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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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January 2014
Horse shows generally are not dangerous for spectators, but as a member of the board of directors of a large regional show, I advised on the necessity for safety in hiring an additional security guard for the in gate area of the main show ring. I was voted down and unfortunately a spectator was later injured by a speeding horse entering the show’s main ring.

The spectator had been allowed to be in the properly marked restricted area because the in-gate official had been called away temporarily to get horses into the show ring.

Unfortunately a spectator had been allowed to get into the area immediately by the in gate. The last horse was on his way to the ring at the run. The speeding horse smashed into the middle aged woman causing her injuries.

Naturally, the horse show was stopped as all waited for the show ambulance to attend to the victim. The show, in trying to get by “on the cheap,” had not hired an extra security guard as had been done at prior year shows.

The injured woman wound up hiring an attorney to sue the show. The insurance company paid part of the dollar demand since it was easily proven the show had tried to get by without the needed extra security guard thus being partially responsible for the woman’s injuries.

If the show listened to those of us on the board who had argued for additional security the accident probably would not have happened. Therein lay the lesson to all of us serving on committees. Safety must always come first. Always at least make the safety effort.

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February 2014
An older gentleman was attending a car show and had stopped to evaluate a 1953 Buick. As he was bending over to view the distinctive “portholes” on the car’s side he was blindsided by a loose horse.

After receiving multiple injuries, he was rushed to the hospital’s emergency room. The victim sustained two broken legs and a collapsed lung.

The car show was being run by the local fox hunting club. On that same weekend the polo club, that owned the show grounds, was holding tournament playoffs. The car show had known about the polo matches but wrongly assumed “crime scene tape” would adequately separate the two events.

Unfortunately, polo horses can and do gallop at high speed and in this case the subject horse was traveling in excess of 30 miles per hour when striking the victim.

Naturally, there was a law suit. The polo club tried to justify the crime scene tape as sufficient enough to divide the two activities. It took the jury only one half hour to find for the plaintiff, the old gentleman. They awarded well over one million dollars since the jury agreed the yellow tape was totally weak plus the management should have seen the error of their judgment; the lesson was learned!

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March 2014
This month’s case involved a dentist who hoped to set up a retirement account for him and his wife. He ran an Arabian breeding farm which specialized in training and showing his horses.

He followed the advice of IRS Section 183 regarding the items he needed follow in order to avoid the tax audit.

Unfortunately, the agent assigned to his case was new and didn’t understand that the dentist had in fact been meticulous in keeping immaculate records and was actually doing all that was required.

The case went to trial and the IRS wanted to settle all the way up the court house steps since they eventually discovered they should never have gone after the dentist in the first place. He wisely retained the very best tax firm who in turn hired my services. The law firm and NAES presented anm open and shut case which proved the dentist ran his business in an honest and flawless way. Finally the judge’s decision came down showing the dentist prevailing in all areas.

The lesson points out how important retaining the right help and advice can be especially since the case ended well with the taxpayer dentist winning and not owing anything at all.

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April 2014
In this month’s case the trainer of a race horse mare died at the hands of the local race track veterinarian. The story may sound familiar but all too often trainers forget their duty first and foremost is to protect and care for GOD’s creature, the horse.

This case involved a racehorse whose trainer only allowed her to run her sampled blood/oxygen level was above a certain level. (This is not an u common training method). If the blood work came back too low, the trainer wouldn’t let the filly run.

In this specific case the blood/oxygen level did come back too low but the vet, for a gambling reason, told the trainer the filly was just fine knowing full well about the diminished oxygen level. Unfortunately, the horse ran awful and in fact broke down during the last long stretch of the race and had to be put down.

The vet tried to hide the blood/oxygen test results but the trainer’s wife worked as a receptionist for the company that tested blood samples. Naturally, she got hold of the blood/oxygen sample report and let her husband/trainer know. To say the trainer was upset certainly was an understatement. Fortunately, he simmered down and wisely let his lawyer do the rest which included suing and collecting from the veterinarian. The vet also had his license suspended for a year.

