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Problems People Encounter With Equine Contracts - And How to Avoid Them

I receive numerous calls from people in the midst of contract disputes.  Most people thought they protected themselves by using a contract, only to discover later that the contract was either silent or unclear on an important aspect of the transaction.

Let me share with you some problems people have encountered with equine industry contracts to help you avoid them.



Several years ago I was hired to try a case in Illinois, defending a riding stable whose customer was injured when the saddle slipped.  One of the issues centered on the stable’s “liability release.”  The release, despite its title, was missing the most fundamental element that lawyers call “exculpatory language”; that is the language through which the signer agrees to release the stable from liability.  Though we won the trial, the case would have been easier – or might not have been brought at all – if the release included the exculpatory language.

I also worked on a Florida case where a woman was thrown from a horse during a riding lesson and sued the stable.  The stable thought it had a liability release on file for the injured customer.  The problem was, the customer only signed the document years earlier in her capacity as parent for her son who took lessons.  Never did the release specify that she was signing for herself, individually.


Stables should make sure that their release documents (where allowed by law) comply with state law by including proper language.  For releases, some of the important language can include, among other things:

  • The exculpatory language (as required by state law; states can vary greatly here)
  • An identification of who is signing the document
  • A clear identification of who is being released from liability

Boarding Contracts


Years ago I represented a boarding stable in a lawsuit that was brought by the owner of a horse that was kicked by another horse in the pasture.  The boarder insisted that the stable agreed to give the horse individual turnout, but the stable denied this.  Nowhere did the contract specify what type of turnout the horse would receive, whether group pasture or individual paddock.


Boarding contracts can foresee and try to prevent problems in a few ways:

  • The contract can, for example, specify the basic services the stable will provide (such as the maximum ration of grain and hay that boarded horses receive as well as a schedule of fees if the boarder wants extra feed) as well as whether pasture turnout will be individual or group.  Boarders with special requests have can make sure that the contract addresses their interests in this regard.
  • Stables can make sure that their boarding contracts also include a liability release that pertains to the boarded horse (where allowed by law).

Categories: Boarding, Contracts, Sales/Disputes

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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