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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 2018
I’ve been doing these cases for over 15 years and it never ceases to amaze me the huge variety of facts which can apply. Just go through the Rule 26 cases and you’ll soon see.

This month’s case involved a young woman who, while walking next to a corral containing a young quarter horse stallion, who reached through the corral bars and bit her left ear off.

Yes, you read that right, the stallion bit the young lady’s ear clean off. As the case progressed, it turned out the victim of the bite was, herself a horse trainer, and should have known better than to walk close to a stallion’s pen. The stallion’s owner had assured the trainerher stallion was “bomb proof,” (unfortunately not bite proof).

Because the owner’s insurance carrier wouldn’t pay the claim immediately, the case went to trial where the woman, minus her ear, collected a multi-million dollar settlement. The claimant would have settled for considerably less before trial but the insurance carrier had been obstinate about settling.

The lesson should be to always verify your insurance company’s ability and enthusiasm for settling any claims especially since having to go to trial on an old claim is a horrible waste of your time as well.

Because there are always questions when it comes to the legalities of the law relating to horses please feel free to at least have a list of questions about the “what if’s” in the horse business. Believe me, after being involved in hundreds of horse-related cases, there is no such thing as “the average horse case.” In fact, I can hardly think of a case which is duplicative of another.

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February 2018
This time of year Scottsdale, Arizona is home to the annual All-Arabian Horse show. I’ve been involved with the Arabian Horse Association for many years as well as numerous other all-breed associations. Actually, I’ve loved every horse I ever met.

So many horse enthusiasts seem to be focused exclusively on one breed or another to the exclusion of all others. I remember as a kid I just enjoyed every horse breed and did everything to stay at the barn where I took lessons, and then hide at the time when my mom stopped by to pick me up. Yes, I was a true horse nut, I loved every horse GOD made.

Now, in my current job, I’ve been involved with over 30 different breeds and disciplines, and I sure can see why every horse owner loves their specific horse. Even as long as I’ve been around horses, each and every horse is special to me and I try to explain in each appraisal just why the subject horse is worth what I say he or she is.

When I do each appraisal, I try and envision myself actually owning the horse in question. I try and remember just why this particular horse is so special to the owner, and for the most part it works out just fine.

The cases that get me to wondering are those divorce cases where kids are involved, because I remember clearly how important my horse was to me. That’s when the appraisal business gets tough, especially recalling how important my horse was to me.

The last thing I need to point out is that doing what I do is absolutely the very best job a “horse nut kid” like me could ever have.

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March 2018
A polo match was being held at a very prominent club in Florida. At the same time, an antique car show was being held on an adjacent field. The very successful polo club had several regulation fields, and with the size of approximately 200 yards by 160 yards, there was more than enough room to hold both the polo match plus the car show.

Unfortunately, the two activities were dividedby a yellow crime scene tape stretched between several wooden saw horses. The problem of course, was that the two activities were vastly different in that the polo match involved horses going at high speed and the car show was a static display of automobiles.

During the polo match a player’s horse broke loose and crashed into a gentleman looking at the portholes of a classic Buick; he was severely injured.

The case wound up going to trial with the result that the defendants’ expert testified that the crime scene tape was adequate separation between the two activities. Unfortunately, the same expert had testified that in a similar case in Michigan she had testified that it was quite necessary to have a very strong and secure division between such disparate activities. The defense expert was shown to only testify for the obvious benefit of the polo club and therefore lost the case.

The lesson is to always be sure your expert has not testified opposite to your case previously.

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April 2018
One of the members of my staff suggested I remind our readers of the necessity of parents taking charge of their children’s riding lessons. It’s so important to make sure whoever teaches your kids conducts the riding lessons in a logical, methodical way with a specific emphasis on safety.

I can just hear it now, that how can parents check up on your kids’ riding teachers, especially when the parents don’t know anything about horses or what bad things can and do happen to folks every day.

