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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 2017
The following is super important so pay attention!

The necessity of counting on a specific term in describing the ability of a person to be a horse appraiser is important. Because we often hear that a person is “certified” does not mean anything more than that person has achieved a certain status within a specific company.

That appraiser is then “certified” within that company and nowhere else. That appraiser is then authorized to create a “certified” appraisal after achieving the necessary “qualifications” in performing a horse appraisal and has been given “certified” status from a specific company, group or association.

Qualification means that the horse appraiser possesses the fundamental abilities coupled with background which would make that person eligible to become certified in performing a horse appraisal. That person in all likelihood could create appraisals “certified” by the specific group or company because they possessed the qualifications necessary to evaluate a specific breed.

That “certification” from the group should apply to the specific horse breed and discipline. As an example, North American Equine Services, NAES, grants “certified” status to horse appraisals which encompass the largest and most complete array of specifics applicable to the subject horse.

Certification comes from the company and the appraiser is “qualified” which is no mean feat owing to the number of important areas covered and, where possible, the largest number of specifics available. In addition, because there is a great deal of subjective evaluation involved, the appraiser needs to have a solid and broad range of practical horse experience as possible.

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February 2017
It’s hopefully clear to the avid readers of this column, about the many cases NAES has handled for many years. Since 2003 I’ve tried to explain some of the factors which would be of interest to stable owners. Of course, the amazing thing is the many cases which are not typical of what one would think is the “typical” horse related case.

The fact is that there really never is the “standard” horse case. However, in times of a changing economy there is always the instance where the horse’s owner cannot afford to pay the board bill.

To possibly help out in what may be items of help to you the stable owner, I’ll list things which have almost always been successful in making your “deadbeat” customer case easier on you and your pocketbook:

Always have a written boarding contract and having the help of your family lawyer can help to.

On the contract, make sure the prospective boarder lists stables where their horse was previously stabled. The new boarder needs to put all possible contact information and the name of their veterinarian plus a clause specifically stating they are responsible for all reimbursement for their horse’s health care.

Some stables ask the new client to sign over ownership of the horse in case of large dollar amounts owing would enable the animal could be signed over to the stable owner. (However, I know lots of horse owners who would never allow the stable owner to have the possibility of owning their horse).

Just a piece of advice that’s sure to help is to always be polite and never raise your voice or get visibly upset. The reason is that the errant boarder always knows you’re upset so they will always be somewhat surprised by your peaceful nature. Plus, since you probably won’t get paid anyway, it may help to at least get something.

I always explain to folks running boarding operations that in all likelihood they won’t get paid and to prevent any legal action from the boarder, (who will now claim their prize horse was injured at your barn), always have your vet come out and perform a health certificate saying the horse is not sick or hurt at all. Such a statement from a licensed vet may go a long way in proving to the horse owner and a court of law that the horse is just fine.

Then, and most important, get the deadbeat boarder to remove the horse. Even if they plead that they’re broke, he name of their veterinarian plus etc, etc. you need to move the horse because the longer the horse is at your place the more likely it is for something bad to happen to the horse….and guess who gets to pay those vet bills.

Make sure all your boarders have mortality insurance on each horse they own. God forbid a horrible accident causes the death of your charges. Naturally, it’s always to get with your insurance broker and get Care, Custody and Control insurance so you’re covered.

Every month or so I’ll try and include more comments regarding things you need to aware of to run your horse business more effectively.

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March 2017
Several years ago I was asked to review a case concerning a young horse show exhibitor who accidentally drove a golf cart into an adult walking across the show grounds. It needs to be stressed that horse show rules restrict the use of any motorized vehicle to licensed drivers only.

Through the years so many spectators and exhibitors have been injured after being struck by young and unlicensed drivers. The problem had been brought up repeatedly at annual AHSA/USEF conventions and finally enough folks complained loudly enough to warrant a significant rule change.

Accidents continue to happen but there has been a marked decline in the number of driving accidents involving under-age drivers.

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April 2017
I was recently asked to provide testimony regarding the abilities of a young but proficient rider. She had been asked to ride the owner’s horse at a year end show. During the show the young rider fell breaking her pelvis and suffering other wounds. While the fall and subsequent injuries were not caused by anything the horse or its owner did, the young rider sued the horse’s owner.

This is exactly why it is so important to have proper insurance covering any of your horse related activities.

