Equine Law

Equine Law: Suits Happen. But Are You Liable? Let’s Find Out.

Equine Law

So you want to start a career in the horse industry. Great! That said, you’re going to have a lot on your plate. You have to find the right horses for your training or breeding program. You have to locate a facility that meets your needs. And you need the right clients to support and move your business forward. One thing you don’t need? The constant fear of horse lawsuits hanging over your head. But unfortunately, when it comes to the equestrian business, lawsuits are a fact of life. How well are you versed in Equine Law?

“Despite taking all feasible safety measures, there are always ‘built-in’ dangers while working with or around horses.”

“Lawsuits are filed before you can ask what happened and who did what to whom. Unfortunately, no one is completely immune from lawsuits, especially in the horse industry,” writes Yvonne C. Ocrant, Esq., in her article “The Purpose of the Equine Acts” for Equine Law 101.

Equine Law

Equine Law And Protections In Your State

With that in mind, states such as Illinois and Wisconsin, among others, have instituted Equine Activity Liability Acts. These acts aim to protect professionals and support horse sports and activities by reducing potential lawsuits. (Click here for a breakdown of state-by-state Equine Liability statutes.) How does it work? Glad you asked!

Equine Activity Liability Acts delineate the responsibilities and assumed risks of equine activities onto the participant. One way they do so is by posting state-specific “WARNING” signs at riding arenas or where equine activities are taking place. In other words: you choose to ride here, you assume the risks involved. In addition, properly drafted written contracts and releases need to contain this warning message, and that’s not all. They also need to be signed in advance of providing professional services, instruction, horses, or renting out equipment or tack. This can also help to limit liability exposure for trainers, horses professionals, or their businesses. But even with these measures in place, nothing is foolproof.

Equine Law

What Else Should I Know?

It’s important to note that Equine Activity Liability Acts aren’t meant to encourage negligent conduct. A trainer can’t willfully disregard safety, intentionally injure their riders (duh), or fail in their duties. For example, they can’t provide faulty tack or equipment to a lesson student. They can’t grossly mismatch a horse and rider combination. And they can’t fail to post warning signs—if, say, there are dangerous loose rocks on part of a riding path, etc.

So, if you are currently working as a pro, or are considering a career in the horse industry, how do you protect yourself in states with Equine Activity Liability Acts? Here are a handful of things to keep in mind.

Equine Activity Liability Acts To-Do List:

  1. Learn the exceptions to the protections under the Equine Acts in your state. Find out how they apply to your particular business.
  2. Inspect your tack and equipment regularly. Always do so before renting or lending it to others.
  3. Place noticeable warning signs near areas known to have dangerous conditions that riders might not see.
  4. Obtain detailed explanations of a rider’s experience and abilities before providing them with a horse.
  5. Monitor the general nature and disposition of each horse used for your lessons or rentals.
  6. Think big when it comes to utilizing equine liability releases. These should be properly drafted and signed by the immediate equine activity participant. But they also need to be completed by visitors to your facility. These include: event spectators, horse grooms and other handlers, and anyone accompanying a participant on the property where equine activity is taking place. (For instance, don’t forget about a student’s parents, grandparents, caregivers, etc.)
  7. Consider seeking the advice of a knowledgeable equine attorney. They can help you navigate your horse-related activities and the laws of the state in which they take place.
Equine Law, Yvonne Ocrant
Equine Law, Yvonne Ocrant

Yvonne Ocrant

An active participant in equine activities, Yvonne Ocrant uses her extensive knowledge of the industry to help individual horse owners; trainers; breeders; veterinarians; farriers; and riding, boarding and training facilities with their legal issues. She represents individuals and entities in claims involving the Equine Activity Liability Act, personal injury, property damage, breach of contract, fraud, misrepresentation and other legal issues. Yvonne also drafts contracts for horse purchases, sales, leases, breeding arrangements, syndicates, and commission payment terms, and creates equine activity liability releases for boarding and training facilities, trainers, transporters and other individuals and entities providing, sponsoring or participating in equine activities.

Equine Law, Yvonne Ocrant

Source: “Equine Law 101: The Purpose of the Equine Acts” by Yvonne C. Ocrant, Esq. Equine Attorney, Spring 2018.

This article is intended for informational and educational purposes only, and is provided with the understanding that PonyApp and the lawyer cited are not rendering legal advice. If you have questions regarding the subject matter, or are interested in consulting with a licensed attorney practicing equine law, contact: Yvonne C. Ocrant, Esq. |yocrant@hinshawlaw.com |312-704-3080

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