Obviously you love your kids and just in using common sense you should be well ahead of the masses.

Anyway, here are some things you should check:

A. Ask for the riding instructor’s credentials and if he/she has taken a safety course such as those given by local schools, colleges or first responders.

B. Have the stable give you the closest first responder and how far to the nearest level one health care facility.

C. The riding stable should be able to provide at least three references as well.

D. Every participant must use an approved riding helmet. Most good stables actually have helmets they’ll loan to their students. However, after you’re sure your child wishes to continue on with lessons, go and buy one from a good riding equipment store.

E. Always check with local feed or horse tack and equipment stores to find out where kids go for good quality lessons.

F. The USHJA, (United States Hunter Jumper Association), has a program to teach and verify the qualitiesof participants who wish to be approved by the USHJA’s Certification process. The program was started in 2008 and so far has provided several hundredgraduates of the program. So it would always be good to at least ask for the Certificate.

G. And last, but certainly not least…. Use your own intuition to get a good feeling for your kid’s teacher. (Always feel free to call for some free advice).

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May 2018
As I hope most of you know after almost 40 years in the litigation consulting business…. I am NOT an attorney. However, I deal with literally hundreds of top flight attorneys every year. They call me hundreds of times every year wanting my thoughts on a possible case they may or may not have.

Now, here comes the good part. I think I’m pretty good at figuring out how attorneys/lawyers think and what they are looking for in a case. What all this means is that I can determine whether or not you may have a case with enough of the proper dollar statistics to be of interesting to a good lawyer.

Now I know there will be lots of you out there saying, “I just knew it. “That Dave Johnson is being greedy.” Now between us folks, the most important thing is if you and your horse are ok and after that we need to determine if the financial considerations are significant and making it worth everyone’s time and money to go forward.

Obviously, everybody needs to get paid for their efforts but the most important factors are those surrounding both you and the horse, especially if there is an accident. As a horse person with the possibility of a case against someone who did you wrong, you have to at least be aware of the attendant costs.

The lesson is to always have a very good idea what the possible litigation costs may be so you won’t be in for sticker shock. If you have questions, please feel free to call whenever you’ve got a question and I’ll be happy to help.

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June 2018
48 states have equine liability statutes. Only California and Maryland do not have liability statutes aimed specifically for horses.

The era of these somewhat protective liability statutes began around 1994. That first year I recall receiving numerous calls from attorneys and insurance companies asking whether or not the case they had would fall under the statutes. For the most part, the statutes are not a panacea for the horse professional. However, the new laws would often slow a horse owner or rider from filing a law suit.

The very important item to remember, is to not feel you, as the horse professional is protected if you’ve screwed up in some sort of your horse responsibilities. Most state statutes will not absolve you from responsibility for areas of gross negligence or willful misconduct.

In fact, I would suggest you schedule an appointment with your personal or business attorney with an eye towards making your business and home as immune as possible from any kind of legal action. You definitely do not want something sneaking out of the weeds to upset your life. Prior to the meeting create a list of considerations, and be as specific as possible.

Obviously your home, automobiles, business interests and anything of value must be considered because I can assure you the attorney filing the action against you sure will. Please let me know if you have even the smallest question.

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July 2018
In the past several months I have been asked to evaluate several hundred horses who’ve been exposed to Monensin, a cattle additive which controls parasites by destroying levels of mitochondria in cells. Monensin does not cause problems in cattle because they have a high tolerance, however, horses are extremely sensitive to monensin and it is toxic to them.

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of keeping very good records of exactly what you or your stabling barn, are feeding your horses. It is so sad to see that so often the failure to keep track of what your horses are being fed, can make it difficult if not impossible to collect damages in the event your horses become ill or die from ingesting tainted feed.

From my old days in high school biology class, we learned about cellular respiration, called the Krebs cycle. Mitochondria, is part of the cell whichaids in energy production. Monensin controls parasites by causing oxidative damage to the cell’s mitochondria, and while cattle can tolerate certain higher levels of Monensin, horses can’t.

