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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 2019
Barn and stable maintenance is so important in keeping “safety” as the most important item in your checklist of “Very Important Things” to remember at your horse facility.

It is so stupid when any horse becomes injured because a pitchfork was left outside its storage place, wherever that is. Even if the horse involved is not your potential champion green working horse but an old wonderful school horse who has single handedly paid for the new indoor ring…….. you never are “OK” with any horse becoming hurt because of a stupid neglectful human error. After all, we are horse lovers.

The case I had many years ago, involved a high end show stable which was usually immaculate. The problem was a simple tack cleaning hook attached to the barn ceiling and positioned not close to the wall and door opening into the beautiful tack room, but somewhat in to the barn aisle; obviously a dangerous place to have any metal object with the potential to injure a horse or human, for that matter.

And the sad part is that all the horse owners and the stable owners/managers had seen the tack cleaning hook for many years; in other words the exposure to the potential cause of accidents was in very clear view to all for years.

NOW THE ACCIDENT: Several horse owners and guests with their very fancy show horses were at the barn in order to take lessons from the resident trainer, a well-known young man from Canada who had a fabulous record showing both hunters and jumpers. In other words, a well-qualified person to teach these wealthy horse owners.

Now, as the Canadian has taught all morning long, a lunch break is called and, after lunch, the students go back into the ring, but approximately half way through the afternoon session, one of the woman students complains about a migraine headache and leaves the arena. She momentarily leaves her horse untied as she darts into the tack room and then is startled by her horse rearing up into the air and crashes to the barn aisle in front of the tack room.

Obviously, the horse had caught his left nostril on the tack cleaning hook, got scarred, reared and set back, then collapsed on the dirt floor. The “tack cleaning hook” is actually made up of three hooks, welded together then chromed.

The prominent blood flow from the wound was stopped by putting many towels over the horse’s nose. By the time the veterinarian and his vet tech showed up, all they had to do was “start stitching.” The horse ended up receiving over 60 stitches.

Obviously, a lawsuit was filed against the stable owner. I had been retained by the plaintiff to testify as to the damage which could have been anticipated by having a metal cleaning hook in close proximity to a horse area. In addition, the damage to the horse was severe and included two severed nerves which paralyzed the right side of the horse’s face, and looked to be permanent from the testimony of the veterinarians. A case such as this is very difficult since I have known many horse people for many years. I received my judging licenses in 1969 and as so many of the cases I handle are related to hunters and jumpers I backed off from accepting many judging jobs.

In this instance, I knew the barn owner and several of the women quite well, so I felt bad that I was being called upon to testify against an old friend, but my ethical background is very strong and I will not under any circumstances become affected by such a case.

The safety lesson, which cost the insurance company a boatload of money, should not have cost anything. The smart, wise thing to do, for the barn owner, was to have assigned the job of safety “checker” to the barn manager or perhaps the senior groom, or the individual you feel to be the most responsible. Then, of course, as the stable owner, you must always check……. It’s always up to you, the boss, to always follow up so you can ALWAYS TRUST YOUR FACILITY. It really is so very simple.


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February 2019
Through the years, I have been asked to review many cases where the failure of someone to do their job, caused the death or serious injury to a third party. The tragic results have caused several horses to die a horrible death and several more horse people who perhaps were drivers or spectators to also perish.

A recent case that comes to mind occurred in Pennsylvania at a large county fair. The result of a participating horse not being securely put in a stall, which had been provided by the facility, caused a middle aged woman to die from a long and painful death three months later.

In the above case, it’s common for folks participating at an event, to either place the horse in a separate stall, or have someone hold the horse while waiting to participate in the class. So all it would have taken would have been for the horse’s owner to simply hold onto his horse.

Many people would say that simply keeping a horse tied to the trailer he arrived in, would be just fine. The problem, as was demonstrated in the above case, was fireworks which spooked the horse to pull back then broke the lead rope, then exited facility at the run and crossed a busy road during rush hour which caused several cars to collide, with the driver of the last car running into the first vehicle from the rear. The police said there was no way whatsoever for her to NOT rear end car number one.

