Holding On To Your Horses: Navigating Equine Assets in Divorce

Divorce proceedings are complex and fraught with emotional and financial challenges, and when horses are part of the marital assets, the stakes can feel as high as a championship ride. For most horse owners, our horse is not just an animal but a beloved companion, making determining ownership after a divorce particularly difficult. This article delves into the critical considerations of handling equine assets during a divorce, including valuation, the human-horse relationship, and ongoing financial responsibilities.

Valuation of Horses: More Than Just Property

Assets are typically divided equitably in a divorce, and horses are no exception. However, unlike passive assets, horses come with unique valuation challenges. They are often appraised based on age, breed, training, health, and competitive record. Determining a horse’s value requires expertise; hence, veterinarians or professional equine appraisers are often called upon to provide an accurate market value. This value can significantly impact the division of assets. For instance, a show jumper with a winning streak may be valued more than a retired trail horse, affecting how assets are balanced between parties.  In addition, a horse that costs a lot to purchase during the marriage may no longer be worth the same amount due to injury, age, or illness. A youngster purchased during the marriage may have increased in value because of training and competition results.

The Bond Beyond Price Tags

The relationship between an individual and their horse can be deeply personal and emotionally charged. Unlike inanimate objects, horses are sentient beings that owners have nurtured and formed bonds with. In most cases, one spouse will have a stronger attachment, having spent more time caring for and working with the horse. When negotiating who keeps the horse, it’s crucial to consider the legal ownership and this emotional connection. Mediation can play a vital role here, helping both parties reach an agreement that considers the welfare of the horse and the emotional needs of the individuals involved.

Ongoing Expenses: The Cost of Love

Owning a horse is a substantial financial commitment. Costs for stabling, feed, veterinary care, farrier services, and training can be significant. In a divorce, these ongoing expenses must be factored into the settlement. The party that takes ownership of the horse post-divorce will be responsible for these costs, which can determine who is best equipped to take on this responsibility. Furthermore, these expenses must be considered in other financial aspects of the divorce settlement, such as alimony or spousal support.

Legal Precedents and State Laws

The legal framework for handling horses in divorce can vary greatly depending on the jurisdiction. Some states may have specific statutes or case law that address animals in divorce, while others may lack precedent, leaving decisions up to the court’s discretion. Divorcing parties must familiarize themselves with local laws and seek attorneys versed in family and equine law to navigate these murky waters effectively.


Horses add a layer of complexity to divorce proceedings, intertwining legal, emotional, and financial threads. Accurate valuation requires expert insights, emotional connections demand careful consideration, and the ongoing costs of horse care necessitate thoughtful planning. Those involved should consult with experienced legal counsel and handle these issues with practicality and sensitivity, ensuring the well-being of the people and horses involved.

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