University of Vermont AAHS


Larry Shallcross
Attorney at Law
AAHS Vice-President, Legal Services

[reproduced from Winter 2001 issue of Caution:Horses]

            As horse traders know, the best determination of the value of a horse is what a willing seller will sell it for and what a willing buyer will pay for it.

            Horse appraisals are generally employed where a case or controversy has occurred or it is likely to occur.

            What are some of the circumstances when appraisal of a horse is needed?

            Litigation involving valuation of assets in practically any form, including but not limited to family law, criminal proceedings, bankruptcy, secured transactions and insurance claims for death or loss of use.

            Value is a tricky issue.  If the horse died and is insured the policy may well provide for “market value” or “replacement value”.  The insurance company has taken a premium based on some asserted value of the horse by the owner; it is rare that a insurance company conducts an independent appraisal prior to the issuance of a policy. However it is not unusual for the company to question value at the time a loss occurs, which may require the owner to prove the claimed value in order to collect the face amount of the policy.

            Example. Owner purchases a horse for $35,000.00. The horse is insured for the value of the sale. The horse is a two-year-old stallion. A year later the horse is entered in several horse shows, it does well and is qualified to be exhibited in the breed’s National Show. The owner sells a couple of breedings to the stallion for the following year at $2,000.00 per breeding. The owner asks the insurance company to increase the policy to $100,000. The insurance company issues a new policy for mortality coverage with a face value of $100,000. The horse dies. The policy has language providing that it will pay replacement value not to exceed the amount of $100,000. Insurance company contests the value at the time of death.

            Selecting the appraiser is the first and most critical step. The fact that one is well qualified in the area of horse conformation, including physiology of the horse, in this authors opinion, will not carry the day if the appraiser is not familiar with the particular breed of horse and that breed’s relative value in the current market economy. Trends in horses change, to say nothing of the changes within breed organizations themselves. Therefore the appraiser must understand consumer market trends of the breed he or she is appraising.

When responsible parties are attempting to fix the market or replacement value of a particular horse, there are many factors; as each animal is a unique individual, the notion of value may differ. The horse owner may have an opinion much different than the employed expert.

            Establishing a criterion is critical to sort out potential differences in the opinions of appraisers. The following list should be considered.

1.                  Breed / registration certificate

2.                  Age

3.                  Sex

4.                  Pedigree

5.                  Pertinent data: show record; racing record; training history

6.                  If the horse competes in endurance, competitive trail, a full history of the competition record.

7.                  Breeding history if a mare or stallion.

8.                  If a stallion, what was its stud fee and how many breedings have been sold in the past and at what price.

9.                  If a brood mare, the sales record, show record and or race record of its foals.

10.              Color

11.              Veterinary records.

12.              Conformation to the degree it can be determined from pictures and or video.

13.              Examination of Horse: If available

a. Markings

b.      Height (hands)

c. Pictures

d.      Video

1.      At rest

2.      Trotting

3.      Under saddle, if applicable

e. Veterinary Examination

1.      Soundness for performance

2.      Soundness for breeding

3.      Blood typing/DNA

4.      Blood work


Should the report from the appraiser be in writing? While lawyers may not want initial reports reduced to writing, if the appraisal is to be submitted as evidence in a court proceeding then it will need to be reduced to writing.

            The final report should include the following:

1. A description of the horse appraised, including photographs.   

2. The purpose of the appraisal,

            3. Market value defined.

4.      Assumption made and any limiting conditions.

5.      Copy of the registration certificate.

6.      Copy of the pedigree.

7.      Description of the individual markings of the horses.

8.      Show record or race record.

9.      Veterinary report together with results of all blood analysis and reports

10.   Resume of the person offering the appraisal.

 It is imperative to find someone who is knowledgeable about the particular breed in question. Normally a horse that is unregistered will have a lesser value than a horse that has "papers” from a recognized breed association.

Age is a factor in either very young animals or in those who have passed their peak and in the twilight of their years, generally horses over the age of 16. Weanling and yearlings are sold and bought on conformation, looks and pedigree. Looks! What is that? It may be in the eye of the beholder, sometimes observable to the uneducated eye, but it is often that indefinable quality of an individual that makes it special.

If the horse is a mare and or stallion that has not reproduced, value as a breeding animal cannot be established. If the mare or stallion has produced significant off spring, such information will be of importance in establishing value. While the laws in most jurisdiction do not permit speculation for lost of future revenue from the sale of foals or stud fees the information is relevant in determining market value at the time of lost. If the appraisal is of a living animal the data is important for determining market value of a living producing mare or stallion. If the horse is a gelding its value is going to be confined to its highest and best use.

Pedigree can be a major factor in determining value. If the horse comes from a valued sire or dam line and has performed well in the breeding shed, the show ring, the track or made some other recognized contribution, the pedigree may receive greater emphasis.

Conformation cannot be ignored. However, if the horse is dead or unavailable and the appraisal is conducted from photographs and or videotape, caution is advised in placing too much reliance on such reproduced images. If the horse is alive, the appraiser should personally examine the individual. Pictures and video should be used to record the then impressions of the appraiser and to document color and markings.

The show or performance record of the individual speaks volumes and should, when available be attached to the appraisal.

Breeding records should also be included whenever available. These records should include the stud fee and sale price of the resulting foals. The stallion’s service fee should be documented. The best evidence would be a copy of his stallion service contract. Stallions can continue to produce well into their teens. Some breeds permit the stallion’s sperm to be kept frozen for later use. The appraiser should provide all such data if it is permitted by the breed association. Records of the stallion’s registered foals should be obtained from the breed organization as supporting evidence.

Why color? In part it is verification of the registration records. In some cases it is a significant factor. Color breeds such a Dun, Palomino, Paint or Pinto horses are evaluated in part on their color or colors.

Veterinary records are of great value in providing insight about the horse and may confirm or not questions of conformation, or general health. Radiographic studies should be included if available. If the horse is a stallion, semen analysis should be included whenever such records are obtainable. If the stallion is alive, providing such semen analysis is critical. If the stallion is deceased and the breed permits the use of frozen semen, testing the semen will be very important to determine the value at the time of death. If the horse is deceased a copy of a necropsy may be significant if one was performed.

When asking for or reviewing an appraisal the above factors may be helpful in determining the quality of the effort and perhaps the qualifications of the one offering the opinion. While certainly it is not an exact science, it is a practiced trade based upon knowledge, training and experience. Current knowledge of market conditions is critical in obtaining a fair evaluation of the horse or horses.

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