In most states, trainers do not have an express statutory lien for unpaid training fees and training-related expenses unrelated to the care of horses such as show entry fees and hauling. This means, unless a trainer has a written security agreement signed by the owner providing a lien on the horses in the event of nonpayment of training fees, the law is unclear as to whether a trainer can hold or sell the owner's horse when training fees remain unpaid. You need to check your state's statutes, however, as some states' stableman's liens do expressly provide a lien for training services. Oklahoma's stableman's lien statute, for example, expressly includes a lien for training services. You can find your state's lien statutes on Equine Law and Horsemanship Safety.
What if My State Has a Stableman's or Agister's Lien Statute but No Trainer's Lien? Currently, every state except Rhode Island has a stableman's or agister's lien statute. These statutes provide those who care for, board, pasture, or stable the horses of another with a lien on the horse if charges related to the care of the horse are not paid. Charges related to the "care" typically include the monhtly board rate, supplements, wormer, vaccinations, farrier, and veterinary services paid or advanced by the caregiver on behalf of the owner, and other services related to the care, health, and maintenance of the horses. See Carney v. Wallen, 665 N.W.2d 439 (Iowa Ct. App. 2003)(holding that a trainer who provided only training and did not also provide board or other services related to the "care" of the horses could not obtain a stableman’s lien because training services do not pertain to actions or services performed in the course of acting as a stable keeper).
What if a Trainer Both Boards and Trains a Horse? In most states, a trainer who both boards and trains a horse has a lien on the horse for unpaid charges related to the care. See Davis v. Sewell, 696 S.W.2d 247, 248 (Tex. App.—Texarkana 1985, no writ)(holding that a person hired to both train and board horses had a lien arising from unpaid charges for the care). While the law is unclear in most states, an argument might be asserted that if an owner is current on his board and all charges related to the care and maintenance of the horses, a trainer must allow an owner to pick up his horse and cannot sell the horse to satisfy the unpaid training fees unrelated to the care and maintenance of the horses. If an owner is delinquent in both board and training, the trainer can hold the horse until fees for board and care are paid, and sell the horse to satisfy the board and care charges but not the training bill. There are no cases in Texas to-date that currently address the issue of whether training fees are included in the Texas stable keeper's lien.
What if a Trainer Has Been Boarding and Training a Horse, but There is No Boarding Agreement? Absent a contractual provision concerning remuneration, a stableman is entitled to the reasonable value of his services. O’Neal v. Knippa, 19 S.W. 1020 (Tex. 1892); Crenshaw v. Bishop, 143 S.W. 284 (Tex. Civ. App.—Fort Worth 1911). Thus, the amount of the lien in such circumstances would be the reasonable value of the boarding and care services in the area or county where they were provided. This will also depend on whether the service provided was stall board, pasture board, full care, etc.