And all the above, caused by the horse not being in a stall, or held by the horse’s owner, (The owner was up in the grandstands watching one of his buddies performing).…… yup, it only takes one person not doing their job to cause serious injuries or deaths.


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March 2019
As so many of you know, I’ve been in the horse-related legal consulting business for over 35 years. So I thought I would explain my background and just a few things which have changed the horse world.

Fortunately, being somewhat older horse enthusiast, I’ve been involved with many breeds and disciplines so I was not surprised when, creating a book on the many breeds and disciplines I’ve evaluated, the count was over 30.

Because knowing a little bit about so many breeds has given me a broad perspective on just what attracts folks to each breed.

I actually started riding then showing American Saddlebreds, (You know, the ones with a high tail set), then it was moving on to former racing Thoroughbreds to learn, show then train to be good examples in the growing hunter and jumper shows.

COM/Blog-2019  

Then in the late 1960’s to the 80’s the advent of the various European Warmblood horses started to sweep the United States, and for good reason............. they were quiet, easier to ride than the ex racehorses which scared many amateurs and children.

The reason I bring this up is to show the huge influence the “Warmblood” type of horse had on the horse show world; “It was huge.”


As soon as trainers figured out how to train these totally different types of horses, more amateur riders got into the habit of going to more shows and actually participating so much more in the horse show scene.

I’ll try and explain a few more things which have affected the horse world and naturally money has had a large influence on the market.
  COM/Blog 3-2019

I can recall standing at the back gate of a large New Mexico show and discussing how the oil market had kept a large number of top level junior riders from being at that particular show.

Around 1986, Congress revised the tax code yet again which contributed to huge problems in the Arabian Horse Show market. That breed was particularly effected owing to the removal of the ability of Arabian horse owners who use to claim a passive loss.

So sitting around the bridge club tables and bragging about how much money their Arabian stallion was worth after their passive loss horse’s value had dropped from $500,000.00 to $5,000.00 or less within the space of one year.

Case of the month/Blog, March 2019   That all meant that the practice of purchasing fancy Arabians immediately after they had been exhibited in a super ARABIAN NIGHTS PRODUCTION, choreographed by the likes of Mike Nichols. Those days were gone.

It also meant that the Arabian horse trainers had to learn to actually train and ride like a true professional should.

The rumor had always been that the Arabian horse show trainers had been made by getting the misfits from the other horse breeds who were very slick at selling the “feed ‘em and lead ‘em” show horse, (This referred to the halter horse show classes which didn’t require actually riding the horse, just leading the horse into the ring).

There may have been some truth to those and similar stories especially since the Arabian Horse Association, which controlled the specific requirements necessary to be ranked the top Arabian in the world, required the bare minimum of performance to enable the horse to be sent to the very top. Naturally, the top Arabian trainers who would charge as much as $10,000.00 just to lead the horse into the ring at Scottsdale or the Arabian Nationals, plus the top Canadian Nationals in Regina. (Oh, those were wild times!).

So while the Arabian breed had been suffering their many, mostly self-imposed problems, the American Quarter Horse market was developing by leaps and bounds where the multi-day events were running literally all day and night.

Unfortunately, the poor quarter horse was being abused by unscrupulous owners and trainers as well as the occasional licensed vet who had been creating “Better Living Through Chemistry” by giving drugs which would slow the horse down even more.

It was also not uncommon for the super Quarter horse to be found in his stall after having several gallons of blood drawn to “slow the horse down.”
  COM/Blog_Img04

This and other cruel and horrible procedures were used to change the way the horse actually performed.

The American Quarter Horse Association had left the American Horse Shows Association to be on its own which made sense because what with huge numbers of foals being produced every year, they needed to be run separately. What roll the AHSA had in running shows for the rest of the focused on the huge Hunter and Jumper section of the market and included some of the other breed associations.

The Tennessee Walking Horses had been literally kicked out of the AHSA owing to the continuing cruelty to these wonderful horses by means of soring the horse’s front legs to encourage the really “high-Stepping” running walk.

