Frequently Asked Questions
What is Equine Law?Equine law is the representation of individuals and businesses involved in the horse industry. An equine attorney can help you negotiate purchase and sale agreements, lease agreements and other contracts; resolve disputes (i.e. with boarders, trainers or others); form business entities; help with land use issues; or go to court on your behalf if necessary. Contrary to popular belief, equine law is not the direct representation of the horse!
What is involved in a consultation?In a consultation, a prospective client generally asks a legal question or describes a problem they are having as they seek legal advice and guidance as to what steps they may need to take next. There is no charge for an initial consultation with The Osborn Law Group. Appointments for consultations in person or on the phone are recommended.
Are equine laws specific to the state I live in?Yes. Almost all states have enacted their own equine laws. Many of them, like the laws on buying and selling horses, are similar, but you cannot assume that the laws of one state are the same in another state (even if the states are right next to each other).
As a rider, what should I know about rider release agreements?Most importantly, you should be aware that rider release agreements are generally enforceable; meaning that if you get hurt while riding a horse on someone else’s property, you may not have any recourse against the property owner or farm owner. There are, of course, exceptions. If the property owner or farm owner is grossly negligent by, for example, failing to fill in an open trench after being informed of the condition, the property or farm owner may still be responsible for your injuries.
As a horse owner, what are my rights as a boarder?You and your horse have the right to be treated fairly; to have the stable, stalls, and pastures maintained in a clean and safe manner; to have acceptable quality feed and hay provided to your horse; and the horse’s health and wellbeing managed properly by the boarding facility’s staff. In short, you have the right to have your horse treated the way you would treat him. Of course, it is important that you should carefully review the specific terms of any board agreement before you sign it.
Is it true that some states have laws that protect farm owners from
lawsuits if someone gets injured on their property?Yes, 48 states have passed equine activity immunity statutes (also referred to as Equestrian Liability Limitation Laws) that preclude riders, trainers, grooms, spectators, etc. from filing lawsuits against farm owners for acts of negligence while participating in equine-related activities. These laws do NOT insulate farm owners from liability if they are grossly negligent (for example, a stable owner is notified that there is an open ditch in the field, subsequently a horse and rider stumble, and the rider falls and is injured.)On October 20, 2017, afters years of lobbying by the New York State Horse Council, the New York State Farm Bureau and others, New York State passed it’s own equine activity immunity law.
What is the difference between ‘negligence’ and ‘gross negligence’?Negligence is the failure to use reasonable caution when providing a service, and someone is injured as a result. The individual accused of negligence is compared to others in their same field with similar qualifications and abilities. For example, a trainer fails to properly supervise one of their student, and as a result the rider is thrown from the horse. The actions of that trainer would be compared to other professionals in the field to determine whether the trainer’s lack of attention could be deemed as neglectful. A farrier would be compared to other farriers, veterinarians to other veterinarians, etc…Gross negligence is an extreme degree of negligence that involves reckless disregard, or sometimes even blatant indifference, for the safety of others. In circumstances of gross negligence, even Liability / Release Agreements cannot protect the person committing the harmful or malicious act.
As a farm owner, what type of protection do I need for trainers to
teach and ride on my property?If real estate is all about location, location, location… then owning a horse farm is all about releases, releases, releases! Farm owners should require trainers, riders, students, and guests to sign a Release Agreement relieving the farm owner of any responsibility if someone is injured while on the property. It is important to make sure that adequate insurance is in place in the event that the release does not cover a circumstance in which you may be considered liable.Many farm owners also require equine professionals such as trainers, farriers, veterinarians, dentists, etc… to carry their own liability insurance before permitting them to work on the property.
I am considering leasing out my horse, what type of contract should
I have in place to ensure that my horse will be protected?Your principal objective is to get your horse back at the end of the lease in the same condition as when the lease began. In order to accomplish this, you will need to set very specific parameters. Lease agreements do not have to be lengthy and complicated, they just need to be precise. (For example, a lease agreement may specify that the horse is only to jump three times a week, and must be standing bandaged afterwards to prevent inflammation in the legs. The horse is not to compete at any levels over 3’3’’ and is only allowed to participate in a maximum of 10 horse shows a season.) The conditions of the lease can always be negotiated, however it is all about protecting your investment and the horse’s health and soundness in the future.