Equine Liability: 'My Friend Said I Could Ride Her Horse'

What should happen to keep your business or farm legally 'safe' if you see someone you don't know riding a boarder's horse?
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woman riding horse from back English

You recognize the horse from your boarding stable, but it isn't being ridden by its owner; what should you do?

You see an unknown person riding one of your boarder's horses. You know the horse, you don't know the rider. When questioned, she says: “It’s ok. My friend gave me permission to ride her horse.”

What is your response?

1. Who are parties to the agreement?

In most instances, the parties are the facility owner (you) and the horse owner in any boarding agreement. This means the only agreements in place, including liability waivers, are between you and the owner—not the owner’s “friend.”

2. Why does this matter?

Your boarding contracts are there to outline the do’s and don’ts of the facility. They protect each party. The friend—who did not sign your contract—most likely does not have a signed waiver with the facility. Therefore she could sue you despite you having no prior knowledge she would be on your premises.

In the same context, you as the stable owner owe a legal duty to the horse owner to ensure that no unauthorized person gains access to the horse. Maybe this friend has permission to ride the horse, and maybe she doesn’t. Don’t take a chance on this issue.

3. How do I handle this?

Lacking an express written authorization from the owner, accompanied by a signed liability waiver of the “new rider,” get him or her off the horse immediately. You or one of your staff should take the responsibility for untacking the horse and re-stabling it. Then document the incident in writing to the owner with a reminder that outside parties do not have permission to be on premises without the owner’s presence or proper paperwork filed by the owner.

What should that paperwork include? At a minimum it should include:

  • The name of the authorized rider;
  • The parameters under which he or she is permitted to ride the horse;
  • Clarification of on- or off-premise use; and
  • If horse or “friend” is injured, who makes the calls on handling the care?

Keep your relationships clear and in line with your contracts to avoid unintended legal consequences!

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

This article provides general coverage of its subject area. It is provided free, with the understanding that the author, publisher and/or publication does not intend this article to be viewed as rendering legal advice or service. If legal advice is sought or required, the services of a competent professional in your state should be sought. The publisher and editor shall not be responsible for any damages resulting from any error, inaccuracy or omission contained in this publication.