Since the horse’s cardiac muscle contains large amounts of mitochondria, symptoms of heart damage are often first as an indication that the horse has ingested feed containing monensin. Such symptoms often show up weeks or months later as a result of myocardial necrosis. Monensin can also damage the spinal cord resulting in ataxia, where the horse is very unsteady in his gaits.

In several toxic feed cases, even though the feed company assures the consumer purchaser that the processing equipment is thoroughly cleaned before being used to process horse feed, there must be totally separate equipment used since even the teeniest speck of monensin can make a horse very sick.

I hate to be a pain in the neck, (or worse), but you must always check with your horse feed supplier just to make yourself feel better about your horse. Believe me, seeing a horse suffer from the toxic symptoms of monensin poisoning are truly horrible.

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August 2018
As you may know, although I do not specifically practice law, I am asked to review many horse related legal contracts every year. Obviously, I always counsel potential clients to also have your attorney review such documents again.

This is so important to have as many experts and lawyers review any horse related contracts. Even if you are very sure you’ve included all the important contractual points, it’s always so important to have additional wise eyes look at what could bind you for many months or years.

In law schools one of the first courses taught is contract law. Legal contracts are the items which hold our country together and the fact that basic contract law is taught the first year of law school, indicates just how important contracts are.

So obviously, a word to the wise (you) should be enough to convince you of making sure that contracts must be a very important part of your horse-related business.

Contracts are important not just for horse sales and leases but in purchasing items specifically for your horse business as well. Now obviously you and your staff must do a “what if” session where you all think of anything at all relating to your business. Because liability issues are always at the forefront, you must think of ways where a legal action could be taken against you and your business. So it’s not just lessons you and your staff teach but exactly where you are perhaps a bit weak in mandating that “Safety is Job One.”

You’ll need to remember that signs are also very important and go a long way in emphasizing your interest in protecting all those who are on your property, especially if you instruct many people of all ages. Then you must always insist that protective helmets be worn that comply with ASTM-F11-63. And that does not mean you have to supply the proper ones.

One of your signs must say “HELMETS MUST ALWAYS BE WORN WHEN ON ANY HORSE – NO EXCEPTIONS.” Folks who come to ride at your place have to supply their own properly fitted and ASTM compliant headgear. I realize that seems very arbitrary, but ALL your riders must comply because you’re looking out for their protection.

Always make sure your company or personal attorney reviews all contracts youbefore you even think of signing. And just because your attorney may not be a horse whiz, he or she sure knows more about the laws in your state than you. Now is not the time to be a cheapskate, because your attorney’s time is well worth your protection and peace of mind since any deficiencies in the proposed contract must be pointed out prior to you picking up a signature pen.

Good luck, my friends. We live in a very litigious world.

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September 2018
August 8th, 2018 was a biggie as far as my wife, Kathy, and I are concerned because it was our 48th wedding anniversary. 48 years of marriage is an accomplishment in itself but being in the horse business is spectacular.

I’m sure we all know marriages in couples who are both horse people devolve; it happens all the time. Seeing horse folks staying married a long time is tough, but I can tell you that having an understanding spouse can sure help. As we all know, just trying to make a horse related business successful is tough enough, but having a supportive spouse really helps so much.

My wife and I have always felt the necessity of working with youngsters as it relates to horsemanship plus the other things that go to makeup a good citizen. You see, it’s not just learning to ride one of God’s creatures, but also learning to compete not only towards winning, but just how to compete fairly with an eye to flawless sportsmanship as well.

While there are some who feel that being competitive is “somehow a sin.” We’ve always felt that the focus should always be on riding well and learning to compete while always having the horse’s condition as the goal. Anyway, I can say that throughout the almost 50 years we’ve been competing, doing things the right way has always been at the forefront of our mission.

