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Do You Need a Liability Release?

Your facility posts “warning” signs, and your state has enacted an equine activity liability law.  Do these make liability waivers/releases unnecessary?

The Difference Between a Sign and a Release

Important differences exist between “ride at your own risk” sign and a release of liability that is legally valid, well-written, and properly signed.  Certainly, the sign may announce the facility’s interest in limiting its liability, but it is rarely enough to fend off a lawsuit when something goes wrong.  Also, my many years of handling equine-related injury cases around the country tells me that after an incident arises, the injured person will often deny ever seeing or reading the sign.

By comparison, a release of liability is an indication in writing that the visitor or customer has read, understood, and agreed to accept the facility’s policy of limiting its liability (where allowed by law).  Also, as discussed below, releases offer an excellent opportunity to educate the signer about risks and more.

The Difference Between an Equine Activity Liability Law and a Release

If you live or do business in one of the 46 states (as of June 2011) with an equine activity liability law on the books, you may have a powerful protection against liability for certain kinds of equine activities.  However, these laws were not designed to permanently end all liability in the horse industry.  Because no “zero liability” laws exist, a written release of liability (where allowed by law) is an extra attempt to avoid liability.  Keep in mind that even the best release will not protect you against all types of lawsuits, and there is never a guarantee that a court will enforce your release.

Extra Benefits of a Release of Liability

A well-written release of liability can offer many benefits.  Here are a few.

  • Recite Risks.  The release can ask the customer, visitor, or guest to recognize the many inherent risks horses can present.
  • Headgear Warning.  The release can advise people about ASTM-standard/SEI-certified equestrian helmets.
  • Health Insurance.  A small number of equine facilities have policies requiring customers or guests to maintain their own medical insurance.  For these facilities, the release can make the information part of a binding contract, not just a policy.
  • Equine Activity Liability Act “Warning” Notices.  Most states with equine activity liability laws require certain persons and business – usually, but not always, “equine professionals” and “equine activity sponsors” – to include warning notices or other language within their contracts and releases.  Equine activity liability laws in a small number of states indicate that those who fail to follow these requirements could lose the benefit of immunities in their laws.

If you have any questions or would like more information, please give me a call or send me an email.

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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