Whether acquired through college study, on-the-job experience or years of dedicated ownership, an awareness of potential legal issues involving horses can yield productive and protective practices for industry professionals and more casual participants alike.
Precautionary measures commonly are implemented to document a transaction, clarify the parameters of an agreement and reduce the risk of personal injury or property damage wherever horses and people are gathered or are interacting. They can be produced by a business or legal professional, and they take a variety of forms, such as:
- a bill of sale when a horse is being sold to reflect the amount paid by the buyer, the seller's receipt of the payment and the identity of the horse who's changing hands.
- a comprehensive contract when a horse is being leased to outline the type and quality of care he receives, his approved uses and restrictions, and the course of action if he becomes ill or lame or if he injures someone during the term of the arrangement.
- a liability insurance policy--available to private horse owners as well as commercial establishments and horse professionals--to guard against financial ruin in the event that an animal accidentally harms a person or damages property.
In most instances, a heightened awareness of the unpredictable nature of horses and the situations involving them can motivate individual owners, professionals and stables to rectify situations where they might be seen as negligent. Lawsuits citing negligence arise when a person suffers an injury because a horse has dangerous propensities or is otherwise unsuitable for a rider. They also occur when an injury stems from a rider not receiving proper supervision or through the use of defective equipment.
In all matters involving horses, forethought and commonsense judgment can help to keep what's pleasurable, exciting and fulfilling from suddenly turning disastrous. It pays to know your horse, your equipment and your property and surroundings. It's also vital to recognize your intentions and expectations as well as the extent of your experience whenever you're entering into an agreement or dealing with the public.
For more information on legal issues covered in many college equestrian programs, check out "Lessons in Liability" in the December 2005 issue of EQUUS magazine.