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New Year's Resolutions for the Equine Industry

Planning ahead for a successful 2018?  You might define “success” as great progress in your showing, breeding, training, racing, and riding. The fact is, however, that people in the horse industry still rely on handshake deals and incomplete contracts when they buy, sell, lease, board, train, haul, breed, and give instruction to others.

With the new year, resolve to protect yourself. Here are a few suggestions.

Be Cautious About Using Standardized Contracts

Standardized, "one-size-fits-all" form contracts are quick and inexpensive. People often share them online. However, they run a serious risk of including illegal or unenforceable provisions or failing to comply with unique provisions that the applicable state's law requires. For example, many of the 48 state equine activity liability acts (as of December 2017) require equine professionals, equine activity sponsors, and possibly others to include special “warning” or other language in certain contracts. These requirements differ from state to state. In a few states, the laws specify that those who fail to comply with these requirements can lose any liability limitation benefits from the law.

Also, states differ as to what language can make a liability waiver/release enforceable. (A small number of states will not enforce them.) The same contract language that one state may enforce could fail in another state. Evaluating these state-by-state differences usually requires a review of ever-changing court rulings. For the best protection, retain knowledgeable counsel to help you comply with applicable requirements.

Read and Comply With Applicable Equine Activity Liability Acts

Now is the time to review the equine activity liability laws in effect where you reside or do business. Of the 48 states with some form of an equine activity liability act (as of December 2017, all states except California and Maryland have one) pay special attention to these:

  • Many of these laws have contract language and sign posting requirements, usually directed at equine professionals and equine activity sponsors.  They all differ.
  • Most of these laws list exceptions to the immunities, and these exceptions could provide grounds for a lawsuit.  If you allow others to ride or handle your horses or if you allow people to bring horses onto your property, take a look at the “providing an equine horse and failing to make reasonable and prudent efforts” exception, the “faulty tack or equipment” exception, and the “dangerous latent condition of the land” exception, all of which are found in several equine activity liability laws. 

Use Written Contracts

Some state laws may actually require contracts in certain equine-related transactions. Equine activity liability acts in Arizona and Virginia, for example, have language requiring written contracts and releases, even offering some language, to benefit from immunities. Equine sales statutes in California, Florida, and Kentucky require contracts that include certain language.

Carefully-written contracts can help avoid disputes and save money. In leases, for example, questions sometimes involve: Was the arrangement a sale, a lease?  Were promises made regarding the horse's disposition or training? Who pays the vet bills if the leased horse develops a serious condition during the lease that the lessee did not cause? Does the lessee have recourse against the lessor if the horse injures him or her during the lease? These issues could lead to costly, burdensome, and inconvenient legal disputes. A carefully-worded agreement can help avoid them. 

Remember that Laws Change

Laws affecting you may have changed without your knowledge. More recently, equine activity liability laws have been amended in Iowa and Texas (in 2011), Michigan (in 2015), North Carolina (in 2013), and Virginia (in 2008).  A useful website that offers links to equine and animal-related laws, and updates them regularly, is www.animallaw.info.  


Make 2018 a year of attention to legal matters.  Stay safe and protect yourself.

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

Categories: Contracts, Did you Know?, Liability, Licensing

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, 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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