Equine Liability: 'My Friend Asked Me to Groom and Feed Her Horse'

You know a boarder is supposed to be out of town soon, but today a stranger is at your facility grooming the boarder's horse. What should you do?
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You know that owner is out of town, but you have no idea who this new person is grooming that boarder's horse on your property. What exposures do you have?

You see an unknown person grooming and feeding one of your boarders’ horses. You know that owner is out of town, but you have no idea who this new person is grooming or feeding a horse on your property. What exposures do you have?

Understand there is a reason you have written agreements. They outline the respective obligations and duties each party owes to the other. Whenever unknown participants are added to the equation, these boundaries become muddied and problematic.

Can a person only be injured when they are riding a horse? Absolutely not. Both handler and horse can be injured in various ways simply by stalling, cross tying or leading the horse from one place to another.

Do you even know who this person is or the parameters of his/her authority? Does the “groomer” have a liability waiver signed with you? Do you even know what that person's relationship is to the owner of the horse, or if they in fact have been given permission to groom and feed the horse? If that person doesn't have permission from the owner, have you unwittingly set yourself up for punitive damages? Potentially, yes!

So keep your contract parameters and parties clear. If a client wishes another person to exercise control over his or her horse, get it in writing in clear and unambiguous terms. What is that person supposed to be doing? When does permission begin and end? Are there limits? Is there a number to contact the owner in the event of a dispute or question? Will that person agree to sign a liability waiver with the facility?

Understand any time new players are introduced into an agreement, problems can arise. So be sure to employ good management procedures, and either forbid it outright, or take the above steps to clarify in writing the boundaries of the arrangement so as to force any third parties to be equally bound as the owner.

For more information contact Denise Farris, Perry& Trent, LLC. 13100 Kansas Avenue, Suite C, Bonner Springs, KS. Ph: 913-441-3411. denise@perrytrent.com.

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