This website is the one I've been searching for, for years; a compilation of knowledge on all things horsemanship, including practical advice on how to start an equestrian business.
No matter your experience level with horses or homesteading, I hope this is a place you can get lost in, and learn something along the way - we welcome everyone from vets, to lifelong ranchers, trainer, to nonprofits contributing.
Listen up horse owners! We’re breaking down everything you need to know about equine law.
Because at the end of the day, owning a horse should bring you joy, not liability!
That’s where equine law comes into play. What is “equine law,” you ask? Really, it’s just a fancy way of saying “the law when it comes to horses”. For example, how you legally buy or sell horses, the legalities around training horses, etc.
Whether you’re a horse owner or a business owner who has horses, like a farmer, rancher, farmette owner, or homesteader, this post outlines everything you need to know about equine law, such as:
I know, people don’t associate horses with a courtroom, right? That’s because an equine lawyer’s job is to keep it that way.
“Equine law” encompasses everything that keeps horse owners safe and able to enjoy their horses. An equine attorney can write the contract needed to buy a horse, draft the liability release for the horse trainer, or write the estate plan for the homesteader who wants to keep the land and horses in the family for generations to come.
But here’s what it really boils down to: an equine attorney knows about the needs of horse owners, because they’re (usually) equestrians themselves.
I, myself, have been riding horses for nearly 30 years, and while I’ve been a contract attorney for years now as well, I probably wouldn’t know those random details you need to include in an equine sale agreement if not for my personal equestrian experience. For example, one time, a family member bought an “incredibly calm and safe” horse for his young daughter to ride. Then, he found out that the seller sedated the horse for the sale. Unfortunately, the purchase agreement didn’t specify that the horse should be drug tested before the sale, but for any attorney with equestrian experience, that’s a no-brainer.
An equine lawyer’s job is to think about those things for you, before the issue arises.
Let’s face it, a 1000-pound animal just naturally comes with a bit of liability, no matter how sweet they are. Let’s take the guesswork out of it- here’s exactly what you need to know:
The good news? This horse owner’s guide to equine law will answer all of this, and more!
Farmers, ranchers, horse trainers, homesteaders, farmette owners, listen up:
You need to know about Equine Liability Laws. Just about every state in the United States has some form of the Equine Activity Liability Act (EALA). Every state has a different name for the statute, so you’ll likely just hear it called an “Equine Activity Statute”.
Here’s why it matters, whether you’re an equestrian or not: in many states (including Oklahoma) it applies to farm animals other than just horses. This means that ranchers, farmers, farmette owners, or homesteaders might fall under this law without even knowing about it. You can find your state’s EALA here.
Despite what some might think, Equine Activity Statutes provide incredible protection for horse owners and owners of other farm animals. Why? As long as you are complying with your state’s statute, this statute will limit liability for injuries (or even death) related to horses or other farm animals. In other words, this allows you to own horses and other farm animals more safely.
If you own any kind of horse, I highly recommend that you have insurance for them. Even if you board your horse, buying horse insurance is in your best interest.
Here’s a quick example of why: when I was 5 years old, my parents bought the sweetest Shetland pony on the face of the earth. He wouldn’t hurt a fly–he even let cats sleep on his back! So, why would you need insurance for a salt of the earth horse like that?
Well, as any horse owner knows, accidents happen, and they usually result in pricey vet bills. One day, that same sweet pony who wouldn’t hurt a fly got ahold of a trailer full of fescue and ate himself nearly to death (literally). If you’ve ever had to pay for a colic surgery, you know it’s not cheap.
Here’s the moral of the story: equine insurance protects horse owners from both accidents that could happen to their horse AND accidents that their horses could be responsible for.
At the end of the day, it’ll save you money, by protecting you from the unforeseen, unavoidable scenarios. For example, if your horse kicks someone, you don’t want to be on the hook for the legal fees that could arise!
Ok, here’s the truth: one of the most important ways to protect your horse business is by using liability release waivers. Especially for those of you who are horse trainers.
But here’s the thing: they have to actually be legitimate waivers. In other words, the random free document you see on the internet is usually free for a reason. At the end of the day, just having one won’t get you anywhere unless you can rely on it.
At Fairway Stables™, we’re in the business of horsemanship™, which means that we want you to be forewarned before something happens, so that you can be forearmed to handle it.
So, what do you do when you have to rely on your equestrian liability release form?
Here are the most common mistakes we see with liability waivers in the world of equine law….and a clear roadmap on how to avoid them!
In order for your equine liability release to stand up in court, it has to have specific language. At a minimum, it must spell out all of the risks. It’s always smart to start with what your state’s Equine Activity Statute requires, and explain why horseback riding can be dangerous. For example, having language like “horseback riding can be dangerous. You are assuming the risk” will do nothing to protect your business in court. In Fairway Stables™’s liability release, we specifically state the risks involved with riding in lessons with other riders, such as horses spooking, the risks of jumping, etc.
This is one of the most common mistakes that we see with free forms found on the internet. Make sure your liability release clearly states how the parties will handle claims of negligence. In other words, spell out to the participant that she/he is agreeing to relieve your equestrian business from liability for negligence. Without this specific language disclaiming negligence, the release typically will not actually shield the equestrian business from liability.
In other words, the released parties should be specified.
An equine facility owner gets a liability release agreement, ensures that it complies with their state’s Equine Activity Statute, and that it discusses how negligence will be handled in detail. So far, so good! However, the mistake usually occurs at the end of the document, and it’ll be hiding in plain sight:
A made up scenario of course, but what are the issues with this? What should the release say instead? The business owner must sign the document, indicating their role and the business name.
Remember, if the wrong person signs your liability release, it will not be enforceable.
Essentially, anyone who will interact with the horses on your property:
Make it a habit to keep signed copies of all releases.
The last reminder, but it’s oh so important! You won’t be able to rely on your equine liability release unless you have a signed copy. So, make sure you keep a file of them all!
Preparing to purchase a horse is such an exciting undertaking, but no matter how exciting it is, you must take certain precautions. Below is a list of what you should keep in mind when thinking about making a purchase, even if you’re just purchasing a backyard pet. After all, even if you’re not riding him, you don’t want him to start showing signs of disease or injury as soon as he’s home and become a walking vet bill!
Here is a list you can keep handy as you’re preparing to start or add to your herd:
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