COM/Blog_03-2019   It had gotten so bad that the United States Department of Agriculture had gotten into the act by assigning a SQP, (Designated Qualified Person), who’s job was to examine each horse’s front legs immediately following each show class.

The aim, of course, was to make sure the soring practices were gone for good.

Of course, “the good ‘ol boys” held secret, (and still continue), shows which were by invitation only and enabled the soring of these nice horses to continue without the FEDS “sticking their nose into places where they didn’t belong.”

Now one would think that true horsemen and horsewomen would themselves police these shows that promoted the horrible practice of “soring,” the use of a caustic solution on the front of the horse’s cannon bones. The horses with sored front legs would “pick the affected legs higher,” thus showing a “brilliant fancy action.”
  COM/Blog_03-2019

Well, I’m about done relating my “horse story” so far to the beginning of the “warmblood” takeover in the hunter/jumper horse show era. Other breeds changed as well and next month, I’ll recount just how the Arabian, American Saddlebred, American Quarter Horses and other smaller breeds were changing and the effect these changes had on the equine business.

Please send any comments or questions and I would love to address any concerns you might have. Have a great month and appreciate the horse GOD created just for you, and good luck.


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April
Several years ago, I was asked to review an accident case involving a young 13 year old girl injured in an accident while she was being instructed during a riding lesson.

I was giving all the details plus my client had videos of the entire lesson which turned out to be quite helpful. The young girl was very much a beginner and as such, the instructor really was responsible for her safety. In this case, depending on an unprepared instructor was not good.

As I reviewed the video, it became apparent the instructor was very much a beginner herself and was much more concerned with her boyfriend standing outside the arena, rather than the student in the ring. The first thing I noticed, was that the student was not wearing any protective headgear which should have been the first item the youngster put on her head.

Throughout the 50 years I’ve spent teaching children and adults to ride, the protective helmet is the paramount item for safety. I had been chairman of the American Horse Shows Show Standard Committee for over 15 years and had several manufacturers who finally had made helmets for the horse men and women.

Having been made aware of the many head injuries which have been the predominant causes of injuries in the horse world, it took so many years to get the riding public to accept the responsibility of using protective helmets. All this boils down to the parent’s important responsibility to protect their kids. Just because a parent is not a whiz bang expert in horsemanship does not mean common sense gets tossed out the window.

It’s so important that you, as a parent, must at least get somewhat of an idea what your child needs to learn and what the instructor should probably teach. Then if the instructor seems not to be teaching your child what you thought they should, you’ll have a basic idea. At that point, you should express any concerns you have, and if the instructor doesn’t make you feel any better…. then get your child to someone else, because you only have that one child and you must protect them.

If I can help in any other way, please feel free to call me at 800-575-1669 any time, and I’ll give you lots of FREE advice based on my teaching of thousands of children and adults for many years.


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May
As many of you know, I’ve been a very active horseman and instructor for over 50 years, a long time to be sure but one that’s enabled me to get a very good look at how adults and children have been taught and how they learn basic horsemanship.

One of my many horse related jobs has been being active in the many parts of horse shows, especially in equitation and activities where the students are taught not only how to ride but to appreciate horses and how they are so special. When the prospective student’s parent first views the facility, this gives them an idea of what to expect.

Anyway, I’ve taught thousands to ride and my emphasis has been on safety. Such emphasis has aids the beginner rider in easing any fears they had of a fall causing serious injury. As the lessons proceed the novice student feels more confident and willing to tackle more difficult and challenging exercises.

I handle many more cases involving students who have had serious accidents. The students are very often asked to perform at levels far beyond their abilities, with the result that a fall ensued. My next job is to figure out what caused the child to come off.

Most young children have a desire to ride and, of course, they instantly fall in love with all the horses. For the parent, several things should be evident and the unsafe things should jump right out, such as a bare electrical wire, or a nail that sticks out in a stall, etc. The parent must always be very observant and they should not be reticent to remark out loud, “Hey, why is there this sharp nail sticking out in the stall?”

However, as a parent, you must evaluate the entire situation and it sure helps to make the employees of the stable aware that they are looking out for accident causing items. Most parents who haven’t had any activities around horses may not be aware of the specific areas such as tack and equipment, the horse’s physical condition and the cleanliness of the overall facility.

