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Legal Aspects of Boarding at a Friend's Barn

Cindy and Sam have been long-time friends and once rode together. Now, as Sam recovers from a serious illness, his barn has been empty. He once enjoyed looking out at the horses in his pasture. He approached Cindy with an offer to stable her horses on his property for free, as long as she takes care of her horses at her own expense.

People sometimes enter into arrangements like this, but what are the legalities? What can Cindy and Sam do to protect themselves?


The sad reality is that someone could be injured as a result of the arrangement. For example:

  • Cindy might forget to secure the pasture gate, and horses could wander onto the road, killing a motorist.
  • Cindy's horses might bite or kick one of her guests on the property.

If either of these should occur, both Cindy and Sam are at risk of being targeted with a lawsuit. Whether or not the lawsuit has merit isn’t the issue – what matters is that Cindy and Sam will need legal representation for their defense. They might also need funds to finance a possible settlement or judgment. All of this can be expensive. By planning ahead, they can try to avoid the risks and the expenses.

Possible Precautions

Cindy – the Boarder

Here are a few options that Cindy, the boarder, can consider for her protection:

  • Liability insurance. Insurance can be especially important in this arrangement, but Cindy's homeowner's insurance may not cover off-premises horses. Cindy's insurance agent can discuss insurance for her arrangement, such as Personal Horse Owner's Liability Insurance (sometimes called "Private" Horse Owner's Liability Insurance). She could also consider adding to her coverage limits by purchasing an appropriate Umbrella Liability Insurance Policy.
  • Releases. Releases are never a substitute for insurance, but Cindy can require her guests to sign one (where allowed by law), and she can make sure it complies with her state law.
  • Risk management. Years have passed since Sam kept a horse on the property, but Cindy can repair the fences, latches, stall doors, and pastures to make sure they are secure for her uses.
  • Signs. Years have passed since Sam last stabled a horse on his property, and laws could have changed within that time. If the state's Equine Activity Liability Act required posted "warning" signs, Cindy can make sure that proper signs are posted.

Sam – the Property Owner

Sam's interests are much like Cindy's, when it comes to avoiding liability, with a few differences.

  • Liability insurance. Without horses on the property in a few years, Sam may have changed his coverage and might not be protected for liabilities that Cindy's horses may cause. He can ask Cindy to include him as an "additional insured" on her policy, as long as he is satisfied with the type and amounts of her coverage. He can also require Cindy to show him proof of the insurance and proof that he is an "additional insured." He could update his own liability coverage, as well.
  • Accept Payments? If Sam decides to charge Cindy a fee for her use of his stable, he risks insurance coverage problems. That is, his homeowner's liability insurance policy probably has a "business pursuits" exclusion, and the insurer might consider that small amount of board he collects each month to be a "business pursuit." (This blog addressed that topic here.) Sam can discuss with his insurance agent whether he should purchase business liability insurance. Or, if he collects no payments from Cindy, he could discuss with his agent whether his homeowner's policy provides him sufficient protection for the arrangement.
  • Releases. If Sam wants to benefit from Cindy's liability release by being included in the list of released people within the document, he needs assurance that Cindy uses a well-worded document. Sam can have his lawyer review her document to make sure that it sufficiently protects him. Or, he can require Cindy's guests to sign his own release form, in addition to hers.

Lending out your property to a friend is a generous act, but the risks and legalities make careful planning important.

This blog post does not constitute legal advice. When questions arise based on specific situations, direct them to a knowledgeable attorney.

Categories: Boarding, Insurance, Liability

Photo of Julie I. Fershtman

is considered to be one of the nation's leading attorneys in the field of equine law. She has successfully tried equine cases before juries in four states. A frequent author and speaker on legal issues, she has written over 400 published articles, four 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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Fershtman’s Book Wins National Award

Julie Fershtman’s latest book, Equine Law and Horse Sense, won its fourth national award on May 31, 2021. It was selected to receive a "Finalist" Medal in the 2021 Next Generation Indie Book Awards. 

The 2021 Next Generation Indie Book Awards are presented by Independent Book Publishing Professionals Group (www.IBPPG.com), which is the largest International awards program for indie authors and independent publishers. Here’s a link for the complete list of 2021 winners and finalists: https://www.indiebookawards.com/winners.php?year=2021 

Fershtman’s Book Receives Award

Julie Fershtman’s book, Equine Law & Horse Sense, published by the American Bar Association, has been selected to receive a 2020 NYC Big Book Award in the category of “Reference” books.

The NYC Big Book Awards draws nominations world-wide. This is the third award for Fershtman’s book since its publication last year. Here is a link for more information, and to see the list of winners: https://www.nycbigbookaward.com/2020winners

Information on the book: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/164105493X/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_hsch_vapi_taft_p1_i0

Fershtman’s Book Receives Award

Julie Fershtman’s book, Equine La & Horse Sense, published by the American Bar Association, has been selected to receive a 2020 NYC Big Book Award in the category of “Reference” books.

The NYC Big Book Awards draws nominations world-wide. This is the third award for Fershtman’s book since its publication last year. Here is a link for more information, and to see the list of winners: https://www.nycbigbookaward.com/2020winners

Information on the book: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/164105493X/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_hsch_vapi_taft_p1_i0

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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