So I was hoping to get some opinions from you guys on what type of liability you would expect out of an owner-lessee agreement. Here is the situation: owner wants to partial lease out her horse for riding x number of times/week for some low level jumping, flat work, etc. Nothing fancy. Not a show horse nor has had extensive training. Just to help with the bills and give the horse exercise. Lessee wants a horse to ride just every once in a while so this situation works well for them.
Owner wants lessee to be responsible for paying any veterinary bills associated with an injury to the horse while lessee is riding/has direct care of the horse- including surgical and long-term care if required. Lessee doesn't feel like she should be responsible for any veterinary care for injuries sustained in their care beyond perhaps the initial vet call (as long as the injury didn't result from dangerous riding or any activity that would put the horse at undue risk).
What do you think? Has anyone had any experience setting up liability for these sorts of things? Good experiences? Bad experiences?
Definitely get a written contract (if there is not one already in place) that outlines details that both parties agree to.
One thing that does stand out to me though, is that this sounds like a partial lease. Most leases I've heard of have the leasee being responsible for vet care up to a certain amount (this including routine vet care - and the amount would be adjusted to factor in how much a normal vet bill for this horse would be). As a leasee, especially of what sounds like a pleasure ride situation, I would be weary of being in a situation where I could suddenly be fully responsible for a laid up horse (or horse that required thousands of dollars of vet care).
I think the potential lessee is smart for not wanting to get into this agreement. I know I wouldn't. I think it would be fair for the lessee to be responsible for an injury caused by "reckless disregard" (for lack of better terminology) but for an injury that could have occurred no matter who was riding? I'd say no.
I've been on the part lessee side for several years. My contracts have said that I am responsible for 1/2 of routine vet care and responsible for non-routine (illness/injury) ONLY if the issue is due to my negligence. I believe that's fair, as I would not want to be on the hook for a turnout accident that just happens to fall on "my" day, or some random, no fault, accident or illness. If I did something dumb or dangerous, sure, I should pay the bills.
No way. Owner still has care, custody and control of the horse who is not leaving the property. Person riding the horse on owners property or where they board (with release from BO) "every once in awhile" should not be liable for diagnostics and treatment if it takes a bad step or happens to time a colic episode on her day.
Typically, owner will pro rate expenses and come up with a day rate. For example monthly upkeep/board+farrier+Vet for one year. Divide that by 12 for monthly average. Then divide that by 30 to get a daily rate.
Take the daily rate and add a bit more to cover any extra and a lease fee to determine a fair price per day. That's pretty standard on part leases where the horse stays on the property and under current management.
If the horse goes off the property under care, custody and control of another then the party leasing assumes full responsibility-and usually gets insurance or it's required by the contract.
Really not until you talk a full lease or it goes off the property do you talk about vet responsibility over a % of average that goes into computing the part lease fee.
When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.
In a partial lease situation like you describe, I have paid a flat fee, and I have paid 1/2 of all expenses, and the latter is much more difficult to navigate. I have found it easier for everyone to agree on a flat fee per month that takes into account what the horse's regular expenses are. The owner is still calling the shots on care, and the lessee is offsetting some of the costs, and no one has to account for all the bills, etc . . . Everyone knows what to expect up front with that approach, no surprises.
If you think about it, it makes no sense for the lessee to take on financial responsibility for major medical bills, when they don't have control over the big picture.
I don't decide where the horse is boarded, I don't decide what she eats or what supplements she gets, I don't decide when, how and by who, she's wormed, shod, vaccinated, etc... She's not my horse. The owner makes all those decisions and then delegates some to the BO...where mare is turned out and near who, what boots she wears while out, etc
I'm responsible only for the care I give horse before, during and after riding, or otherwise spending time with her. If I decided to try to jump a green and out of shape horse over a 4 foot fence and we crash? Sure, I should pay that bill. I ride horse and throw hot and sweaty horse back in her stall with a boatload of grain and she colics? I should pay that bill. I forget to shut her stall door and she gets out and gets hit by a car? I should pay that bill. I'm hand grazing her and blabbing on my cell phone and don't notice that she has gotten tangled up in the lead, then spooks and hurts herself? I should pay that bill. Now, of course I don't do those things . But, you get the idea.
In my lease, I (as owner) always maintain full financial responsibility of all veterinary costs unless caused by negligence of lessee. I don't want any health decisions made by anyone else, and I feel like the water gets muddied when someone else has a financial contribution to that. If the lessor needs the money to cover half of routine vet care, I would build it into the lease fee.