Legal Question in Civil Litigation in Iowa

my friend was just recently given a horse. she did not sign any papers saying that she could not get rid of the horse, she did sign some papers saying that the horse could not be given to a sale barn and if she could not afford it the horse is supposed to go back. she traded the original horse for another horse and she loves this horse now. the people that she traded with are selling be original horse, so the previous owner of the first horse is threatening to sue saying that she breached contract when the horse was never originally in her name anyways. My friend had no contract with the new owners and has a bill of sale with all hand offs

Asked on 5/20/13, 8:27 am

2 Answers from Attorneys

Robert Luedeman solo practitioner

The agreement your 'friend' has is that she was gifted an animal with the express condition that it not be sold at a sale barn, and if she couldn't afford to keep the horse she was supposed to give it back.

So she traded horses with some other people who are now going to sell the original horse, and the original owners who gifted the horse to your "friend" are feeling put out.

You say the horse was never in your 'friend's name anyway, so how could she have any ownership rights to dispose of it? That means if she had no ownership she could not sell or trade it away. I think your friend was merely given the use of the animal.

I think your friend has a problem. She needs to come up with the money to pay for the first horse or risk being sued.

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Answered on 5/20/13, 3:23 pm

Stephen Lombardi Lombardi Law Firm

It seems this was a conditional gift and from what you're related the condition hasn't yet been met that would require returning the horse. But I suspect that is not the point of your question. Of course it's doubtful the people making the gift will ever give your friend anything else, but that's another matter. The moral of this story is, "Don't look a gift horse in the mouth." I would suggest you contact the gift giver and attempt to explain how much you appreciate the gift and the horse for which you traded. You see the law can't solve every problem nor does it try. Understanding this old expression of gratitude will go a long way towards you mending fences with the gift giver. This comes from "Know Your Phrase".

It means: When you receive a gift from someone, do not be ungrateful.

You should never look a gift horse in the mouth. Wait, what does that even mean? Think of it this way: if someone was polite enough to give you your very own horse as a gift, would you then inspect the animal to see if it's of good quality, especially when the person who gave the horse to you is standing right there? Of course not, that would be rude!

Apparently, though, there were those who would inspect the horse, particularly the mouth region, in order to determine the horses age. Yeah, you can do that. The length of a horses teeth can be used as an indicator for their age; the longer the teeth, the older the horse.

According to Wikitionary, this phrase can be traced back to Eusebius Jerome, who was a famous translator of the Bible. He translated it into the Latin language, and lived in the 4th century CE.

Apparently, Jerome had used this phrase in one of his writings, as he penned the words:

"Never inspect the teeth of a gift horse."

Interestingly, the expression seems to have kept its original meaning from his day all the way to modern times.

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Answered on 5/22/13, 9:19 am

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