At Equine Legal Solutions, we are often asked if buyers can do anything to procure the papers of horses that are registered, but sold to them without papers. To answer that question, it is helpful to analyze the common reasons why registered horses are sold without papers.
The seller of a registered horse may retain the registration papers of a horse to limit the ways in which the horse can be used. For example, racehorse owners often retain the Jockey Club papers of former racehorses being sold at a nominal price to a non-race home. This prevents the horse from being raced again at some later date. In the case of mares, it also prevents the horse from being used as a broodmare to produce Jockey Club registered foals. In these circumstances, it is typically impossible to obtain the horse's registration papers.
Not Wanting a Breeding Record
Some breeders who have produced undesirable stock will sell those horse without papers, even though the horses are registered (or eligible for registration) because the breeders do not want the general public to know where those horses came from. For example, it is fairly common for Paint stallion owners not to register solid offspring with the American Paint Horse Association, even though they are eligible for registration as Solid Bred Paints. If solid foals are not registered, APHA get of sire records will reflect only colored foals, leading prospective breeding customers to believe that the stallion's color production rate is higher than it really is. Similarly, a breeder whose stallion has produced a poorly conformed foal may not wish to register that foal and instead sell it as a grade horse, thereby reducing the chances that anyone will ever know that the stallion produced that foal. In these cases, too, it is usually impossible to obtain the horse's registration papers.
In many cases, the seller may not deliver the registration papers simply because the seller does not have them. Often, the seller has purchased the horse on installments from the original owner (who held onto the papers pending final payment), and the seller has not finished paying the original owner. To find out who the registered owner of the horse is, call the breed association. If the registered owner is someone other than the seller, sometimes you can obtain the horse's papers by calling the registered owner and paying off whatever amount that person was still owed on the horse. The breed association will generally provide you with the name of the registered owner, but not their contact information. To track down registered owners, you may find resources such as www.whitepages.com and www.intelius.com very helpful.