Equine Law

Here’s a niche for the eager young lawyer: equine law (or might we say “equiny” — emphasis on the ‘whinny’ ). Makes sense, of course. There’s “a law” of pretty much anything of value in our culture. Horses, though their general use preceded the death of the buggy whip by a bit, are still with us, or some of us, that is, and are bought, sold, trained, treated, and, sadly, mistreated, all events that can have legal ramifications.

I happened across Equine Law and Horsemanship Safety, A resource for horsemen, lawyers and law students, a site at the University of Vermont, which got me wondering about this specialty. So far as I can judge from a cursory look, by comparison with the resources respecting the U.S., there’s precious little on the internet about Canadian equiny. I found a couple of lawyers who advertise that they practice equine law (Karen Thompson-Harry, Willson Lewis), and a pathfinder on the Osgoode Hall Great Library site, which lists texts from America, the U.K. and Australia. (Here’s a book opportunity for the new Canadian equiny specialist.) And that’s about it.

A little work on CanLII shows that if you exclude racing and betting there are a meagre six statutes and regs in English speaking Canada that have “horse” in their titles, but an ample 440 that have “horse” within their text, ranging from Nunavut’s Herd and Fencing Act (. . . “s.11(3) No person shall own or possess a horse that has not been given the Coggins test.” . . .) through Ontario’s Livestock, Poultry and Honey Bee Protection Act (the categorizer in me is delighted by this title, though the act leads off ominously with “When dogs may be killed.”) to the Newfoundland and Labrador Personal Property Security Act (. . . “s.35(9) A perfected security interest in fowl, cattle, horses, sheep, swine or fish . . .”). So, taken together with the nearly 3,000 cases that mention “horse,” there’s no shortage of raw material for a practice or a text.

So, young greenhorn, what are you waiting for? Giddyap!


  1. Simon – surely you follow the learned journal Horse Law, a panel of equine specialists and the standard work.

    Horse law

  2. I remember as an articled clerk, doing research on a file involving the sale of a horse who turned out to be ill. The sole authority cited by the plaintiff in its demand letter was a magazine by some name such as “Horse Monthly”. I recall that the specific article cited was entitled “The Law–It’s Out There”. It was perhaps one of my favourite citations ever.

    I recall, in my research memo, criticizing the author of the article for not citing any sources, leaving the law “out there” for the reader to discover on their own. I was very clever back then.

  3. Kevin – thanks to the wonders of the Internet. And its author is still practising equine law in Ontario.

  4. Those of us who have toiled in the virtual fields of e-commerce cannot help thinking of the debate between Justice Easterbrook and Lawrence Lessig about whether e-commerce was a new area of law.

    The learned justice said not, just as (he said) there was no such thing as the Law of the Horse in the 19th century, though horses were everywhere. Likewise though e-communications were becoming ubiquitous, existing categories of legal rules were sufficient to deal with them.

    Professor Lessig disagreed, pointing out some issues raised by e-communications that cast new light on the law.

    More recently Professor Gautrais, sometime of this blog, held a colloquium to mark 15 years of the commercial use of the Internet, asking “Is e-commerce law different?” under the sign of the horse.

    It is a useful reminder of the continuity of the law that real horses continue to need legal representation too.

  5. And in case people are sceptical of the relevance of the law of the horse, here is The Court blog this week (yesterday, in fact) with a key decision about horses.