By the way, Kathy and I have stayed married for so many years and have always been able to keep the horses, kids and the horsemanship sport as “number one” in our sights. At the same time, we’ve been happy as well.

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October 2018
When looking for your horse’s next stable, there are obviously many items to consider such as cleanliness and whether or not you feel it “seems” to be a good facility for your horse and you.

It’s always a good idea to trust in your intuition to help in the decision whether or not to make the change to a new stable. So it’s not just how beautiful the new stable is, but if it seems right for you… not just your horse.

If possible, always try and meet as many current boarders as possible and spend lots of time with them and note little discrepancies between the current boarders you may have already spoken to. Now is the time to figure out if you’re speaking with “the stable’s trouble maker,” or if there really are problems that more than one person has revealed to you.

Finding out if the people you have spoken to have to buy more feed for their horse because he has dropped weight, sure would be an item to take into account before moving your horse.

You may also wish to find out before settling in if the stable has a trainer who would be good for you and your new horse. The fact that the resident trainer is the primary reason for changing barns necessitates your finding out exactly how his training horses are treated may be an item you need to look into.

Just because you have seen the new stable’s trainer win at horse shows you’ve attended, perhaps was the main reason for going to the new facility, But you may find out the trainer’s home techniques are horrible, so finding out those problem areas beforehand sure could save big bucks down the road.

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November 2018
This area has been used since 2003 to explain or promote an idea or thought relative to the horse industry or any other thoughts I may have. My thinking is that my readers may benefit from my many years in the horse business.

Unfortunately, I have a much more serious matter which affects us all as Americans and since we all admire and love horses I’m hoping all of you will understand and agree that the topic I’m bringing up is so very important and that you will forgive my slight detour to another area that is influencing us all.

However, during the past couple of years, I have seen a terrible problem coming to my beloved country.

Now it doesn’t matter what political party I or you belong to. In fact, I have been seeing the all-out hatred being vented between my fellow citizens and it gives me great grave concern. In fact, I am terribly frightened that our country is being split apart and is quickly becoming a nation that’s coming unglued at the seams. In short, it’s not the nation that I have come to know and love for the past 74 years of my life.

There simply has to be a peaceful answer to the political split that’s threatening to create a huge division in the country we all love.

What’s the answer? I truly do not know exactly but I’m sure the citizens working together as a nation, can figure it out because we must bring our country back together. I’m also thinking that to rely on our Congress to do the job, just will not work because they fight all the time and that adds time, which we do not have, mainly because they’ll just take too long and our country simply does not have the time.

Perhaps our belief in GOD or a supernatural entity has gone wanting. But our nation was founded on principles as outlined in our Bill of Rights and not on one specific religion. Others have proffered that The Ten Commandments from The Old Testament must be the answer and perhaps it is. But whatever has given us the ability to discuss our questions, it must be renewed.

Whatever it is, we must all pray that we come together as before and solve our problems. I’ve seen families split who won’t even speak to each other unless there’s an agreement not to speak about anything at all political.

I fear, as do others, that there is so much hate in our nation that perhaps a civil war is in our future; oh my GOD, how horrible. I feel it necessary to ask the leaders of the colleges and universities to take on the responsibility to allow patient and understanding discussions of any and all subjects. Because if free discussion are not renewed, I fear our country is doomed…. There really is no other answer.

However dear citizens, our country was formed with the complete freedom to speak about anything at all. But the ability to speak freely has been quashed; students and educators alike have spoken that all in the educational sphere are terrified to even raise their hand to offer another (and perhaps controversial opinion…. Parish the thought).

Citizen, THAT’S YOU. I am calling on each and every one of you to raise your hand and say what’s on your mind. Our forefathers did it and gave us the Declaration of Independence and our precious Constitution. Come on now, we must not let our nation down. The statement from a person attempting to come to America and directed to our President Reagan, “Hey Freedom Man,” must now most importantly be directed at all of us. There just is no other answer.

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