Equine law specialist Sophie Murgatroyd on her love of horses
- Credit: Archant
A Knutsford horsewoman who has Russian Cossack blood in her veins, says her job specialising in equine law is just perfect, writes Mairead Mahon.
Equine law specialist Sophie Murgatroyd has her Russian Cossack grandfather to thank for her love of horses.
‘I grew up on the family farm near Harrogate and when I was three, my grandfather surprised me with a small horse called Twinkle. Much to my parents’ amazement, he lifted me onto Twinkle without a saddle or indeed any tack whatsoever, saying that a girl with Russian Cossack blood didn’t need them,’ explains 27-year-old Sophie. She went on to win countless rosettes for show jumping and cross country and, although she uses tack and saddles today, still feels she is something of a cowgirl at heart.
Twinkle was the start of a lifelong love affair with horses and making sure there was room for them was at the top of Sophie’s wish list when searching for a home in the Cheshire countryside.
‘Yes, the house could have been an absolute palace but if it didn’t have room for stables, then it just didn’t cut the mustard,’ says Sophie who found her ideal home near Knutsford, where she lives with her Shiatsu, Kipper. The pair enjoy exploring the Cheshire countryside at weekends but it won’t be long until there are occupants in those stables.
‘I cannot live without horses and while my Cheshire friends are very kind and let me ride gorgeous horses such as Lostock Balboa, it will be fantastic to have horses living with me once again,’ says Sophie.
Sophie has two passions: one is all things horse and the other is the law. So, after qualifying as a solicitor in Manchester, she found a post as an equine law specialist at Bridge Law Solicitors, in Marple Bridge, enabling her to combine the two. Equine law is a very specialised field and Sophie finds herself dealing with clients from all over the UK.
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‘There are many strands to equine law and, although there aren’t yet many specialists in the field, it is becoming an area that people are starting to really appreciate. In the past, many dealings with horses would be conducted with a handshake and maybe a few lines written on the back of an envelope. But that relaxed approach can cause problems down the line,’ says Sophie, who finds clients are relieved when they realise they are talking to a fellow horse enthusiast and they don’t have to begin by explaining complex equestrian terms to her.
Every day is different for an equine law specialist, something Sophie relishes: ‘The most common issue is drawing up deeds of sale for a horse. They are expensive purchases and just as one wouldn’t buy a house or a car without written documentation, one shouldn’t buy a horse without it: after all, some horses can be just as expensive as those things.
‘We want to make sure the horse is just as described. Every horse has its own personality: some love travelling, some are happy to be in busy environments, so it is best to have as much written down as possible, so everyone knows, as far as possible, what to expect from the horse,’ says Sophie, who prides herself on never forgetting the name of any horse that metaphorically crosses her desk!
Other equine legal matters can include issues with vets, livery or stud fees, injuries or damage caused to or by a horse, or problems with shared ownership.
‘One client had a share in a very expensive stallion, which meant they would have benefitted from any foals he sired. However, the other owner felt the horse would be calmer if it was gelded. It wasn’t discussed first, so you can imagine the massive surprise my client had when he was told the news, especially, when the stallion’s sperm hadn’t been harvested before gelding,’ explains Sophie, who managed to resolve what became a complicated matter.
As well as having a national reputation for her equine law expertise, Sophie is also known for her calm manner and ability to mediate matters before they mushroom into massive problems.
‘Yes, that is important to me and it can quite often keep legal fees down, although my clients never get a nasty shock with those. I always tell people what the likely amount will be and cap it: quite often, it isn’t as much as people think. Sometimes, matters can be resolved by ‘phone or email. In any event, I adore talking about horses and so I’m very happy to see people in the first instance to just have a chat about the problem,’ says Sophie.
Sophie has her dream job. The only downside is that she can fall in love too easily with her four-legged clients but that’s a risk she’s willing to take and, in the meantime, she is certainly making her Cossack ancestors proud.