The lesson to be learned is that as the trainer of your client’s horses, you alone bear the responsibility for the care, health maintenance and control of each horse under your supervision. Always verify everything that your vet, farrier, truck and trailer mechanic or any other professional does regarding your business. Always remember it truly is YOUR business.

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May 2014
Many consider the practice of veterinary medicine to be somewhat akin to a “black art.” That is there are so many facets that require stone cold knowledge of chemistry, (You know, the course you took in college to sit next to the really cute girl, only to discover that you really had to work and study).

The answer for many students was simply to cut the course….. or study as hard as possible. Having known hundreds of vets through the years I’ve discovered that often it’s the vet that had to study the hardest that turned out to be the very best. Because medicine did not come easiest they had to work hardest to pass.

Also, I’ve found that vets who have always been around farm animals, enabled them to learn the skills necessary to become a super vet.

Anyway, choosing a vet to attend to your precious horse requires you to be the very best detective. Start your search by visiting the local tack and feed store since they will have heard both the good and the bad of most of the local vets.

Several periodic magazines can also bring you up you speed so you sound “half smart” when speaking to the new friend, “the vet.”

(Also, don’t be bashful and give us a call; 800-575-1669. Our staff and I have had a chance to get acquainted with some of the top veterinary practioners and perhaps we can steer you in the right direction).

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June 2014
The full disclosure of all parts of a horse purchase is critical to the continuance of a strong market of horse sales. In horse racing, hunters and jumpers and other areas of horse show world seem always to be the target of horse “shysters.”

I have been in the horse business for over 55 years and while I am old my memory is quite clear in recalling the horse agent who wants you to ”stay out of the deal” they have set up. I’ve had caring mothers and dads who questioned the tranquilizer charge added to their healthy horse’s bill. When questioning the horse’s trainer about the bill, they were promptly kicked out of the barn.

Oh, it gets worse…..When the horse’s owner wanted to move into some other trainer’s barn they discovered they’d been blackballed all over the local area. Plus, the “black ball” traveled to Florida for the Winter shows which meant they were stabled in the Siberian (meaning the “way out”) stable area.

We should never wonder why folks just new to the horse show world are often disenchanted. The good part to the story is that truly there are honest and caring trainers who will make the horse show world wonderful.

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July 2014
This case of the month involved the over zealousness of an executive in a large horse breed and recording organization. Apparently his business abilities were very good but his knowledge of horses and the specific rules applicable to the associations’ breed were sorely lacking.

Unfortunately, for all those involved, the rules he did read were totally misinterpreted so that when he did file charges against the famous exhibitor, the charges were totally wrong.

The upshot of the whole mess was that the exhibitor sued and won a huge law suit which cost the association over $250,000.00. Luckily, the executive quit before he was fired because he knew the handwriting was on the wall.

This case cost the association a huge amount of money and was a hard lesson for them to stomach. The association was located in a state that found numerous costly violations of the law which cost thousands in fines.

The lesson is that all the members of any horse related association need to absolutely take to heart and read your rule book.

This case seems to be “way out there” but believe me it happens more often than you could imagine. When an association grows to the point that hiring a very competent executive must be hired, make sure that person is a true horseman. Also, the bylaws of the association have to be structured by legal advisors who are well versed in association rules.

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August 2014
This month’s case involved a stable owner who’s friend had just one horse who needed to be taken care of. Because the horse’s owner had “temporarily” fallen on hard times, the stable owner told the “old friend” to just pay when he could.

The “temporary” one month boarding arrangement stretched into several months with no end in sight. When the horse owner’s overdue bill became an issue, the horse owner became incensed when confronted by his “old” friend.

Not surprisingly, the horse owner sued the stable owner, claiming his “prized” horse, (now worth $50,000.00, not the measly $10,000.00 he stated on the boarding contract), was hurt in the “horrible” stable conditions.

Making a shorter story, the stable owner called NAES and I advised just “zero” the balance and “FREE OF CHARGE” deliver the horse wherever. Unfortunately, this story is repeated way too often, because the stable owner will never get paid…never, so just try and get it over with ASAP.

One extra thought though, pay for a vet, (not your barn’s vet), to perform a vet exam which will no doubt show the horse has not suffered in the least.

