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W., Homeplaces Magazine
|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
The frigid Midwestern weather necessitated operating three heaters in a high end jumper training barn. The trainer was preparing to ship almost the entire stable’s show horses to the circuit in Wellington, FL.
With the heaters still on, a fire broke out around 1 AM. One of the trainer’s grooms saw the conflagration and was able to rescue two horses; the rest died in the blaze.
The local fire marshal and his investigation team traced the origin to a short circuit in the oldest of the three heaters. Based on the very thorough examination of the evidence, the responsibility pointed directly at the barn heater’s manufacturer.
Several of the horse owners and the trainer sued the heater manufacturer and eventually received several million dollars. So the lesson to be learned is that very thorough periodic inspections must be completed of any item related to the horses’ well being. Water heaters, barn heaters, air conditioning units and electrical circuits must be inspected by a licensed electrician on a regular basis.
There is not much worse than hearing thundering hoof beats at 1AM. When your horses get out it creates seconds of sheer panic in the sleeping horseman’s mind.
This month’s case involved 7 horses that had escaped their badly built corals and began exploring, at the run, North Scottsdale.
The property owner had been ticketed on the numerous other times to repair the corals at her ranchette. Horses from her place had escaped 5 times just in the current year!
The case at hand involved a “Good Samaritan” who managed to mount one of the loose horses while attempting to ride it back to the coral. In his ride back to the defective stable he was injured and was thrown with resulting injuries. He sued the stable’s owner.
The stable owner’s insurance company initially denied the claim on the grounds that the Good Samaritan had no business getting on one of the escaped horses anyway. However, since the owner of the defective coral had been cited numerous times the insurance company decided to pay a small settlement.
The lesson to be learned is to always quickly repair your stable’s facilities quickly.
“Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men……the Shadow does.” (………then the listener hears the deep, all- knowing laugh from the old tube radio)?
In this case, the State of Arizona’s Maricopa County Attorney sure knows evil, plus his investigators had found the horses owned by the subject drug dealer. The drug dealer’s evil activities had enabled his brother and him to amass a large fortune in cash plus 16 race horses.
NAES was asked to develop Fair Market Values on each horse. Based on each horse’s race record, soundness and conformation, valuations were prepared and supplied to the County Attorney’s office.
Because the criminals were accused of numerous racketeering drug charges, the County Attorney’s office chose to handle the case under the “RICO Statute,” (Organized Crime Control Act of 1970).
Under the RICO statute, racketeering is legal terminology for the “act or threat of murder, kidnapping, gambling, arson, robbery, bribery, extortion, dealing in obscene matter, or dealing in a controlled substance or listed chemical,” as in this case.
Under the infamous Rico Statutes, criminals arrested were required to divest themselves of property and in this case, the race horses. The drug dealers were convicted and because of the NAES’ race horse appraisals the drug dealers forfeited more than $1,000,000.00.
A vacation family’s trail ride turned bad when one of the young children fell and was severely injured. The family had no idea that each rider should have worn an approved riding helmet. No protective headgear was offered by the dude ranch.
The wrangler who was in charge of the riders was very young, inexperienced and failed to check the tack and equipment. A loose and broken girth caused the child to fall. The lack of a helmet enabled the severe head injuries ultimately resulting in the little girl’s death.
The dude ranch’s two million dollar insurance barely paid the doctor and hospital bills and resulted in the dude ranch’s having to sell everything they owned since the jury came back with an eight million dollar verdict. The dude ranch eventually was forced into bankruptcy.
The lesson for a budding stable owner is to make sure that everything possible is done as far as safety, equipment, horses and supervisory experience. It is because of accidents like this that numerous insurance companies are refusing to underwrite liability insurance on horse stables where the public is invited to ride.
Taking a yearly vacation is a super way to “recharge your batteries.” If, however, you take your family with the standard one boy, one girl, you and spouse, the requirement for safety is all important since a hospital stay, (or worse), is not the way to relax.
This month’s case happened at a dude ranch south of Tucson, AZ., on a cool November morning. The family had signed up for a morning breakfast ride with about ten other adults and children. In addition, the wrangler had neglected to mandate protective headgear at least for the kids.
In our current case, the mom noticed that one of the ranch horses had untied itself from the hitching post and started trotting back to the stable; mom was standing in the saddling area along with her kids.
A ranch employee, standing between the horse and the barn, shooed the horse, “Hashbrown,” back to the saddling area. The employee’s efforts were quite violent and the horse ran to the saddling area…straight for “mom and the kids.”
The violent crash into the family caused thousands of dollars in medical bills which, of course, the insurance company paid plus pain and suffering. The dude ranch learned its lesson and promptly began safety training exercises. The ranch was very lucky no one was killed.
A group of beginner level riders hired a supposed expert clinician to teach the members at a public stable in southern Arizona. During the hour and a half long session the instructor presented exercises which were significantly above the abilities of even the most competent of the participants.
The final straw, (and the activity which ended the whole clinic), was when the instructor cracked a long whip sending a young horse at a dead run back to the dismounted riders. The “torpedo-like” action sent several of the riders to the hospital, one with severe injuries.
A law suit was filed against the “instructor” claiming his enormous ineptitude was the cause of the injuries to the riders. It was revealed during the discovery part of the case that the supposed “expert instructor” had almost no practical horse experience. His training was that he had paid an enormous amount of money to learn all the supposed “secret techniques” necessary to earn a six figure income.
During the deposition of the plaintiffs’ expert, it was pointed out that without the requisite practical horse experience it was impossible to safely teach anyone to ride. In other words, “you had to actually know how to RIDE a horse.”
