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Once per month, this blog will share my insights on the facinating world of the horse business.
Although I will not be taking comments on this blog, your feedback is welcome - email link

Past Cases of the Month are available at this link

The current Case of the Month is available at this link

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(Case of the Month started in April of 2005)

April 2005

The first Case of the Month involves factors surrounding a recreational trail ride.

The plaintiff hadn’t ridden much, if at all, and was going on a pleasure ride on the beautiful trails in Wickenburg, Arizona. The wrangler instructed everyone to duck way down to go under low hanging branches; (This was going to cut lots of time off the ride since they would have had to go way around to another non-obstructed trail).

Unfortunately, the plaintiff got knocked off the horse, sustaining numerous back and head injuries.

Where’s the liability?...How about asking members of the ride to do things a rank beginner couldn’t do, like bending way over, like not maintaining the trails to avoid having to go under the tree limb, like not mandating that all riders wear ASTM certified helmets.

What should have been done? 1) Maintain the trails, 2) Make sure helmets are required for everyone, and 3) Always gage your instructions to the lowest performance abilities of the riders.

Next month….what can happen when you’re ignorant of the methods used to train your horse.

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May 2005
Lets say you have a racehorse riding in your trailer that’s involved in a minor fender bender; the horse is really ok but you need money ‘cause you’re almost broke…now, what to do? Obviously, go zing the “rich” insurance company.

I got contacted by a large insurance company to value an Eastern running Thoughrobred. The most value I could get on the mare was $10,000. The claimant, however, put in for $279,000…what a difference!

The claimant had gotten an old friend to act as an “appraiser” and turned in a quite fanciful rendition of why the horse was worth so much.

Now the gelding in question hadn’t won more than $10,000 total in the previous two years and, obviously, couldn’t be bred.

I provided a studied review of just exactly why the horse couldn’t be worth as much as the claimant wanted and since the horse was un-injured the claimant received a very small sum to release the insured.

I must assure you that I’ve appraised race horses into the millions but the value just has to be there…oh, what a thought!

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June 2005
A woman called from Florida last month to tell me her tale of woe…here goes.

Life had recently been bad to my caller as she explained that because she was currently unable to take good care of her daughter’s pony a good friend agreed to “take the pony for a bit, feed it, show it, etc until you’re back on your feet”…..at least that’s what the caller remembered.

A few months later when the owner went to pick up the pony, (her finances had greatly improved), the “borrower” said to “get off my property” and “No, you can’t have the pony back since my daughter loves him.” The owner was so shocked she just left.

Finally taking the case to small claims court was no help since the judge, seeing no written contract, awarded the pony to the “borrower,” (Possession is nine tenths of the law!).

The owner had no way to prove she actually owned the pony in question. iIn court it was just her word against the “borrower’s.”

I have been told this kind of true story probably three other times this past year.

LESSON – Always have a written contract that spells out exactly what the understandings are regarding each party…if not, remember…”Bad things always seem to happen to good people.”

Good luck until next month.

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July 2005
I just spoke with a barn owner in Washington State who has gotten himself into trouble by being too nice to a boarder at his “self-care” stable.

The only document he had the lady sign was for the self-care for her 5 horses which specified the monthly amount per horse and an arbitration clause; obviously, NOT ENOUGH!

Now she hasn’t paid and has conned the barn owner into thinking she’s broke, etc. Always remember that even if your stable is self-care the horse owner is required to feed, water and clean the stable area at a certain time; if not, you need the authority to take care of the horses and then auction them off for the past due board and the cost of your having to “do their job.”

Some states will even allow you to actually take possession of the horse if the bill is not paid after 30 days (Your attorney can put such a clause in your new boarding contract). Then you have complete control of your business; you’ll want to have specific times that your barn is “open,” too.

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August 2005
Just because a horse is reasonably well broke and young doesn’t always mean it’ll be a “pleasure” to ride.

Our client found out the hard way when the Arabian horse ran off around the indoor ring tossing the young woman hard into the ground. The problem?...the horse had two speeds, STOP and ALL-OUT RUN. The horse had been trained well…to be a racehorse!

The unscrupulous seller never told the whole truth and our victim never asked the right questions.

The rider made some big mistakes in the beginning by, 1), not hiring a professional to help her look for the right horse and, 2), not asking the seller to ride the horse first.

Our client’s injuries healed and received a few extra dollars besides…but what a miserable way to learn a lesson.

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September 2005
Placing trust in someone you don’t know to haul your prize show horse can sometimes be very bad…as in this case.

Our client had taken the offer of a cheap ride for his dressage show horse back to Chicago from Florida. The inexpensive charge for the trip soon materialized into big vet bills when the horse owner discovered substantial nerve damage to the horse’s jaw…IE, permanently droopy lip!

The driver says nothing happened but can’t explain the substantial trailer damage to the left side of the rig.

The owner’s major medical insurance lapsed while he was gone necessitating paying large vet bills only to find out there wasn’t much that could be done.

Two lessons learned: 1). Checkout who’s hauling your horse. 2). Make sure your insurance is all paid up.

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October 2005
Whether a highway is designated “Open Range” or not can sure make a big difference to some poor soul who runs into 1000 pound cow on the road, late at night.

Our client found out the hard way when he got a bill for the cost of the cow including removal from the scene, etc….The reason, the area, surrounded by new subdivisions, had never changed its designation from “Open Range.”

Simply stated, “Open Range” means the livestock has the right of way. While not all that common in Eastern States, the west has lots of these areas still around. Texas is especially onerous since it takes a vote of the county, (no matter when), to remove the “Open Range” designation for each of the 254 counties. In this case the last recorded vote for “Open Range” was in 1928!

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November 2005
The “Boy Scout” motto is “Be Prepared” and it applies to how we conduct ourselves around horses.

A great case on point involves a volunteer helping at a horse exposition, who was savagely attacked by a young stallion. She had no way of knowing the horse had been grossly abused by its owner. Running to the aid of the handler the horse turned on her with tragic results…no, she wasn’t killed, but badly injured.

The lesson here is to be constantly on guard for strange behavior by any horse….even one that looked very peaceful. No witnesses said the horse did anything to warn about his upcoming aberrant actions.

Always remember that horses are “animals” and are unpredictable…”Be prepared.”

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December 2005
This month I focus on the responsibility of participants when riding at “dude ranches.” Often beginners don’t know what they “don’t know.”

In other words, the case I refer to is one in which the inexperienced riders refused to pay any attention to the wrangler who was having to constantly admonish them to refrain from holding the horses back and then letting them gallop forward.

Unfortunately, one of the riders fell and was severely injured and had to be helecoptered out. Naturally, a law suit followed, attempting to point the “guilty” finger at the wrangler. The jury didn’t buy that argument, either, feeling the wrangler had gone out of his way to properly instruct the participants.

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