At the trial, I was asked to explain the abilities I saw in the young rider. I carefully explained that the young woman was extremely competent and was well qualified to ride the owner’s horse and because the requirements of the class were not large she had been well qualified to perform.

The young woman’s attorney’s tried to explain that the horse’s owner had taken advantage of her inabilities to ride the horse. However, they were not able convince the jury resulting in our client, the horse’s owner winning.

The lesson to be learned is to always maintain insurance since even the cost of trial work is very expensive, so even the win cost my client thousands of dollars.

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May 2017
NAES, my company, was asked to evaluate a case of loose horses who escaped through a gate that was left open. Eight horses got out and four of them were hit and killed by a 23 year old male driver. The driver was alone at three AM going to work. He died instantly.

The tragedy of the accident is so sad since it was entirely preventable. It just took someone who took the half second to close the gate.

I can’t emphasize the importance of all safety issues because of the simple task of closing the gate not being done the driver and four horses were killed. Unfortunately, I’ve been called upon to investigate many accidents where there didn’t have to be any deaths at all except for a minor negligent act.

In short, there are numerous responsibilities involved in owning a horse, and among them is the duty to “confine the animal.” If it’s not done correctly the police department call it “Negligent Confinement.” …..and along with the charge comes a substantial fine. The charge coupled with the financial charge, however, it sure is better than the deaths of animals, car driver and other property that gets in the way of a loose horse.

And that’s not all………………How about the loose stallion who falls in love with your prize show horse mare next door. As you know a breeding arrangement not thoroughly planned and executed can and often does end up with possible injuries to the stallion or mare.

Then imagine the small herd of four horses that gallop across the golf course after the hard rain. When the country club’s manager finds out who owns the horses who caused $63,000.14 in damage….believe me they can and will find out that you own the horses who got loose. You probably have homeowners insurance who will pay for the damage caused by your horses.

Then they will promptly cancel your coverage…leaving you high and dry without protection. So, in other words, make sure all your horse gates are closed, because always there is nothing worse than thundering hoofbeats at two AM.

Oh my gosh, there is something worse and that’s no hoofbeats because all your horses have escaped.

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June 2017
Those of us in the horse business, are often un-thinking about the responsibilities created by our one thousand pound friends. I remark frequently about the very scary sounds created by “thundering hoof beats” at 2:00 AM and the costs often created by our horses as they tear up the adjacent golf greens next door.

Or that pesky gate which you’ve been meaning to repair, when the sheriff’s deputy wakes you up after two of your horses are dead on the road and a young driver coming home is found dead in his Honda Civic, after he ran into one of your dead horses.

Oh my God, life can get bad in a very big hurry. I hope I have your attention now because a series of “what ifs” must follow. Horsemen are generally very conscientious but sometimes, “Can’t I please stop for a moment being so bloody mindful about the minutia in my life…?” The answer, of course, is a definite “NO!”

Now is when the “what ifs” must start so no matter the size and complexity of your horse operation, it will always be the same as you count off what makes and keeps your business a success.

Quite obviously first must be “safety,” since keeping your clients and the horses safe and healthy has to be number 1. Then just go right down the line of important areas and specific items which make your business a success. I’m a firm believer in putting all those goals on the refrigerator door. That way every day your goals are put squarely in front of you.

I can guarantee you that success will be yours if only you keep visual track of your goals; just try it.

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July 2017
Since the early 2000’s there has been a large interest in the cloning of horses. As you may know, cloning involves the capture of cellular tissue and transferring properties from the donor horse to embryos for injection into the uteruses of mares who carry the embryos to term with the goal of producing as much of a copy of the donor horse as possible.

In this case, one of two cloned horses died after being electrocuted by an electrical cord powering a water heater. The plaintiffs in the case provided a damage estimate of close to $200,000.00, which was just plain nuts.

One reason the damage estimate was so high owed to the fact the actual cost of setting up the cost of the cloning procedure was, in fact, right at $200,000.00. But to think that was the actual cost of the clone of the “supposed” superhorse was already worth so much didn’t make any sense at all.

Now get this. If the owner of the clone thinks that right out of the box the new clone will be worth a huge amount doesn’t make sense at all. For one thing, thinking the clone will be identical to the original just won’t happen. While a majority of the horse will be the same some won’t match. The reason: A horse’s environment cannot be expected to be the same as happened to the original and even if by some miracle it is the same there still is the variety of riding abilities and techniques which affect the new horse.