The insurance company wisely decided against trial and settled with the claimants.
This month’s case involved a young working student who got bucked off a client’s horse. The stable owner had asked the working student to walk the horse into the arena and perform a workout routine when the horse spooked from a farm tractor. The rider was knocked off balance and fell into a pile of jumps. She was injured and spent three months in a coma. The tractor had not previously been in the arena before.
The working student had no medical insurance and attempted to collect from the stable’s owner. The owner’s home owners insurance carrier claimed that since the working student was a commercial customer of the stable they had no duty to cover medical expenses incurred by the rider.
The student was forced to file suit in order to be reimbursed for her extensive medical bills. The lesson learned is to constantly be aware of your stable’s growth since insurance is vitally important for your home and business.
As the stable business grows, it is not uncommon for a home owner who is building a business to simply forget or neglect to purchase insurance for a commercial operation because of a cost increase. The home owner needs to be mindful that claims made which are of a commercial nature will not usually be paid if the only insurance is a home owner’s policy.
A newly minted Thoroughbred race horse owner dropped his $40,000 purchase at the Midwestern track. He handed the mare’s lead rope to the groom and then closed up his trailer got in his car and drove toward the stable out gate. He absent mindedly looked in the rear view mirror and was shocked to see his new mare zoom up to his car and past to exit out the gate. The horse made it half way across the street when she was hit by a large dump truck; she died instantly.
After the accident, he sized up his problems. The number one item was that he had not made the phone call to Acme Equine Insurance. Poverty sucks and our intrepid horse owner had withdrawn the only valuable stocks in his meager retirement fund to finance the horse buy. (Calling his wife was not going to be a fun experience either). Livestock mortality insurance was so important but as a novice owner it had just slipped his mind. He was now out $40,000.00, plus whatever damage the horse had done on the escape route.
The lessons to be learned are numerous as you can see. If you don’t have the dollars to invest in the racehorse business…DON’T DO IT. Listing all things necessary is so important in whatever endeavor intrigues you.
This month’s case involves twelve show horses who became deathly ill after ingesting bagged feed manufactured by a local supplier. Wisely, the stable owner had retained one of the feed sacks that had the lot number date and the date of manufacture.
Armed with evidence, the barn manager went through the long and involved process of playing detective. The state’s Ag University played an important part since they were able to find the toxins that caused the illnesses and actual death in two of the twelve horses affected.
It turned out that the feed ingested was filled with chemicals which were never to be fed to horses. The feed company had also been responsible for the deaths of over 80 Arabian show horses so this small stable was one of several barns affected.
The feed manufacturer had been careful in separating the production equipment so as not to produce horse contaminated feed. However, it turned out that a disgruntled employee had been responsible for the error in manufacturing.
A word to the wise must be to always keep track of feed bags, etc.
The importance of checking out all your horse equipment is highlighted in this case from the North East of the United States.
NAES was retained to help defend a horse trailer manufacturer from the claim from a horse owner. The accident happened when, after backing out her horse from the trailer, the claimant went to tie the mare up to the side of the trailer. The fact that the side windows opened down went unnoticed until the accident.
Unfortunately, the place where the horse was to be tied was directly under one of the side windows. As the claimant put the end of the lead rope through the attaching hook, the window unexpectedly fell down on top of the horse’s head. The horse set back pulling the claimant’s hand partially through the hook. She let go but not before her hand was smooshed.
The plaintiff’s attorney was able to show that the window’s latch was faulty, allowing the frame to fall. The accident caused permanent damage to the woman’s hand and her days of being a professional pianist were finished.
The advice is very obvious. When buying a horse trailer or any piece of equipment that is to be used by a horse it is always wise to inspect with an eye to “what if’s.”
The importance of verifying the quality and quantity of horse medicines is very important as in this month’s case involving use of a horse wormer on an older horse never wormed before.
The client had been carrying on a regimen of giving worming medicine to an old horse that had not been wormed in many years. Unfortunately, the dosages for an older non-wormed animal horse may cause an impaction to be created and can lead to death.
Unfortunately, the horse’s owner, a complete novice in equine matters, did not seek veterinary help until the old horse was in the end stages of dying. He sued the drug’s manufacturer anyway claiming the instructions were not specific enough on cases where a previously un-wormed horse received the de-wormer.
Not wishing to suffer the trashing from the media, the insurance company paid out a small settlement.
Again the idea of common sense is operative in this situation and most people are much more observant than the horse owner above. This lesson is so clear. Horses need an owner/caretaker who has just the most minute ability to care for his horse. Horses do not take care of themselves; God has assigned that job to us.
“Just keep the damn stall door closed!”
This case of the month is the type that drives insurance companies nuts. Veterinarians carry liability insurance to protect themselves against errors in practice or a legitimate wrong that’s been committed.
In this month’s case, the beginning veterinarian was doing her first visit to a large American Saddlebred show barn in Missouri. The young vet and client entered a horse’s stall and closed the stall door.
The horse’s owner was interrupted by a phone call outside the barn and exited, not closing the stall’s door. The vet, being attentive to the work at hand, did not close the door. The horse, seeing the open door, ran out at high speed, crossed the road and was hit by a truck and killed instantly.
Naturally, the horse’s owner blamed the young vet for the open stall door and sued for the (now very expensive) show horse’s value. The insurance company paid the claim even though there was a question as to who was responsible for the open stall door. The lesson learned is to always be attentive to accidents that “could” happen.
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