Most parents have a basic idea if they get a bad feeling that all may not be good. The prospective student’s parent or guardian should ask to see a lesson and just how it is run. Good instructors should never have a problem with having an outside observer.

So it’s very important that you make sure the new stable is aware that you’re looking out for things that could cause someone to get hurt. This also brings me up to the very important area of protective headgear. The new stable really should mandate the use of a properly fitted helmet for every rider, including the instructors. That rule may piss off the employees but it sure sets a good example for the riding students later. (Plus, if the employees don’t like the rule they can go elsewhere to work).

When I’m reviewing a new case, the above are simply just a few of the items I look for and often times the simple things are the cause of the accident.

Later in some of the next Cases of the Month I’ll give further ideas that you as a parent and I, as the accident investigator, should look for.


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June
The following has happened more than once and I have been asked to either defend the veterinarian or aid the stallion’s owner.

The problem: Euthanizing the WRONG stallion, or gelding the wrong stallion. Now I know you’re asking yourself…. How could that happen?!

Most veterinary state policies, plus the normal veterinarian’s own practice standards MUST demand the stallion’s owner be present or a qualified agent with a notarized authorization letter in hand any time either of these procedures are to be performed.

The common problems seems to always be that the situation or the parties get flummoxed by being rushed to “Just get the damn procedure done,” thereby failing to follow up and verify the procedures that are actually being done to the subject stallion.

That’s the very time the vet decides to go ahead without the necessary people present or the “agent” is late for the appointment. Now a word to the wise, never show up late for any veterinary appointment, (Or for any other horse related appointment).

I can tell you from lots of sad experiences that if the owner’s stallion gets castrated erroneously, the money damages sent on to the insurance company will be huge. And that’s where the insurance company hires me to come in and perform the Qualified Appraisal. And the same holds true if another horse is put down rather than the correct horse.

Through the years, I have appraised over 50 separate breeds and over 30 separate disciplines. Of course, our LORD has made horses pretty much the same way, with specific items which aid in separating the various breeds. If the breed to be appraised is one which I have done recently, I do spend time in refreshing my memory. But I can assure you the person who owned the horse inadvertently gelded or euthanized will submit a bill substantially more than the horse was worth, (No surprise there).

Often, the stallion is being gelded owing to the not uncommon problem of just unruliness where someone such as the owner or groom might get hurt or killed. Of course, in a big-time winning racehorse, it doesn’t matter how bad they act, just so long as they go very fast on the track. So obviously, everyone must be on guard for “killing” the wrong animal or gelding the wrong stallion.

In fact, I’ve seen stallions handled by a grooms on either side using stallion poles, about 8 or 10 feet long. These “stud poles,” are attached to either side of the stallion’s bridle or halter. In cases where the stable owner has a history of having unruly or unbroken horses, the vets must be very careful to not perform any large medical procedure unless the horse’s owner is present.

Mistaken identity is the number one cause of serious medical errors, so the person legally qualified to demand such important procedures must be around to verify the identity of the subject animal.

In other words, one must always assume that any medical procedure could be performed either on the wrong horse or on the wrong part of the horse’s body. So the answer is so very simple. The responsibility an owner has is huge, especially if the horse’s owner is new to the equine community. In short, nothing can be left for the veterinarian to figure out on their own.


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July
Placing a spotlight on the actual dollar costs involved in owning a horse often comes as a surprise to the new owner. However, if the new owner also wishes to go to and compete in various horse shows, the costs of being trained, buying tack and equipment and the many necessary extras, can come as a super shock.

I’ve been involved in the horse world for many years, beginning at age 5. Seeing the anguish on my parent’s faces was a literal forecast of what was to greet me as an adult with my son who loved horses and had a very strong talent to ride very well, and get the horse to do anything he wanted.

In the early 1980’s I became very active in the politics of the horse world and got appointed to the AHSA/USEF board of directors. After chairing the Connemara Pony Committee for several years, I became very active in show standards and ended up as Chairman of the Show Standards Committee for 15 years.

