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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
Case of the Month involved a terrified beginner adult rider in a badly supervised lesson. The instructor didn’t see the rider’s accident because of the 40 other riders in the ring.
The jury decided for the Plaintiff since she was denied a private lesson that could have probably prevented the injuries she sustained.
The riding academy should never have allowed the beginner rider to participate in such a poorly supervised large group.
Case of the Month involved examination of factors surrounding the death of an expensively insured cutting horse.
NAES looked at evidence from the local police department and was instrumental in denying the monies to be paid to the insured.
It turned out the horse was killed by the farm’s resident veterinarian who placed electrical wires in the animal’s nose. The veterinarian lost his license and then was sent to jail for 10 years.
The lesson learned is that there are many ethical people in the horse business but an occasional “bad apple” appears; we felt wonderful about the exposure and sentencing of a crooked animal health practioner and his boss (Because of confidentiality, NAES cannot reveal specifics about the case).
Case of the Month involved a horse that accidentally had half his nose ripped off by a tack cleaning hook.
Helping to defend the stable owner, we pointed out, to opposing counsel, that a tack hook is a common appliance at any stable; the hook was placed right by the tack room door but a bit into the aisle way.
Winning such a case is good for the client but pointed out a weakness in the stable owner’s liability assessment.
My advice would always be to scrupulously search your facilities for anything which could even remotely injure a horse or rider. Remember, we horse people tend to take our sport for granted so be a very good “detective.”
The case revolved around an inexperienced rider’s recollection of what a wrangler on a dude ranch ride actually advised her to do.
The plaintiff sued the dude string claiming she thought she heard the wrangler say, “Pull back on the reins” resulting in the horse rearing and flipping over backwards. The rider was seriously hurt.
Arguing to the appellate court, the defendant dude ranch convinced the justices to have the lower trial court hear that part of the case dealing only with what the wrangler was thought to have said, “Don’t pull back on the reins.”
In the end, the trial court sided with the defendant dude ranch agreeing that it would have been very unlikely for the wrangler to have instructed the plaintiff to literally pull the horse over backwards.
The lesson to be learned is obvious: make sure you totally understand all instructions given by the person in charge.
No entry for this month
Case of the Month involved a rider being instructed at a prominent teaching facility in Minnesota.
Reacting to a youngster scuffing his feet outside the indoor ring, the school horse scooted and dumped the rider. Her severe injuries brought about the suit.
Minnesota’s Equine Activity Statute came into play when the defense won its motion for summary judgment dismissal of the case citing “the unpredictability of livestock’s reaction to things like sound, sudden movement, unfamiliar objects, persons, or other animals;” (Minnesota Statutes 2001, Chapter 604A, Subsection 1, (definitions), have your attorney check for the very latest iteration of the requisite statute).
It still cost thousands to defend the suit.
My suggestion for the stable owners would be to actively patrol the areas near the lesson being taught and place lots of signs cautioning against loose children, no dogs and similar warning signs.
Case of the Month had NAES examining the footing conditions at a prominent race track in Florida.
A valuable race horse had suffered a career-ending injury to its left hip.
The turf course causing the problem had been improperly drained after a huge rain. The grounds crew’s superintendant was very aware of the problem but chose to do nothing about it resulting in the accident.
The ensuing law suit and depositions of those involved exposed a pattern of sloppy track management. Four days prior to trial the insurance company settled the case to the benefit of the horse’s owner.
The case points out the critical necessity of constant footing maintenance especially in light of recent racing horse injuries.
Case of the Month shows why US President George Washington’s admonition to avoid “entangling alliances” was very good advice.
The plaintiff/girlfriend of the already married boyfriend got kicked by one of his horses that she, (the girlfriend), was about to ride. While her injuries were relatively minor the blowup occurred after the boyfriend’s wife found out about the girlfriend’s lawsuit.
The boyfriend’s insurance paid off the girlfriend and the boyfriend lost his wife of 15 years and the new girlfriend…go figure.
Case of the Month involved an insurance company following up on a mortality claim on a super amateur rope horse.
NAES was asked to examine the mysterious circumstances which ultimately caused the insurance company to deny payment to the insured. An independent veterinarian’s exam turned up signs of electrocution in the horse’s nostrils.
Needless to say, no payment was made and the case was referred to the local county attorney. Finding and proving specifically who had killed the horse was impossible so no charges could be filed but at least the insurance company had enough evidence to deny the claim.
Case of the Month highlighted the necessity of never trusting a stallion to behave.
The plaintiff’s little girl was walking closely to a poorly protected stallion pen. The stallion reached through the pipe fencing, grabbed the little girl and dragged her into the pen.
Fortunately stable workers were nearby and chased the stallion away with brooms and shovels before he could severely injure the plaintiff.
The case never made it to trial after the insurance company discovered that the stallion was housed in the same type of stall as the geldings and mares.
The lesson is clear: stallions must never ever be trusted and special facilities must be maintained to prevent the stallion from displaying aggressive behavior outside the pen.
This case started from an accident involving a city of Fort Worth bus which struck the trailer driven by the plaintiff.
The 3 year old stakes winning thoroughbred filly was killed instantly when the bus failed to stop, running into the back of the trailer.
NAES valued the horse at $175,000.00 and the trial court added an additional $50,000.00 in expenses.
What really helped in establishing value were numerous videos, professionally taken pictures and testimony from other racing trainers.
The lesson is clear that maintaining many records, videos and pictures of your horses can pay off in the face of a tragic accident.
Case of the Month focuses on the action of a trainer who allegedly advised his junior student NOT to wear a helmet in a reining equitation class saying the judge would “mark her down.”
NAES was asked to review the case and determine if the trainer had any reason to believe judges would penalize a rider for wearing protective gear.
Based on personal experience as a licensed judge I knew judges did not discriminate at all regarding safety issues. In addition, written USEF rules dictate that a judge is not allowed to discriminate against a rider who chooses to wear protective headgear even in a class not requiring such headgear.
Safety is always of paramount importance and in this case the trainer was only trying to weasel out of his responsibility to look out for his junior student’s welfare. The trainer was simply throwing up a “smoke screen” hoping to avoid any responsibility; in the end he lost.
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