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Is a Loose Girth or Cinch “Faulty Tack” Under an Equine Activity Liability Act?

  • You take your friend on a trail ride, but an hour into the ride the saddle slips and your friend falls off. He sues.
  • Two hours into a scenic trail ride, a horse provided by a public riding stable walks up a hill, but the saddle slips and spooks the horse. The guest falls and files a lawsuit.

If any of these incidents occurred in a state with an Equine Activity Liability Act (“EALA”), could the injured rider base his or her lawsuit on the “faulty tack or equipment” exception? *

Over the years, courts have examined the issue of what qualifies as “faulty tack or equipment.” In these two cases, the courts were convinced that a loose cinch or girth does not.

In a 2014 Georgia case, the defendant allowed the plaintiff, his friend, to ride one of his horses on a trail, but the saddle slipped, and the plaintiff fell. The plaintiff claimed that the defendant failed to securely cinch the horse and cited the “faulty tack or equipment” exception in Georgia’s EALA. The trial court disagreed, and the Georgia Court of Appeals affirmed. In its opinion, the appellate court wrote that it was “not persuaded that [improper tightening] constitutes ‘faulty tack’ within the meaning of [Georgia’s EALA]." It explained: “We decline to construe that exception as encompassing tack that is inadequately secured but otherwise in good working order.”

In a 2009 Massachusetts case, the plaintiff, an inexperienced rider, test-rode a retired Thoroughbred race horse at the defendant’s stable but was thrown when the horse broke into a gallop and the saddle slipped. The trial court dismissed her case based on the Massachusetts EALA, and the appellate court affirmed as to the “faulty tack or equipment” exception. It found that a slipped saddle does not necessarily amount to “faulty tack.”

States laws can differ, and not all courts agree. This blog post does not constitute legal advice. When questions arise based on specific situations, direct them to a knowledgeable attorney.

*Although all EALAs differ, an example of a “faulty tack” exception in an EALA can be found in Ohio’s law. It states, in part: “the immunity from tort or other civil liability conferred by [another section of the law] is forfeited if any of the following circumstances applies: (a) An equine activity sponsor, equine activity participant, equine professional, veterinarian, farrier, or other person provides to an equine activity participant faulty or defective equipment or tack and knows or should know that the equipment or tack is faulty or defective, and the fault or defect in the equipment or tack proximately causes the harm involved.” [Ohio Revised Code § 2305.321.] 

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 www.fershtmanlaw.com and www.equinelaw.net, and www.equinelaw.info.

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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. 

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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