Equestrian Esquire | Featuring Attorney Erin Prutow
Have you ever thought about the legality behind owning or leasing a horse? There are so many various situations where it is vital to have legal documentation for your fur baby. Erin is a Southern Californian Equestrian with a law degree, so naturally she now focuses on Equine law and I had the opportunity to catch up with her.
Tell us more about you, your past with riding and how you came to start Equestrian Esquire.
I grew-up in horse country in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, showing amongst some of the greatest riders of our time up and down the east coast. Completely horse obsessed, I spent countless hours in the saddle, scouring the racehorse auctions for talented jumpers who could transition from the track to the show ring. From the ponies through the equitation medals, I was always looking for catch-rides, braiding and grooming to pay for horse shows and religiously watching my grand prix idols warm-up and show their horses. I was recruited to ride at Oklahoma State University where I rode in the varsity over-fences division, was elected team captain and maintained a 4.0 GPA in the honors college. After graduation I decided to go to law school at Emory University in Atlanta where I continued to ride on the weekends as a working student for various jumper trainers outside of the city. I moved to Los Angeles for a litigation project after law school and never turned back—the city had everything I could ever want: horses, surfing, mountain biking, concerts, restaurants, great hiking—and of course, that famous SoCal weather. After a few years of working in music law and then at small firm, I decided to take a leap of faith and start my own practice. I have always wanted to practice animal law and use my knowledge of the equestrian industry to help create transparency in an area often riddled with fraud. Beyond contract disputes, I do business incorporations for horse vendors and barns, I design estate plans for horse families and property owners and I represent equestrians in hobby-loss cases in the Federal Tax Court. Mostly importantly, running my own practice gives me the flexibility to ride! I am self-motivated to a fault and sincerely care about developing long-standing positive personal relationships with my clients. So far I have been super fortunate to have incredible clients and mentors that have stood by my practice and helped me grow. I am a firm believer that you must be your own top advocate—no one gives you permission to follow your dreams, you take that first step and then diligently pursue them.
How often do you ride/compete and how do you balance a job and being an active equestrian?
Riding is, and has been for the last 25 years, my sanity. As an extremely active person, riding is the one place where my mind and body are completely focused. I try to ride 2-4 days a week and even dust off my show coat a few times each year.
What are your top suggestions when entering into a contract, lease, purchase or content agreement with a rider/trainer/leaser/lease?
When contracting a horse transaction I highly recommend planning for the contingencies. Be honest about the horse’s ability, experience and soundness, the more you disclose in the initial agreement, the less the buyer/leaser can claim was hidden from them in the event the transaction goes south.
How do you turn a negative situation, when a vendor doesn't follow through with payment, into a positive to relieve the situation and get payment?
Non-payment is a common issue my firm handles. This sport is extremely expensive and with that comes high carrying costs. I advocate for vendors, farriers, haulers, barn owners and draft a formal demand to all non-paying clients putting them on notice of the legal consequences of non-payments and outlining the case against them. The industry is small and reputations get put on the line. That usually motivates the party in question to work things out.
What sort of trends are you seeing in the Equestrian Market around legal issues or best practices when signing into agreements involving horses?
As the industry morphs towards being more digitally accessible, we have the opportunity to make things better. We need bright young minds to translate the skills and passions of the horsemen who came before them. I have been actively coordinating with the next generation of equestrian entrepreneurs on ways to innovate our industry and we look forward to the improvements ahead!
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