The Mane Point: a legal blog for smart horses and their people
By Allison J. Farrell of Jenkins Fenstermaker, PLLC on 08/19/2021
Equine Breeding Contracts: When a Mare Fails to Catch

Even when you are an equine attorney and you have overthought everything to the point where you are sure your plans are foolproof, Mother Nature can still pull a fast one. For me, a recent effort to breed a mare underscored the importance of careful review and attention to equine breeding contracts.

Image of a mare and foal, representing the need for the assistance of a WV equine attorney in legal matters related to equine breeding contracts.

Adventures in Equine Breeding Contracts

Case in point: I had a plan to breed our Gypsy Vanner mare “Madigan” to a gorgeous stallion this spring. We booked her “honeymoon,” hauled her to the stud farm, and I was highly anticipating a fuzzy foal on the ground next year.

However, Mother Nature had other plans. After three breedings, Madigan never caught. We don’t know why—the stallion was perfect, all of her tests came back normal, and she was being attended by one of the best reproductive veterinarians in the area. There is no scientific reason to explain why my “Plan A” did not work.

Provisions of a Horse Breeding Contract

Whatever the reason my mare failed to conceive, I found myself rereading the fine print of my horse breeding contract in search of “Plan B.” What happens now? In some cases, mare owners who find themselves in this position are out of luck. I have reviewed contracts where breeding services are provided to mare owners as a “one and done” and, if the mare doesn’t catch, then the mare owner is out the breeding fee and back to square one.

On the other end of the spectrum is the inclusion of a “live foal guarantee” in the equine breeding agreement. In this case, the breeder contractually guarantees to the mare owner a “live foal” at the end of the breeding process. In this scenario, the breeder does not charge a repeat breeding fee for multiple collections of the stallion. But note: any veterinarian fees incurred with each breeding cycle are typically the responsibility of the mare owner.

Another Reason to Attend to the Details in Equine Breeding Contracts

It is also important to pay attention to the definition of “live foal” in a horse breeding contract. This term is often defined as a foal that stands and nurses after birth, but attention should be paid to this term in any equine breeding agreement. While mare owners can take comfort in a live foal guarantee, stallion owners want to make sure the term is sufficiently defined so they are not assuming more risk than they intended.

At the end of the day, a breeding contract is an allocation of risk between the parties, and all parties to the contract should be comfortable with the risk they are assuming. While things generally “work out” most of the time in horse breeding pursuant to the laws of nature, it is best to be prepared and understand your rights and responsibilities under contract law when things do not go according to plan.

An Equine Attorney for Horse Breeding Contract Matters in OH, PA, and WV

Planning ahead and diligently reviewing the terms of your horse breeding contract can save you time and money when an equine breeding agreement does not go as planned. And, if a dispute arises, you must understand your rights under the terms of the agreement made.

Individuals and businesses in need of assistance in all stages of equine breeding contracts can trust that, as a horse owner and equine attorney licensed in OH, WV, and PA, I will help you manage your horse breeding matters with the same care and attention I bring to my own. For these and other legal equine questions, call me at the Clarksburg office of Jenkins Fenstermaker, PLLC at (304) 521-6120 or complete this online contact form to schedule an appointment.