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September 2014
Although uncommon, toxic feed cases bring out the detective in all of us as we try and imagine what a CSI unit would discover had they been entrusted to find out why our prized show horse died.

Toxic feed certainly is not a part of a horse's diet, but when there are unexpected equine deaths I begin looking for items that can be the culprit. However, by the time I get to the case, the horse owner has already found the cause of death.

Having been asked to provide value estimates of deceased horses and those who have not succumbed, I have a pretty good idea where to look for the cause. A common cause of death is often no more than moldy bag of feed. My suggestion is to just jot down and keep track of all the different production lots for bagged feed.

Next on my toxic feed list, would be where the horse usually grazed. I'm always concerned about just where and at what elevation the baled hay was from. The reason is the blister beetle, or Hycleus lugens.

This brightly patterned little creature and its over 7500 species, excrete a defensive poison called cantharadin, which causes blistering of a horse's soft tissue such as their esophagus. During the baling of alfalfa the beetles are often crushed as the baler goes by. The cantharadin is still potent even after the beetle is dead, even for months.

By the way, blister beetle poisoning is not all that common. I think hay growers are being much more vigilant too.

Anyway, I hope I've put some ideas out there that will get you to think about where your horse's feed has come from.

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October 2014
I had a case several years ago which really puts in one’s mind how important it is to beware of all your surroundings.

The case was from Michigan and involved a Dutch Warmblood mare and foal. The owner was leading the mare and the foal was trotting behind her on a very quiet farm road. The weather was very nice in early August when a large cement mixer passed slowly to the left of the pair.

The driver had just delivered a load to his customer but failed to securely latch the long steel chute. In making the slight turn the chute opened fully when hitting a bump in the road causing the chute to swing into the path of the horses hitting the mare in the head but missed the foal who ducked just in time.

The mare was killed instantly leaving the foal and owner unhurt. Obviously the insurance company paid the amount I had appraised the mare for.

The foal was able to find a very good nurse mare and went on to be a true champion in the Working Hunter Division but the lesson is clear that sometimes there just isn’t a solution to a freak accident like that.

Next month I’ll try and give a much happier case however I bet all of us will be so much more vigilant in our horse activities on any road.

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November 2014
As I frequently say to my staff of super ladies, “Get a load of this…”

My client attorney had presented me with a case involving an absolute beginner….as in “had never even been within a hundred feet of a horse” …beginner.

Anyway, she takes her family to a local riding stable in town. She really made sure the wranglers all knew that she and her family were ALL BEGINNERS.

The novice wrangler assigned her a horse who had a hard time even standing still to allow the wrangler to put the saddle and bridle on. That was a tipoff that this whole project was not going to end well.

The lady was helped onto the horse who promptly took off at a run and aimed for the stable wall, with the obvious plan of scraping her off on the wall. The woman didn’t make it that far since when she pulled on the reins to stop the mad dash…the reins broke! She now had a runaway horse without any reins giving her no way to even try to stop the horse.

Needless to say the law suit didn’t even make it to trial after the insurance claims adjuster verified the broken reins as well as the horrible condition of the other tack.

I’ve been in this business for over 40 years and I haven’t seen a rein-breakage case ever. Please send me an email and let me know if you’ve ever had a similar problem.

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December 2014
The case of the month for December, 2014 is actually one that pops up all the time; doing all your horse buying or selling with the help of an attorney.

What often happens is a problem can come up that could have been solved by looking at the provisions of the very complete sales agreement. Unfortunately, the person calling for help often does not have an agreement. (Their thinking apparently is “What could possibly go wrong” in selling my horse?).

People tend to get so frugal at absolutely the wrong time. Spending the few dollars to have a wise attorney review your case can save so much later on.

Since I see so many lease agreements, it is not uncommon to have an attorney draw up a very comprehensive lease agreement too. Specifying exactly how you wish your horse to be taken care of is so important in protecting your prized equitation horse. A very thorough lease contract on the old but tried and true equitation horse is often used at medal finals time and well worth the lawyer’s fees.

If you have any questions about items that you wish to have included please call me. While I am not an attorney, I do have a pretty good idea of things you may wish to have put in the lease agreement and at no charge to you.

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