Legal Questions and Answers for the Horse Community

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Rachel Kosmal McCart
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A Buyer's Right to a Pedigree

Q: I purchased a Quarter Horse stallion, but received only a copy of his papers, as the seller told me that she lost the original papers. When I contacted the AQHA to request a duplicate certificate, they informed me that the seller is not the registered owner of this horse and that I would need a notarized affidavit from the registered owner to obtain duplicate registration papers. Id like to keep this stallion, breed him to some of my mares and register his get. What are my options?

A: According to the AQHA rules, applications to register foals must be accompanied by a breeder's certificate signed by the record owner of the sire and the record owner of the dam. Because you are not the record owner of your stallion, you would not be able to sign the AQHA breeder's certificate to register your stallions foals. Therefore, you must become the record owner of your stallion before you can register his foals with the AQHA.

When a Quarter Horse is sold, the AQHA rules specify that it's the seller's responsibility to transfer the registration papers by sending in the original papers and the required transfer form. Clearly, in your situation, the record owner of the horse didn't follow these rules. Unfortunately, I find that in most situations where the chain of ownership isn't clearly reflected on the papers, there's a good reason why the registered owner didn't complete the transfer.

I recommend finding the registered owner and calling them. Politely and calmly explain the situation and ask them what happened. In my experience, the former owners usually want to hear how the horse is doing, so they will probably talk to you. You might get lucky ?maybe it was just an oversight that the former owner didn't transfer the registration papers. However, don't be too surprised if you hear a tale of woe, that the former owner sold the horse to someone who never finished paying for the horse. You should be prepared to hear anything from claims of theft to the former owner wanting the horse back, but don't panic! If you purchased this horse without knowing about any controversy surrounding his ownership, you can't be held legally responsible for previous owners?bad acts. The former owner cannot simply show up at your ranch with a horse trailer and legally take your horse from you.

In these situations, I often find it most practical to offer the registered owner an appealing financial proposal before going after the seller. In most cases, a lot of time has passed and the former owner never expected to get anything back from a bad situation, so anything you now offer them is a windfall. While talking to the former owner, keep in mind that what you have right now is a grade stallion and what you would like to have is a registered Quarter Horse stallion. The former owner has the power to give you what you want. You need to convince them that you are not the villain in this situation and seek their help. Offer to pay them for the notarized affidavit you'rel need, mentioning that youd like to compensate them for their time and trouble. Offer to arrange and pay for the notary services, too.

Now, what are your options with respect to the seller? You paid for a registered Quarter Horse stallion, but that's not what the seller delivered. If the registered owner cooperates with you, approach the seller and ask for reimbursement of any out-of-pocket expenses you incurred. If the registered owner doesn't cooperate, you have two options regarding the seller: (a) ask them to reverse the transaction (not an option if you want to keep the horse) or (b) ask them to refund the amount of money that reflects the difference between what you paid and the horse's fair market value as an unregistered horse. If the seller refuses to negotiate, you have a legal claim against the seller for breach of contract. You made a verbal contract to purchase a registered Quarter Horse, you delivered the purchase price, but the seller did not deliver a registered Quarter Horse. Whether or not you pursue your legal claim against the seller is up to you.

This situation is a good illustration of why it is important to obtain and examine the horse's original registration papers at the time of sale. The registration papers should match the horse (color, markings, age, gender) and should bear the name of the seller as the registered owner. Keep in mind that without the original registration papers in your name, what you have is a grade animal, so horses without papers should be priced accordingly. See the Equine Legal Solutions website for more information about purchasing a horse.

About the Author: Rachel Kosmal McCart, the founder of Equine Legal Solutions, is a lifelong horsewoman and experienced lawyer. Equine Legal Solutions, the Legal Counsel with Horse Sense TM , offers a full range of legal services for the horse community, including dispute resolution, customized contracts and risk management assessment.
Copyright ©2008 Equine Legal Solutions and the Bay Area Equestrian Network. All rights reserved. The above article is the property of the Author and may not be duplicated or redistributed in any way without permission.