Horses have been an integral part of livestock production since they were first imported with cattle by the Spanish in the early 1500s. While some modern ranches have transitioned to the use of “motorized horses” – all-terrain and utility-task vehicles (ATVs, UTVs) and dirt bikes – others continue the legacy of gathering, sorting, doctoring, branding and moving cattle by horseback. It is not uncommon for those who still use horses as a part of their daily operations to also breed, raise, sell and train horses as an additional source of income.

Reed garrett
Attorney / McAfee & Taft

While many horse-related transactions are often bound by a “handshake deal,” failing to adequately document the relative rights and responsibilities of those involved can lead to costly legal disputes. Regardless of whether a ranch’s equine enterprise consists of riding one or two horses per month for outside customers, or it is its own division within the ranching operation, the following documents should be considered depending on the scope of services provided with respect to or involvement with horses.

Training agreement

Whether riding one or multiple horses, those who train horses for the outside public on their ranch should consider a training agreement. This agreement simply outlines the training relationship between the parties. A training agreement does not need to be overly complicated, but should include, for example, the following:

  • The parties’ names and contact information
  • A description of the horse in training
  • A description of the training services to be performed
  • The charges and fees associated with training
  • The duration of the training
  • The general care of the horse

The parties are free to incorporate other terms as well, such as what to do in case of an emergency, how veterinary or farrier services will be paid, whether the trainer is authorized to show the horse, how show expenses and winnings are paid, whether the trainer is entitled to a sales commission and other considerations.

Sales contract

Whether it’s a grade gelding, a registered mare or anything in between, parties to a horse sale should properly document the transaction. Often, private horse sales consist of the buyer paying for the horse by cash or a check and hoping they receive a copy of the horse’s registration papers and a transfer form. However, when a dispute arises as to the purchase price, the horse’s condition or competing claims of ownership, and the parties have nothing to show for the transaction, the potential for legal action increases. A sales contract and bill of sale can provide evidence of the parties’ agreement. A sales contract can include terms related to:

  • The parties’ names and contact information
  • A description of the horse
  • Purchase price and related payment terms (i.e., lump sum versus a structured payment)
  • Whether any warranties or disclaimers are made as to the horse’s condition or intended use
  • Delivery of a bill of sale
  • If the horse is registered with a breed association
  • Delivery of registration papers and a transfer of ownership form


All of the documents discussed in this article can and should be properly tailored to fit your individual needs. Failure to incorporate these types of agreements can lead to costly legal disputes if a disagreement between the parties later arises. If a dispute does arise, these documents provide written evidence of the parties’ original agreement. You should consult with an experienced agricultural and equine attorney if you are considering incorporating any of these agreements into your ranch’s equine operation.

Other agreements

Other agreements that may be relevant, depending on the scope of the ranch’s equine operations, include:

  • Boarding agreements – if the ranch is housing and caring for outside horses
  • Breeding agreements – if the ranch stands a stallion or offers other breeding arrangements such as artificial insemination or embryo transfer services
  • Liability waivers – if the ranch hosts equine activities, shows, clinics or similar events where members of the public are present on the property
  • Lease agreements – if the ranch is leasing a horse from, or leasing a horse to, a third party