to euthanize.


Your parents should start a detailed monthly board bill for the horse. Have them send the bills to your sister even if she doesn’t pay them. Eventually the board bill will be worth more than the horse. Maybe then you can rehome him after gaining a boarder’s (agister) lien. All states have them, but they are different from state to state.


I wish they would lay out a deadline to get her moving. They are trying to not hurt her feelings. but its only hurting them

Tell her the horse died!!!


This is easy. They bought the horse, so they can rehome it. Maybe you can help them find a great home, or trustworthy rescue, or lesson horse placement, (if the horse is nice and sound). Free lease the horse, if necessary. Then, they can tell her where the horse is going (or where the horse went) next time she asks. All done.

Oh, and box up her stuff and redecorate her old room. Just kidding…


Yeah that helps a lot. Did your sister actually pay for the horse? (E.g. my daughter has a horse, but I paid for it. So, it’s really my horse.)


I do think she paid for most of the horse herself. I may be wrong since it was 8 years ago

Can you get some panels and put him in a temporary stall while you are home? They cant cost much more than board would cost, probably less as you may only need a few. Sheep panels are not too much and they work for temporary stalls.

Your parents are basically making YOU pay because they are too wimpy to make HER pay. Let them find a way to gete rid of horse, thay are making you the patsy here, you’re doing all the work to help horse and you don’t even get to keep yours there.


We do have stalls for them. When they are both home we have to switch which days they go out/stay in. It really isnt fair to them. When hes out I cant work with her, we had another paddock but my sister took her horse out their before the ground dried and created hoof size craters. My mom and I filled in most of them but I dont think ill trust it completely.

Get your parents to downsize to other living arrangements. Or at least tell her that. Or, that they’re going to sell the portion of the property that the horse lives on (subdivide) to help finance their retirement.

Short of that, I agree with sending a board bill every month, including labor charges. She said she’d start paying board. I don’t know if she and your parents agreed on a price, but if they did, then start billing for it. Then consult an attorney on when you can evict her for non-payment or sell the horse. Make sure you keep copies.

After graduation, my parents’ place became the extra storage bin. Then they moved. If we wanted something in the house, it had to be gone before the yard sale date, or it would be yard sale fodder. Yup. I had to rent a storage unit for a little while.