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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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