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Liability and Faulty Reins

Equine liability litigation sometimes focuses on the equipment worn by a horse before an accident occurred.  Some cases claim that the horse was equipped with defective reins, which caused someone (the plaintiff in the case) to be hurt.  Here are two such cases.

In a 2005 Michigan case, the plaintiff was taking part in a trail ride on Mackinac Island, Michigan.  He claimed that the assigned horse threw him when the reins allegedly broke and the horse bucked. He lost.  The court dismissed his case after refusing to admit into evidence a photograph that he took before the ride began.  The photo allegedly showed that the reins had been tied together (a common practice for trail rides, in this author’s experience). When the plaintiff appealed, he lost again.  The Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal finding the trial court properly excluded the photograph and that the plaintiff failed to present sufficient evidence that the reins had been broken before.  [The case was Stevens v. Mackinac Island Carriage Tours, Inc., 2005 WL 1249296 (Mich. App. 5/26/2005)(unpublished).]

In a Washington case from 2000, the plaintiff was riding a horse when the reins allegedly split apart.  This allegedly caused the horse - who was known to be a steady, aged horse - to become uncontrollable.  The plaintiff fell and was injured, and she produced some evidence that the reins had come apart earlier in the day.  The trial court dismissed the case, and the Washington Court of Appeals affirmed.  It found “no evidence that the reins came untied, unbuckled, or otherwise separated during [plaintiff’s] ride on the horse.”  It also found no connection between the reins being disengaged earlier in the day (allegedly from the horse stepping on them, though that was not proven) to the incident.  [The case was Cuddeback v. Flanagan, 2000 WL 1146850 (Wash. App. 8/7/2000)(unpublished).]

Every equipment liability case is unique, and the outcome will depend on the particular facts and the applicable law.

Categories: Liability

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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 and, and

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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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