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What to do when your horse hurts someone...

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  • What to do when your horse hurts someone...

    Last night at our barn, a teenage boarder (18-19 year old) brought two friends out to ride after 10pm. They didn't turn on any of the lights near either the paddock or the ring--and it was PITCH BLACK. When she went into the paddock to get her horse, the other two geldings in the field came to the gate to see/beg treats from her friends who remained outside. As she came back to the gate with her horse, her friends swung their flashlights around and she waved her arms to shoo the two beggars away (she was right behind the two loose horses--can you see where this is going?). Between the flashing lights and waving arms, one of the loose horses kicked out before turning to run away...he hit her square in the face! Long story short, she had to be airlifted to a trauma center (where she is expected to fully recover--thank goodness!).

    While walking up directly behind a horse in the dead of night and waving your arms and flashlights doesn't seem to show much common sense, can the farm or individual horse owner be held responsible for her injuries? Our "barn rules" specify no riding after 10pm (even under the lights). After this happened, I checked both my equine and home owners insurance policies, and neither would seem to cover injuries caused by a horse (the home owners would if the horse were kept at home as a "pet"). Has anyone ever dealt with this before? Is there any special insurance horse owners should have to protect them when their horses share paddocks (i.e. don't have individual turnout)? It's the first time at our farm that someone has been injured by another person's horse (and in the paddock no less), and we're all shaken. Thanks for any insights!

  • #2
    What's in your boarding contract? Is there a farm waiver/release?
    Why were they out there so late?
    I would be extremely proactive right now and make sure that you're protected and the owner of said horse is protected.
    In my opinion, they were trespassing.
    Does your state have a Equine Activities Law? If you do, I hope that you have the signs posted at your entrance and on the barn in full view.
    I'd review and update your boarding contract and come down hard on anyone who doesn't abide by them.
    Thoroughbred Training and Sales


    • #3
      leave town!!!


      • #4
        I recommend that you retain an attorney. Also, I suggest that you not talk about the incident with anyone other than your attorney, and I caution you especially not to discuss it, and the facts involved, on a public bulletin board. Indeed, I would delete your original post.


        • #5
          If it is your own privately owned horse and you do not use it for any commercial purpose (lesson or lease) you can purchase personal liability insurance. It's not that much -- about $250/year which can cover several horses.

          However, best to speak to an attorney.
          Equine Ink - My soapbox for equestrian writings & reviews.
          EquestrianHow2 - Operating instructions for your horse.


          • #6
            I am not a lawyer, but I went out to get my horse is a paddock at the boarding barn several years ago. His friend galloped up between us (from across the field) and kicked me in the chest. I drove myself to the ER where I spent the better part of a day drinking barium, getting IV contrast, and having X-rays and CTs.

            My insurance company was not eager to pay the bill. They sent me a letter asking whether anyone could be held responsible. I work in health care research and knew the deal so I completed it stating that it was an accident. That relieved the barn owner and horse owner of responsibility.

            If I had said otherwise, the insurance company would have gone after the boarding barn and potentially the horse owner for payment of the bills.

            I carry liability insurance for my horse. I was told that if the accident occurs at a boarding barn, the barn is reposnsible because they have care and custody of your horse.

            Good luck. I would speak to the barn owner.


            • #7
              I say that you should NOT assume that the people will blame you. Be sympathetic, do not argue, show concern. You did nothing wrong don't act like you did. Do not be critical of the kids. Even experienced horsemen do stupid things.


              • Original Poster

                Just to clarify, I'm not the barn owner...just a boarder at the facility where the accident happened. This is the first time something like this has happened at any barn I've ever been at, and it got us all thinking and wondering if could happen again to us or someone else. I know the farm owner has insurance (obviously)...and our boarding contract specifies no riding after 10pm for lighting/safety reasons. I was just curious to see what other people had experienced because it's not something that happens regularly (does it??). I completely understand the need for farm owners, trainers, coaches, competitions, etc. to have liability insurance (and I have it for my non-horse/"real job" profession), but I have never known individual riders to carry a policy to protect against "what ifs". Thanks for the replies thus far!


