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Watch Out For Horse Show Liabilities

We expect judges to appear at horse shows.  But horse shows sometimes appear before judges – in a courtroom.


Participants and spectators are occasionally injured at shows.  When this happens, they sometimes sue under theories of negligence or an applicable state equine activity liability act.  Both are discussed briefly below.


The one who brings a case of negligence (called the “plaintiff”) claims that the one allegedly at fault (called the "defendant”) failed to act as a reasonably prudent person would have under similar circumstances.  In one case, a cutting horse competitor died in competition when his horse slipped and fell over on him.  His estate brought a negligence claim against show management claiming that it was unreasonable by failing to install a thicker layer of footing over the arena’s cement floor.

Equine Liability Acts

As of June 2011, 46 states (all but California, Maryland, Nevada, and New York), have some form of an equine activity liability act.  These laws have been applied to horse show activities.

In a Louisiana case, a horse kicked a fellow competitor near the horse show’s arena gate, and Louisiana’s Equine Activity Liability Act applied.  The defendant who was sued claimed that the statute protected him from liability.  He won, and the case was dismissed.  Later, on appeal, the court upheld dismissal for the reason that the plaintiff’s injuries were found to have resulted from “inherent risks” under the law and, as a result, no claim could be brought.

Results like this cannot always be expected under equine activity liability laws.  All of the laws differ, but some share common characteristics.  As a result, each individual matter must be evaluated on its own merits and based on the language of the applicable state’s law.

Avoiding Liability

Horse show management can consider taking precautions.  Here are a few:

  • Liability Insurance.  Liability insurance does not prevent lawsuits from happening but it can protect the finances of the group and its members if the worst case scenario should happen.
  • Planning.  Even with a consistent dedication to safety, injuries can, and do,  happen at shows.  Show management can develop plans for handling problems and emergencies and assign personnel for that purpose.
  • Releases.  Show management can consider having participants of legal age sign properly worded liability releases (where allowed by law).

If you have any questions about horse show liabilities, please give me a call or shoot me an email using the form below.

Categories: 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 and, and

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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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