Things you should know about agistment for horses
Many horse owners keep their horses on land that is owned by someone else. This is called horse agistment.
Unfortunately disputes can arise, usually over horse agistment fees. To clarify the rights of landholders and horse owners in these situations, changes were made to the laws that cover horse agistment – the Impounding of Livestock Act, 1994.
Agistment: A landholder allows another person's horse to be kept, or agisted, on his or her property for a fee.
Lien: A legal process that gives the landholder possession over the agisted horse until money owed on it for agistment is paid or the horse is sold.
Written agreement: A legally binding document, signed by both the landholder and horse owner, detailing the terms of agistment.
Did you know?
- Changes to the Impounding of Livestock Act 1994 are designed to protect landholders and horse owners when there is a dispute about payment of horse agistment fees.
- An agisted horse can now be held by a landholder, under a lien, until all money owing on it by the horse's owner is paid.
- Horse owners have 14 days to pay owing agistment fees. After that time, landholders can create a lien over the horse.
- A landholder can claim up to three months of owing agistment fees.
- Agistment arrangements can be either written or verbal (spoken).
- The Impounding of Livestock Act 1994 agistment lien provisions can not be used where a written agistment agreement already exists that contains a payment default clause.
Benefits of written agreements over verbal agreements
In a written agreement, the terms of agistment are clearly stated so there is less chance of a dispute arising through misunderstandings.
Both the landholder and horse owner know exactly what their responsibilities are, what the fees are, when they are due and what happens if they are not paid.
This also prevents the landholder having to care for a horse that is not being paid for.
Creating a lien
- The landholder must serve a 'default notice' on the horse owner in accordance with the Impounding of Livestock Act 1994.
- The horse owner has 28 days to pay the money owing.
- Once 28 days has passed, if the money is still owing, the landholder may sell the horse at public auction or by public tender to recover his/her costs.
Refer to the below agistment kit for details on the agistment lien process.
Once a lien is created, the horse owner must not remove the horse without the consent of the lien holder. However, if the horse owner pays the money owing or the lien holder signs a notice withdrawing the default notice, the horse owner can recover possession of the horse.
As a final act, the horse may be exchanged, disposed of or destroyed in accordance with the Impounding of Livestock Act 1994 if it does not sell at public auction or by public tender.
If the horse is unsuitable for sale, it may be exchanged, disposed of or destroyed without first offering it or sale if a veterinary certificate stating that the horse is unsuitable for sale is obtained.
A kit of information about agisting horses is available below. This kit includes:
- description of how the new horse agistment lien legislation works
- step-by-step guide on how to create a lien under the Impounding of Livestock Act
- sample Default Notice
- sample Newspaper Notice
- guidelines for creating a written agistment agreement
- sample basic written agistment agreement (WORD - 29.5 KB)
- factsheet on Horse Agistment Liens
Information sheets for horse agistment situations
- Code of Practice for the Welfare of Horses
- Condition Scoring of Horses
- Small Farms- Grazing Management
Note that a person using the above information should conduct independent enquiries to verify its accuracy, and its application to him or her.