Donating Your Horse to a College Riding Program – What to Consider

Tuesday, December 24, 2019
Posted by Leone Equestrian Law



Q: I’m no longer able to ride and show my horse regularly, so I’d like to donate my horse to a college riding program. Is there anything that I need to consider before doing this?

A:  Good question, and there are a number of things that need consideration. The first thing that always comes to mind for me as the most important is: what happens to the horse when it’s finished its usefulness as a riding horse? Does it go to the vet school for experimental purposes? Do they have acreage out there where they can turn it out?

But let’s backtrack a bit and work our way to that question!

First, consider how well you know the college’s riding program and if your horse is a suitable fit for that program. If it’s your own alma mater, you’re likely familiar with the quality of care of the horses and how they are used, but if not, it’s a good idea to ask questions about how the horse will be used. You also should be realistic about your horse’s abilities to do well in that program. For instance, is the horse tolerant of numerous riders? If the horse generally needs a large amount of turnout, can the program facilitate that?

Next, find out the requirements for donation for the school. If it’s a university with a highly successful riding program that accepts donated horses on a regular basis, the school likely has a donation application and screening process in place. Here’s one example from the University of Findlay.

All colleges will require some form of paperwork, and many may request that the horse be appraised by a certified equine appraiser as part of that paperwork and application process. When hiring an appraiser, be sure to ask around for reliable references and find someone with experience with your style of riding and type of horse, as they will be basing the appraisal on factors such as the fair market value for your type of horse, the horse’s show record, and its behavior and conformation.

Once the paperwork is completed and the horse is initially accepted, the university will very likely want to take the horse on trial. If this is the case, make sure you put into writing the details of the trial, much as you would a lease agreement.

If the trial goes well, you’ll need to complete the proper paperwork to officially transfer the ownership of the horse to the university, and you’ll want to ensure that they have any registration paperwork for the horse (i.e. a passport, US Equestrian card, breed registration papers, etc.).

As you’re completing all donation and transfer of ownership paperwork, be sure to save it for your records and for the filing of your taxes, as they will be necessary for receiving the tax deduction that can generally be claimed following the donation of a horse.

Now, here’s where my initial concern comes in. Your horse will inevitably reach a point where he can no longer be ridden by the university’s students. What happens then? Risk always comes with reward, and with the reward of the tax write-off and the new home for your horse comes the risk of what happens afterward.

You can help eliminate that risk by ensuring that this is discussed, that you are fully informed, and, if possible, that it is put into writing. If you would like the first opportunity to take the horse back after it is no longer being used for riding, look for or request a “right of first refusal clause” to be included in the agreement. However, do know that the donation of a horse is unlike a sale. When selling a horse, you have control over much of the sales contract and terms of sale; when donating to a university, you become bound to the contract or agreement that the school provides, and you may or may not be able to make changes. Therefore, it’s important to be aware of what you are committing to and make sure that you are comfortable with the terms of the agreement.

With that said, donating a horse to a university can be a very rewarding experience, and, with the right homework, a very beneficial one for you, the horse, the college, and the students who now get to learn from, love, and enjoy your horse!