In addition to creating contractual rights and duties, horse boarding arrangements form what is referred to as a bailment relationship. According to Oklahoma law, “[a] voluntary bailment is made by one giving to another, with his consent, the possession of personal property to keep for the benefit of the former… .” Okla. Stat. tit. 15, §442.
In the context of horse boarding, the horse owner is the bailor, and the horse boarding facility the bailee. Because of the law of bailment, liability for a horse boarding facility can arise not only through the breach of an express or implied contractual obligation but also through negligence on the part of the horse boarding facility. In this special bailment relationship, horse boarding facilities owe a duty of ordinary care or that “which a reasonably careful” horse boarding facility “would use under the same or similar circumstances.” Okla. Stat. tit. 15, §466.
Liability for the horse owner loss will not be found if the horse boarding facility can show it provided services and care consistent with the services and care another horse boarding facility would have provided under the same type of conditions. However, if the horse owner can prove that first a bailment relationship existed and then second the horse boarding facility failed to provide reasonable care while caring for the owner’s horse, the horse owner is entitled to the value of the horse. Okla. Stat. tit. 15, §460. On the other hand, if the horse owner is unable to establish both the existence of a bailment relationship and the failure to provide reasonable care, absent some contractual obligation, the horse boarding facility is not liable for any loss to the horse owner.
Because each dispute is unique, this general post on bailment law is not intended to give legal advice. You should seek the advice of an attorney who would be in the best position to give you legal counsel.