The cloning process involves placing the embryo into the uterus of the carrying mare and environmental conditions can and do vary during the gestation period. These varieties can and do sometimes change how the genes may react, changing the final outcome of the clone.

As a horse appraiser for the past 45 years, figuring out how much the clone is worth is just the same as appraising any other horse. While the parents of the horse are important, the training and level of outside stimulus go a very long way in determining the final outcome of the horse.

I ended up valuing him at $30,000.00. This was based on the normal items I consider when appraising an untried, young horse with correct conformation. The plaintiff finally got the idea and settled for the amount I offered through the insurance company.

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August 2017
I just got a call last week from an absolute novice gentleman who wanted an appraisal on a 15 year old Arabian gelding he was interested in buying.

I had a bad feeling about this call and it turned out I was right. He had no experience but had been taken in by the horse’s good looks and the low price quoted to him by his neighbor/horse owner. The caller, who was very nice indeed, said the price quoted was “only” $5000.00. He just wanted to make sure he wasn’t going to pay more than the horse was worth, etc, etc.

The “only” problem was the caller had no horse experience, whatsoever. I told him I was so proud of him for at least contacting somebody who knew something because not only had he no experience but the horse was going to be a surprise for his 52 year old girlfriend, also with “0” horse savvy. (By this time I was thanking the stroke of luck that got him to call…….whew!!)

Horses are beautiful and just standing there, a horse’s good looks manages to attract us humans……BIG TIME!!!!

I love horses now more than I did when I was a kid, and I was plain goofy about them then! So I totally understand the attraction horses have on us. Unfortunately, many people without having had any participation in any animal activities and specifically horses, are looking at big trouble when dipping their toe into the horse business.

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September 2017
Teaching is perhaps the most important item which man can do. And, in fact, most anthropologists and sociologists as well agree that explaining to others in their species just how to do “something” makes the difference in how successful that “group” would be.

In other words, the ability to explain the intricacies of riding a horse is no mean feat. This is exactly why the job of “trainer” is so important and requires a huge amount of skill in being able to actually ride and then communicate to the student how to coax the horse into performing.

Because a horse is another living, breathing and thinking being, the rider must figure out what the animal is thinking, and then match the commands he or she must give to encourage the horse to do the correct action at the correct time to match what the course designer wishes the horse to do. Then, to top it all off, the designer places a number of obstacles at an agreed upon height and distance asking the horse/rider team to jump them all in a correct order as well, in as smooth and balanced way as possible…… Then, the judge must correctly sort out who winners are, and in the proper order as well.

So finding a person who has the ability to explain all the above to a student who perhaps is not the most talented individual brings yet another bunch of problems that must be solved before the pair can be expected to perform and win. In other words, “trainer” is a very important word.

In advising potential riders I’ve stressed how important the choice is and just how the decision is made. Finding just the right person who has the ability to figure out both the horse and rider is almost an impossible task. In fact, the person found might, in fact, be deficient in in one or more of the myriad necessary qualities but is so good at all the rest that it doesn’t really matter. Then you’ll have to make the decision as to who you’ll hire as trainer.

Then, the area of personalities comes up and………oh well, you can now see how hard it is to pick the right trainer.

I’ve been teaching and training for many years and I learn every single day something new about myself, horses and people. Therefore, you can see how difficult it is to pick the correct trainer then make it all work out so you, your horse and your trainer all work out just right.

All the above leads to a case I had several years ago which involved a wealthy owner and a deceitful trainer.

Unfortunately there is a huge amount of trust that must be placed into the hands of the trainer. In this case my client discovered he had been cheated out of many thousands of dollars.

Because trust is all important, imagine how the trainer was able to convince my client to purchase a horse who was not the correct match, and was able to work the transaction to his benefit. If it had not been for a person who recognized the horse from another part of the country my client would never have known. This is why it is so important to verify every part of the deal including just exactly who had owned the horse and what the show record was.

The next step is to always insist on a veterinary pre-purchase exam from a vet who has no relationship with the agent or broker of the sale.

Then make sure your attorney does an ironclad bill of sale. All these points of the sale, while not guaranteeing the sale, will go a long way in making you feel better. All this will enable a better relationship with your trainer because, after all, isn’t that what you really want?

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October 2017
Through the years, I’ve run into an increasing number of accidents at dude ranches or at facilities with a very much laid back approach to riding and horse related activities.

