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I’m Not a Boarding Stable, BUT …

A backyard horse owner named Jane boards a few horses during the winter. Jane’s facility has box stalls and an indoor arena, making it desirable during the snowy winter months where Jane lives. Jane doesn’t view her activities as a business. She views herself as earning some extra money and helping friends.

What could go wrong? Plenty.

Legal Standards Can Be Higher for Businesses

In the eyes of the law, even if Jane’s business is intermittent, it’s still considered to be a business. Consequently, if a customer or business visitor is injured, a lawyer will seek to hold Jane to the standards of a business. This can be a problem with premises liability cases (such as slip and fall cases). For example, if a visitor or customer slips and falls on ice in the barn’s parking area, and accuses Jane of failing to take reasonable precautions, that lawyer will likely seek to hold Jane to a higher standard of care that businesses owe their customers.

Contract Limitations

People in Jane’s situation sometimes assume that boarding contracts and releases are all they need for protection against claims and suits, but that assumption is wrong. One day, a boarded horse might escape from the pasture, wander onto a nearby road, and injure or kill a motorist (who never signed a contract). Adding to the problem, even if Jane tried to invoke "indemnity or hold harmless" language in her contracts and expected a boarder to pay her legal defense costs and more, the boarder probably lacks the funds to do so.

Insurance Problems

If Jane is not insured for a business activity on her property, she’ll likely have no coverage under her homeowner’s insurance policy for the boarder’s slip and fall claim or the motorist’s injury claim because homeowner's insurance policies usually have a "business pursuit" exclusion, which prevents coverage. Now Jane is forced to retain a lawyer at her own expense. Worse, a judgment against Jane, if not paid, could potentially result in the party suing her forcing a sale of her property and assets.

Damage Control

Here are some ideas to consider for those seeking to board a few horses on an occasional basis:

  • Check with your insurance agent to make sure you're protected. You’ll need to purchase some form of commercial liability coverage or policy endorsement.
  • Have all visitors to the facility of legal age sign waivers/releases (where allowed by law). Have all boarders sign properly worded boarding contracts. Determine whether your state Equine Activity Liability Act requires special "warning" or other language in your contracts, as these laws often impose contract language requirements on equine businesses.
  • Check your property, including stall and fence areas, before boarders bring over horses to make sure you're comfortable with their condition.
  • Understand the obligations expected of you when you operate a small business such as inspections of property and arrangements to respond to possible hazards on the property.
  • Determine whether Equine Activity Liability Act "warning" signs should be posted on or near your property, as these laws often impose these requirements on equine businesses.
  • Discuss with your lawyer whether you should set up, and manage, a corporation or LLC for your small equine business activities.
  • Remember that releases do not substitute for liability insurance. Because people who sign releases can, and sometimes do, file lawsuits, make sure you are properly insured.

This blog post does not constitute legal advice. When questions arise based on specific situations, direct them to a knowledgeable attorney.

Categories: Boarding, Contracts, Insurance, Liability

Photo of Julie I. Fershtman

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 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.

Julie Fershtman’s Recent and Upcoming Equine Law Speaking Engagements Include:

National Conference on Equine Law in Louisville, Kentucky on April 29, 2020. Topic will be on Waivers/Releases of Liability Involving Minor Participants. 

U.S. Hunter Jumper Association (USHJA) Annual Convention in Denver, Colorado on December 10, 2019. Topic will be on Equine Liability. 

IRMI Emmett J. Vaughan Agribusiness Conference (“AgriCon”) in Sacramento, CA (April 2019), and Richmond, VA (June 2019) and in Des Moines, IA (September 2019), on topics of “Equine Activity Liability Acts” and “Equine Mortality Insurance Disputes.”

National Conference on Equine Law in May 2019 in Lexington, KY, on the topic of “Equine Activity Liability Act Updates” and liabilities involving hosting of equine clinics. 

Agricultural Claims Conference in Kansas City, MO, in March 2019 on topics of “Loose Livestock Liabilities.”

2018 American Bar Association Annual Meeting in Chicago, IL, on “Equine Mortality Coverage and Disputes.”

November 2018, American Horse Council webinar on “Equine Liability.”

Honors & Recognitions

Equine lawyer, Julie Fershtman, has received these prestigious equine industry awards from respected equine organizations:

"Excellence in the Advancement of Animal Law Award" - American Bar Association Tort Trial & Insurance Law Section Animal Law Committee

"Distinguished Service Award" - American Youth Horse Council

"Industry Service Award" - Michigan Equine Partnership

"Catalyst Award"- Michigan Horse Council

"Outstanding Achievement Award" - American Riding Instructors Association 

"Partner in Safety Award" - American Riding Instructors Association 

"Associate Service Award" - United Professional Horseman's Association

"National Partnership in Safety" Award" - Certified Horsemanship Association 

What our Equine Law Services can Provide

Handling breach of contract, fraud/ misrepresentation, commercial code, and other claims involving equine-related transactions including purchases/sales, leases, mare leases/foal transfers, and partnerships.

Litigating disputes in court or through alternative dispute resolution (arbitration, mediation, facilitation).

Defending equine/farm/equestrian industry professionals,  businesses, and associations in personal injury claims and lawsuits.

Drafting and negotiating contracts for boarding, training, sales, waivers/releases, leases, and numerous other equine-related transactions.

Representing and advising insurers on  coverage and policy language as well as litigation;

Advising equine industry clubs and associations regarding management, rules, bylaws, disputes, and regulations.

Representing some of the equine industry's top trainers, competitors, stables, and associations.

Counseling industry professionals, stable managers, and individual horse owners. 


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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