                • #9
                  "the sign"

                  if you live in a state which has the "equine liability law" signs, and I think most states have this law now, then you are judgment proof unless you are "grossly liable" an example of "gross liability" would be if you ordered the people into that field, and then you waived your arms and flashlight, etc.
                  so under the facts stated, and if you posted "the sign" you have no liability.
                  At one boarding barn I was at, the Bo put a student on a boarder's horse, a horse the owner was afraid to get on, and the horse deliberately flipped and broke the girl's femur. BO not liable.
                  the horse's owner should have paid for the hospital bills, but the doctor and nurse who owned the horse didn't. nasty people. horse later was sent to the trainer of evil horses up in middle georgia.
                  check with your ins. agent to add ins. for lawsuits.
                  just cause people cannot win, doesn't mean they won't sue.
                  and they might sue the owner of the horse if the horse was a boarder.
                  one of the main reasons that the equine liability laws have been passed by states is to prevent lawsuits over just the type case you have stated, where people do dumb things and get hurt.
                  good luck.. always stressful.
                  glad the girl will recover.
                  oops, I missed that you are a boarder. make sure you and others tell all NOT to ever give treats to your horses. This is why I don't oppose barns that ban treats. At all barns I've boarded at, altho they allowed treats for your own horses, they did not post a ban for giving treats to the horses of other boarders. I always tell people that they are not to give any treats to mine. One woman at a barn went out into the herd to give treats to horses, including her own and was bitten by a draftpony. My horses were taught by me not to go begging for treats, and when people want to give treats to them, I tell them they cannot eat sugar and starch.........which btw is true.
                  Last edited by cloudyandcallie; Jun. 26, 2008, 08:31 PM. Reason: oops


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by cloudyandcallie View Post
                    if you live in a state which has the "equine liability law" signs, and I think most states have this law now, then you are judgment proof unless you are "grossly liable" an example of "gross liability" would be if you ordered the people into that field, and then you waived your arms and flashlight, etc.
                    The equine liability law in my state applies to professionals, and there is a very specific set of criteria in place to determine whether or not you are a professional. It covers the professional against damages caused by the "inherent risk" of the sport.

                    Care, custody, and control insurance applies to horses in your care (if you are a trainer, barn owner, etc.) -- it covers injuries or death to them. It does not cover injuries to people.

                    Commercial liability insurance covers the barn owners if they are sued by someone who is injured by a horse in their care, or have their property damaged. So these two types of insurance are not helpful to the average horseowner who boards her horse.

                    However, you, the horseowner, can get a liability policy that covers injury or damage caused by your horse. Here is one such policy:


                    In this day and age, I'd be tempted to buy coverage like this. Anybody can sue you, whether or not you (or your horse) has done anything wrong. You'll note that the above-referenced policy pays the costs to defend you. As you can imagine, those costs can be hefty if you are sued, even if you are found not at fault.

                    If you are a USEF member, you automatically get 1 million dollars in liability coverage, but I don't know if this applies to a horse standing in a field (vs. injury caused when you are riding, for example).

                    The teenager who went to get her horse did a stupid thing, and I'm glad she'll recover. Whether it was her fault or not, that doesn't mean her parents can't decide to sue the owner of the horse who kicked her, the owner of the farm, the farm manager, etc. As a horse owner, it would be good to have insurance to cover such a situation.


                    • #11
                      Every barn owner's worst nightmare!

                      I would definitely speak to a lawyer immediately. If there is the potential for litigation it may not come from the injured party or her parents but from her insurers ie medical, liability etc. The people who are involved might be the nicest people in the world but they may not have any say in whether or not there is litigation....it could originate from her health insurance company. As a barn owner and a 4H leader myself my thoughts and prayers are with you!


                      • #12
                        I know that a boarder's horse ran through the septic field at a barn I was at; if I remember
                        correctly the boarder had insurance that covered that; another time someone's horse
                        kicked a new car at a clinic and the rider had insurance

                        everyone with a horse should have an umbrella policy for a million dollars about 125 dollars a year to cover excessive legal damages


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by SR Rider View Post
                          I know that a boarder's horse ran through the septic field at a barn I was at; if I remember
                          correctly the boarder had insurance that covered that; another time someone's horse
                          kicked a new car at a clinic and the rider had insurance

                          everyone with a horse should have an umbrella policy for a million dollars about 125 dollars a year to cover excessive legal damages
                          I am curious about umbrella policies. An agent tried to sell me one so I asked if it would provide liability coverage for my horse (boarded at a public barn). He quickly assured me the horse was covered. I didn't purchase the policy but asked another agent in the office about umbrella policies a few months later. She hesitated and told me a horse would be covered if "it is like a dog". I responded that I was pretty sure horses are considered "livestock" - not pets. She then checked into it, got back to me, and told me the horse would not be covered. This was Allstate. Since then I have seen several people post on this board saying that their umbrella policies cover their horses. I am curious if anyone has (a) found the opposite - that horses are not covered or (b) if told they are covered, actually checked into it. The whole incident has made me quite wary of insurance agents.
                          Georgia and Mighty Thoroughbred Cliques


                          • #14
                            I thought (but I could be wrong) that membership in the USEF gave you automatic personal liability coverage for things like that. Maybe that's changed?


