Equine Law: Protection When You’re Out of Town

A lot of us might ask a friend to keep their horse in work while they’re traveling for work or on vacation — are you taking the best steps to make sure you’re legally protected in case something goes wrong?

Flickr/Roger H. Goun/CC

Flickr/Roger H. Goun/CC

Every time I leave in the morning to go to work I tell my dogs that I’ll be back soon. I tell my horse the same thing when I leave the barn: “Good job today, buddy. See you tomorrow.” The only time I’m gone for longer than a day is over the holidays or on an ever-elusive vacation because let’s face it, for horse people, horse shows count as vacation time. While I don’t typically travel for work beyond 25 miles, many horse owners spend a significant amount of their work lives traveling around the state or even around the country.

With so much travel, horse owners might look for a way to make sure their horse is checked on and gets exercise while they are gone. They may lease the horse out or put the horse in part-time training, or they might just ask a friend to hack the horse a couple times. This last option is nice for the owner because they aren’t paying for training, and nice for the friend because they can ride for free, but there are some liability concerns that should be addressed.

Every year, Americans make as many as 405 million long-distance business trips. What happens if you are jet-setting around the world, closing deals, training people on a new product or procedure, or documenting new and exciting regions, and your friend falls off your horse and is severely injured? While they might not blame you or want to hold you responsible, their health insurance company might take a different approach. A liability release isn’t a perfect shield to protect you from anything bad but it is a baseline.

The liability release should be designed to protect you – the horse owner – from liability if your horse does anything to cause injury to the person handling it. It can also be designed to protect your friend from liability if something happens to the horse under their watch. A typical liability release protects the person being released from liability from any accidents, but it will not protect them from injury caused by intentional or reckless behavior. The best way to make sure you are adequately protected is to have an attorney draft the release for you.

Note! Many barns require liability releases for every person who handles or rides a horse on the property. These releases are only designed to protect the barn owner and staff – they will not help an individual horse owner. While there may be some extra hassle in having your own personal liability release, it will be well worth the trouble down the road.

For more of Kjirsten’s articles on equine law, click here to open a list.

Kjirsten Lee, J.D., is an equine attorney with rb LEGAL, LLC, in Golden Valley, MN. She has written on topics such as the Horse Protection Act and use of drugs in racehorses, as well as general legal issues that horse people may encounter. You can follow her on Twitter at @KMLee_Esq. Kjirsten and her OTTB Gobain, compete in dressage and eventing.

Disclaimer: Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is created by reading and/or commenting on this post. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact an attorney directly.

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