Serving on the board gave me a great idea of just what the horse show exhibitor was concerned about. The biggest problem was the steadily increasing cost of horse showing.

So not only is the cost of the horse, plus training, tack and equipment, but the cost of finding a good trainer who will be excellent at teaching the horse and perhaps your child…… then there’s the added cost of association memberships, so any points you’re able to win get added to the correct horse show association.

Then, when we get right down to it, you have to pay for entry fees, drug fees, stall fees, office fees and also pay for the hay and grain company who has an exclusive to provide feed and bedding for each horse stabled, (So all the effort you and your paid help spent in loading hay and bedding from your own barn, was a waste of time).

Oh, and so you don’t have to sleep outside, you’ll have to get a hotel room with all the incidentals.

By the way, all the above will amount to over $2000 per week, and your fancy show horse hasn’t even shown in one class yet. Yup horse showing is super expensive, which is exactly why many people have had their horse show age kids join groups like the IEA.

The IEA sponsors horse shows all over the United States, where all the child has to do is show up at the correct time and hopefully draw for a horse that will make them look super. The IEA is available to both girls and boys in the junior high school and high school ages. There are charges for both annual dues for the IEA, and the local IEA Chapter plus reasonable fees when actually participating at the sponsored shows. But even with those charges, they represent a mere fraction of the thousands of dollars spent at the “Rated” shows.

So, what it all boils down to is that the school-age youngsters who wish to learn horsemanship, do not have to put a second mortgage on their home, but can participate in a very sound program of riding. It’s also good to note that the IEA is an affiliated member of the USEF and be assured of the “Safe Sport” protection program.


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August 2019
As many of you are aware, I’ve been involved in the myriad of horse cases where one of the parties to the case either misunderstood one or more of the factors concerning the case, or simply had lied.

Now I can assure you that hundreds of thousands of horse transactions get settled correctly for the agreed upon amount, and no cheating was involved whatsoever.

However, if the horse sale gets messed up, youcan be assured that the basic problem is that somewhere along the line, communications got confused, or one of the parties was pulling a fast one, IE, the wrong amounts of dollars were written, or the listing of proper documents weren’t put down, etc.

That’s why paying for a neutral third party to draw up the contracts is so important; this person most often is an attorney.

Anyway, this is why either one or both of the parties must insist on a purchase contract to be completed by a licensed attorney in your state. Having another wise pair of eyes reviewing the sales agreement is the very best way of making sure that at least the appropriate state laws are considered.

What this all amounts to is you must protect not only your family but the horses you own and all other horses you may currently own or anticipate owning. Unfortunately the number of unethical horse transactions or outright fraudulent sales has always been a problem in the horse community.

One important factor has come up and is that of making you’re your hunter or jumper horse has had a mico-chip put underneath your horse’s skin. It has been a very important factor in ownership of your show horse in these two jumping divisions.

About one year ago, the United States Equestrian Association and the United States Hunter Jumper Association began implementation of a new policy of requiring the subcutaneous installation of a transponder for each hunter/jumper horse participating in a recognized USHJA/USEF horse show.

The benefits of microchipping have been utilized in dog ownership for years and should be an obvious benefit in establishing ownership of your show horse as well. Because the USEF is the national governing body of equestrian sports, the movement to include other disciplines in the microchipping plans are being considered, but as for now, the hunters and jumpers are the only disciplines with the chip requirements now. The specific rule requirements are shown under Rule HU 104.


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September 2019
Having been in the legal consulting business for over 35 years, I can assure you that as fast as the various breed associations come up with a plan to keep track of who owns what horse, somebody else will figure out a way around it.

However, the enactment of the USHJA’s rule HU104 Microchipping may help to verify ownership, at least in the highly competitive hunter, jumper and hunter seat equitation divisions.

The new rules were in transition from December 1st, 2017 through November 30th, 2018. After the November 30th, 2018 date horses would be ineligible to compete at USEF/USHJA sanctioned shows.

Obviously, ownership of microchipped horses will be much more easily identified and should go a long way in clearly identifying the correct ownership information.


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