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Love of horses becomes legal service opportunity

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This summer, Best Best & Krieger turned the passion of several of its attorneys for horses and the equine community into a specialty legal practice.

The equine law group was formed by Cyndy Day-Wilson, a partner in the firm’s Environmental and Natural Resources practice, to address a clear lack of legal resources for businesses and individuals active in equestrian pursuits.

“I have a life-long passion for horses and currently own four of them,” Day-Wilson said. “I found that I was regularly answering legal questions when attending horse shows and decided it was time to merge my professional and personal interest in equine issues.”

Day-Wilson started researching attorneys who specialized in equine law and came up short.

“There are not a lot of equine specialists available,” she said. “I found a few attorneys who specialize in the racing industry and a firm that focuses on liability issues, but equine law from a business, land use and environmental perspective seemed to be unique.”

Day-Wilson is joined in the group by fellow equestrians, Bill Thomas, Lindsay Puckett and Margaret “Peggy” Hosking. The four attorneys bring expertise in land use, environmental law, business and real estate and are active in the equestrian community. Best Best & Krieger is a recognized leader in issues related to natural resources, real estate and environmental law, so branching out to include horses and horse facilities with individual attorneys who have a strong practical background with equine issues was a natural extension of that expertise.

The equine practice attorneys are spread throughout Best Best & Krieger’s California offices. Day-Wilson and Puckett are in San Diego, while Hosking is in Riverside and Thomas is in Sacramento.

The equine group is actively involved in advising clients on the purchase, sale or lease of horses and horse facilities, syndicates, equine insurance, boarding disputes, breeding disputes, importation issues, land use, water issues, liability, risk management and myriad other business related matters. Clients include owners, trainers, horse parks, horse associations, nonprofit entities, tack and feed stores and other equestrian businesses.

Day-Wilson says that manure management is a big issue for horse and stable owners. Knowing the laws pertaining to this issue, as well as several others pertaining to horses, can help prevent thousands of dollars in fines for clients.

In San Diego, the equine group expects to generate the most business from North County, but they hope to establish a state-wide, if not a national, presence.

“We have amazing talent in the horse industry in San Diego, especially in North County,” Day-Wilson said. “We have former Olympians and world champions living in San Diego County. There is a wealth of experience right here in our own backyard. We felt that the piece of the puzzle that was missing was the legal piece.”

The first hurdle will be getting the word out about this unique practice.

“Most people don't know where to turn for questions they have about legal issues pertaining to horses and horse facilities,” Day-Wilson said. “Just after we launched our sub group, we had a woman call the front desk looking for this kind of advice, but she had no idea that we had just decided to start a specialized group to address these topics.”

Best Best & Krieger is currently rolling out their equine practice group to the legal community and has started to inform the horse industry that there is someone to turn to when a legal issue arises. The industry will soon see their presence in organizations and horse shows.

Day-Wilson augments her work in equine law with transactional and litigation services related to storm water compliance, hazardous waste contamination, California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) issues, land use permitting, entitlement issues and even manure management. Day-Wilson is a member of the California Dressage Society and the Dressage Association of Southern California. She and her most recent purchase, a thoroughbred “Max”, are currently at Training Level. She also is trying her hand at cutting with her Palomino Paint.

Thomas a lifelong cattleman and stockhorse owner, has non-legal expertise in reined cowhorse, cutting, rodeo, roping and stockhorse training. An officer of the Cattlemen’s Association, Thomas owns several quarter horses and is an avid roper and stockhorse rider. He is also an active member of the Rancheros Visadores and competes in stockhorse, cutting and roping competitions through that organization. Thomas practices in the areas of livestock, water quality, natural resources, and agricultural law.

Hosking, a life-long horsewoman, has competed nationally in hunters, jumpers, equitation and dressage. She is currently campaigning a mare she started two years ago. They just returned from championships where the mare, Phoebe, won USDF Region 7 Horse of the Year Training Level. Phoebe is also the top German Oldenburg Verband Horse in the United States at First Level. In 2008, Hosking hopes to campaign Phoebe at Second and Third Level. Hosking is a board member of the Pomona Chapter of California Dressage Society and of the Saddle & Harness Association, and she is an active member of several regional and national organizations including USEF, USDF, USHJA, CDS and DASC.

Although her primary legal focus is Best Best & Krieger’s corporate and real estate clients, Hosking has successfully negotiated several purchase and sale agreements, leases, training agreements, breeding agreements and has resolved disputes involving show horses and breeding stallions.

Beyond equine law, Best Best & Krieger offers a complete range of services for not only horse enthusiasts but also public agencies, private companies, entrepreneurs and individuals. The firm has 13 practice areas and multiple sub specialties in its eight offices throughout the state. The San Diego office is home to 35 attorneys.

Whitelaw is a senior consultant with TW2 Marketing Inc.

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