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Letting Someone Ride Your Horse? Consider the Legalities

“Can I borrow your horse?” We hear this question from friends, acquaintances, co-workers, and relatives. When we answer “yes,” what usually follows is a fun and pleasurable experience. Sometimes, however, the opposite holds true, someone is hurt, and a lawsuit follows.

This article briefly discusses why people sue others who lend out horses and offers some suggestions for horse owners to try to protect themselves.

Liabilities of Lending

Why could you be at risk when you lend out your horse to a friend? The answer is simple: As the horse’s owner, you are the prime target if the horse should injure your friend or if the horse injures someone else while your friend is using it. Examples could include:

  • The horse throws your friend, and your friend now claims that you knew or should have known of the horse’s unusual propensities to throw riders.
  • After your friend has fallen, your horse runs loose onto a highway and collides with a car. The injured motorist and passengers might claim that you, as the horse owner, are responsible.

Whether or not the horse owner really should be sued is not the issue. The fact is, injured people will sometimes blame (and sue) everyone having any connection to the horse or the accident.

How Equine Liability Acts Affect the Arrangement

As of April 2013, 46 states have passed laws that, in some way, are designed to limit or control liabilities in certain equine related activities. All of these laws differ, but many share common characteristics. When lawsuits are brought involving an equine activity liability act, a common provision under many statutes is the exception that applies to horse owners or equine professionals who “provide the equine and fail to make reasonable and prudent efforts to determine the ability of the participant to engage safely in the equine activity and determine the ability of the participant to safely manage the particular equine based on the participant’s representations of his or her ability.” Whether the horse owner eventually wins or loses depend on the facts and the applicable law.

Tips for Avoiding Liability

To reduce their risks of legal or financial liability, horse owners can do several things such as:

Liability insurance. Insurance policies can protect horse owners from claims that might be brought against them involving the actions of their horses. Policies include, for example, Commercial General Liability Insurance or Equine Professional Liability Insurance for equine professionals, and Personal Horse Owner's Liability Insurance (some insurers call it “Private Horse Owner’s Liability Insurance”). Homeowner’s liability insurance policies may or may not protect the average horse owner who lends out a horse. Discuss your coverage with a knowledgeable insurance agent, and make sure you are properly protected.

Liability Waivers/Releases. In most states, well-written liability releases can be powerful and enforceable, if they are properly drafted and signed. People who sign releases can, and occasionally do, file lawsuits so remember that having a liability release is not a substitute for liability insurance.

Informed Decisions. As you match your horses with people who ask to use them, keep in mind your horses’ histories, dispositions, and training as well as the ages and experience levels of the people who want to handle or ride them.

Conclusion

This blog post is not meant to suggest that people should not lend out their horses to others. Rather, it is designed to make people aware that these actions can sometimes carry consequences and to help people prepare for them.

This article does not constitute legal advice. When questions arise based on specific situations, direct them to an attorney.

Categories: Insurance, Liability

Photo of Julie I. Fershtman
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is considered to be one of the nation's leading attorneys in the field of equine law. A frequent author and speaker on legal issues, she has written over 400 published articles, three books, and has lectured at seminars, conventions, and conferences in 29 states on issues involving law, liability, risk management, and insurance. For more information, please also visit www.fershtmanlaw.com and www.equinelaw.net, and www.equinelaw.info.

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Our Equine law blog (and its author) in the news!

Julie Fershtman, author of our popular and prolific Equine Law Blog, was interviewed this week by the State Bar of Michigan. The interview, which called Fershtman "Lawyer-Blogger," discussed our Equine Law Blog. We truly believe that this blog is the nation's most active blog serving the equine industry on equine law topics, and we thank you for visiting it. Read more here.

Honors & Recognitions

Congratulations, Julie! We're proud to share that Julie Fershtman has received two prestigious awards.

On April 13, 2013, she received the American Youth Horse Council's 2013 "Distinguished Service" Award. As the award itself states, she received it "[i]n recognition of years of dedicated service to the American Youth Horse Council and tireless efforts to touch the lives of youth involved with horses." For more information about the American Youth Horse Council, please visit www.ayhc.com/.

On May 7, 2013, Julie received the 2013 "Industry Award" from the Michigan Equine Partnership for her work over the years supporting legislation to promote and protect the Michigan equine industry. For more information about the Michigan Equine Partnership, please visit www.miequine.com/.

RECENT EQUINE LAW COURTROOM VICTORY

We're pleased to share that Julie just won a case in Michigan where she defended a boarding and training stable that was sued by a visitor who was injured in the barn aisle. Julie cautions that this case might have been avoided altogether if the stable required every visitor to sign its waiver/release of liability. (Julie, interestingly, drafted that stable's release document years ago but the stable only presented it to customers.) Make sure that your release is well-worded and complies with the laws of your state.

Other Articles

"The Seller's Contract Includes an "As Is" Disclaimer – Now What?" - Desert Mirage Magazine, August 2013

Win Equine law Books!

We're always on the lookout for good article and update ideas for the Equine Law Blog. Please share yours! We'll give the sender of best tip of the month a free copy of Julie Fershtman's books, EQUINE LAW & HORSE SENSE and MORE EQUINE LAW & HORSE SENSE. Click here to send your ideas. [For more info on these and other publications written by Julie Fershtman, please visit www.equinelaw.net and www.equinelaw.info or call her directly at (248) 785-4731.]

Large Step Forward for the Horse Industry

We applaud the American Horse Council (www.horsecouncil.org) for its national marketing initiative for the horse industry. The AHC joined together ten national associations and large corporate industry stakeholders to make this happen. We await its marketing plan, which will propose ways to help people become more interested in horses and equine activities, either as participants or spectators.

THE NATION'S MOST SOUGHT-AFTER EQUINE LAW SPEAKER

Did you know Julie Fershtman has spoken at the American Horse Council Annual Meeting, Equine Affaire, Midwest Horse Fair, Equitana USA, US Dressage Federation Annual Meeting, North American Riding for the Handicapped (now PATH International) Annual Meeting, American Morgan Horse Association Annual Meeting, American Paint Horse Association Annual Meeting, US Pony Clubs, Inc.'s Annual Meeting, All-American Quarter Horse Congress, American Youth Horse Council Annual Meeting, American Riding Instructors Association Annual Meeting, CHA Annual Meeting, and numerous others? Consider signing her up for your convention. Contact Julie.

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