I give a number of talks or presentations each year about the various “what-if’s” which could be anticipated at the dude ranch. What amazes me is how dim folks can be at just not thinking of what could happen. Imagine the variety of entities at the riding facility:
  1. The horse.
  2. The rider
  3. The wrangler.
  4. The facility itself.
  5. Condition of then tack and equipment.
  6. Proximity to the nearest EMS station.
  7. Protective headgear?
  8. Physical ailments which could exacerbate any injuries to the rider.
  9. Is the wrangler trained in any pre-hospital trauma care?!
  10.  Can the facility’s cars or other ranch vehicle aid in rescuing the rider?
  11.  Does the facility have any medical equipment whatsoever?
  12.  …and does anyone have the faintest idea how to use it?

Obviously, there is much more that could be included.
I just read about the tragic death of a precious 5 year old who fell after her “bomb-proof” trail horse galloped off when startled by a gopher at a high-end dude ranch in Utah.

The child didn’t even have a helmet on and naturally when she fell……..it was right onto her head. Oh but she was offered a helmet but turned it down and the parents did not insist she put one on; (They didn’t have helmets either). Minors can’t decide for themselves about protective equipment since they do not have the skills necessary to forecast about the possible bad things which could happen.

To solve this minor problem, all dude ranches or any place where a minor could get on a horse, must insist that any child or minor must wear a protective helmet. That’s the law in many states so that solves the problem of minors actually making a decision about protective items.

Getting back to the news story about the teeney 5 year old……. She never woke up and in fact was in a coma and life support since EMS showed up; the well trained EMS responders were at the scene in less than 4 minutes. But it was already way too late for the child.

Just imagine this cutest tiny person who will never live out her life and be one of GOD’s littlest persons who dies needlessly simply because of the stupidity of the adults. Oh, but the mom and dad had to make the decision to pull the plug on her life support. Can you imagine their thoughts as they turned off all the ventilators, heart monitors, etc, viewing the screen of the heart monitor’s screen as the recording line goes straight.

The times with your family are indeed the best and the most remembered. Which is why in preparing for such an outing, all the possible items must be thought of. (In other words, it’s so important to whittle away at the many “what if’s”).

Picking out the best stable or ranch to make sure your family or children are taught by nothing but the very best.

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November 2017

If you’ve been in the horse business for any length of time, I’m sure you’ve had to teach your share of lessons.

The major problem with any instructor is the number of raw beginners and just what to do with them. My wife and I each have taught literally thousands of lessons, most of which are for the beginner. Now waking up every day, knowing you have to teach the beginner can be quite depressing for a number of reasons.

Just trying to find variety in what you’ll teach then doing it in such a way to keep your student’s interest and yours is a tough job. In running any stable business, its super to find an instructor who actually enjoys teaching the novice rider. Being creative can be hard, but the biggest problem is keeping you, the instructor happy with what you’re teaching and not becoming bored.

It’s important to remember that the beginner rider is definitely NOT bored and thinking up additional exercises which may possibly be creating a dangerous situation. A perfect example is as follows:

An attorney from Maine was vacationing at a dude ranch just outside of Tucson, Arizona. The lawyer and his wife had carefully explained that neither one had ever ridden a horse, which they clearly explained to the wrangler.

They were very surprised when the wrangler suggested that the riders “go barreling.” The wrangler explained they would have a quazi-competitive event in a clearing where three barrels had been set up resembling a barrel racing course. Anyway, because the wrangler was bored, he exposed the riders to activities which they were totally unqualified for. Novice riders are often “shamed” into doing an activity way over their abilities.

To shorten the story, the Maine lawyer went first “at a trot,” which was over his beginner status since he could barely walk or even guide his horse. His horse stopped at the first barrel causing him to fall off resulting in months of hospital time and since he hit his head, (the wrangler didn’t even mention that helmets were provided,” he had serious head injuries. All in all, his legal practice was finished since his memory was shot.

When all this was carefully explained to the insurance company they didn’t even quibble at their responsibility and paid the multi-million dollar settlement demand.


The lesson to be learned obviously is when teaching the beginner rider, always remember that everything you’re doing with then is all new and exciting to them and just because you’ve done this type of a lesson hundreds of times, it’s all new to the beginner rider. Don’t be tempted into “jazzing” up the lesson with activities which may injure your student.

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