Wis. horse trainer loses dispute over show jumper

MILWAUKEE (AP) — A western Wisconsin horse trainer has lost a legal dispute over a show jumper, a case that gives a glimpse into the world of champion horses.

Amy Hunter, 43, of Viroqua, nursed and trained a sick Irish Draught horse for a wealthy out-of-state-owner. Hunter says the owner was so grateful she told her she could keep him. But after the horse, named Cradilo, regained Grand Prix show jumping status, the owner demanded the animal back.

The Wisconsin Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court decision and ruled Thursday in favor of Grace Shaw-Kennedy, of Clayton, Calif., the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Saturday (http://bit.ly/1fne4v5 ).

“It’s been pretty frustrating,” Hunter said. “Basically it means I live in the wrong state. Anywhere there’s some knowledge of the industry this would be different.”

As told in the decision, Shaw-Kennedy imported Cradilo from Ireland for about $35,000 in 1996 but turned over his care and management to business partner Kassandra Ladd. The horse competed in dressage events for a few years until he was slowed by a lung infection.

In 2006, Ladd gave Cradilo to Hunter with the understanding Hunter would use the animal for breeding and try to rehab him for a possible return to high-level competition. Hunter not only made Cradilo competitive, she rode him in events around the country and bred him with her own thoroughbred mares. Some of those offspring are now among the best 5-year-olds competing, Hunter said.

Eventually, the horse began competing again at the Grand Prix level, but Hunter couldn’t afford to keep him on the circuit, so Shaw-Kennedy sent Hunter about $13,000 a month. The payments that eventually totaled $217,000.

The checks stopped in 2011 and Shaw-Kennedy demanded Cradilo be returned, which Hunter said she wouldn’t do until she was repaid nearly $250,000 in expenses.

Shaw-Kennedy sued, and Hunter countersued for breach of contract and other damages. A trial court ruled in Shaw-Kennedy’s favor last year, and the horse went to California.

Hunter said she has taken a part-time job at the local jail and is in bankruptcy.

Rachel Cox, a board member of the Irish Draught Horse Association of North America, said she’s seen many misunderstandings among owners, breeders and trainers of expensive horses. She said owners underestimate the effort trainers put in, trainers can get very attached to specific animals and friends frequently don’t take care of the proper paperwork.

“You really need to cross the T’s and dot the I’s,” she said.

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Information from: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, http://www.jsonline.com

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