                            • #15
                              Having insured a horse for the first time in my life, I also purchased a liability policy alongside it. In this day & age, it's worth the peace of mind.

                              I've had a couple situations where things could have or did result in injury to someone else & I'm darned lucky I wasn't sued by their medical insurance company over it.

                              At this stage of life, with a few more assets, & people assuming that I've got more than I have, I do my best to protect them.
                              ~ Horse Box Lovers Clique ~


                              • #16
                                Wrteitdown with date and time!

                                did i anyone else witness this? write up accident report; everything you can remember; names of the people involved;
                                breeder of Mercury!

                                remember to enjoy the moment, and take a moment to enjoy and give God the glory for these wonderful horses in our lives.BECAUSE: LIFE is What Happens While Making Other Plans


                                • #17
                                  Yikes! Oh Abby, I hope everyone's okay. I agree with everyone who has said you should consult a lawyer. As previously mentioned, you may not have to worry about a lawsuit from the family, but the insurance company could be a threat. A good friend of mine was injured by a loose horse at a show (I was on one side of her and another friend on the other--it was totally a freak thing and amazing that only one of us was hurt), but her insurance sued the show organizer for negligence.

                                  I was also told (by a lawyer, at the barn where I kept Channel before I took him down there) that if, for instance, my horse got loose, ran out on the road, and caused a car accident, that I would be held liable and could, in the event of a death from said accident, be charged with manslaughter. (Always comforting when the barn manager lets the horse go from the barn to run down to his paddock. Also helpful for once perfectly well-mannered horse). Urban legend? I sure hope so.

                                  Anyway, the point of that was that we can give you anecdotes all day long, but a lawyer well-versed in liability would be very helpful. I also agree that you should delete this immediately.
                                  "[I don't like the word] try. To me, it means you plan to fail." --Robby Johnson

                                  "All you have to do to succeed is decide to succeed." Jimmy Wofford


                                  • #18
                                    I'm so glad she'll be okay. What a terrible lesson to learn!

                                    I will be looking into getting liability insurance for my horses.

                                    As for the equine libility statutes, I have signs posted, but I don't depend on them. In this situation couldn't a lawyer easily argue that a sign wasn't visible?


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by cloudyandcallie View Post
                                      if you live in a state which has the "equine liability law" signs, and I think most states have this law now, then you are judgment proof unless you are "grossly liable"
                                      I would never count solely on my state equine liability statute (there is very little in this world that qualifies as judgment proof). They are not all the same and some only cover certain types of pros and some only certain venues and some may cover everything but even then they are by no means a guarantee (1) that you will not get sued and even if you are successful incur lots of expenses getting rid of the suit or (2) that you will not lose- a non-horse-person's definition of negligence may not jibe with ours. But check your state's law and see if it even covers non pros.
                                      Call your homeowners insurance co- some include liability for injuries caused by horses that are owned for personal use even if they are not kept at your property (mine does). You can get a liabiltiy from most horse insurers and if mine homeowners did not cover it, there is no way I would not have it. One lawsuit could easily bankrupt you even if you did nothing wrong.
                                      There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.(Churchill)


                                      • #20
                                        The scenario you describe is of an individual acting irresponsibly and getting hurt as a result. However, that won't prevent her (or family, or her health insurance company, as the case may be), from pursuing the barn owner and/or horse owner for settlement.

                                        The barn owner should have commercial liability coverage to protect their business in such a situation. For the private horse owner, it could be more difficult.

                                        You cannot count on homeowner's coverage to cover liability when horses are involved. Some will, but most WON'T provide coverage. Your agent might not even understand the personal liability coverage on a typical homeowner's policy well enough to say for sure. And in any case, it's up to the claims adjusters, not the agent, as to what would get settled. You should read your own personal liability insurance wording (drink coffee to stay awake) to be aware of what might not be covered.

                                        The best protection for a non-commercial horse owner is a Personal Horse Owners Liability policy available through most horse insurance agents. It's relatively inexpensive and is designed specifically to protect you in such circumstances.