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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


January 2021
NAES Top 10 - #2,
From August, 2010

Many years ago I was asked to review the circumstances surrounding the rather mysterious death of a Quarter Horse at an Oklahoma show facility. The owners had put in a claim under their mortality insurance for $50,000.00, the face amount of the policy.

I hired a separate independent veterinarian who performed a necropsy on the animal, much to the alarm of the owners, I might add. In fact, I had to retain the services of the insurance company’s attorney and the local sheriffs department to prevent the owner’s own veterinarian from interfering with the procedure.

Upon examining the details of the case, the IVE, (Independent Veterinary Examination), determined that the horse had died of a severe anemic condition; the horse was dehydrated with very little blood in his system.

The insurance company’s veterinarian discovered that the horse had lost several quarts of blood; the owner and their own vet could provide no reasons for the animal’s condition. This information was turned over to the insurance claims adjuster with the report’s findings suggesting possible fraud.

The insurance company then required the claimant to sue for recovery of any part of the $50,000.00 since there was little evidence as to how the blood was removed and by whom; the claim was eventually paid but at a much reduced rate.

The news of the “jugging” of a very good show horse spread widely and the exhibitors were barred from further showing under “for cause” provisions of many horse show contracts.

Unfortunately, the draining of blood in a competitive western pleasure show horse was often used by unscrupulous exhibitors in an effort to quiet the horse in the show ring.

Situations such as the above are extremely rare now since much more aggressive examination techniques are used by all the horse show associations. In addition, most exhibitors would never do anything as horrible to horses that give us so very much and ask for nothing in return.


February 2021
NAES Top 10 - #2,
From December, 2010

The Case of the Month for December, 2010 revolved around a student who fell during a lesson at a stable in Washington.

The horse had stumbled and the off balance rider simply fell to the ground uninjured. A year later, the student and parents sued the stable and instructor claiming a laundry list of supposedly bad instruction techniques and crummy horse problems, etc, all of which contributed to the supposed injuries.

While eventually the stable and instructor were cleared of any negligent action the costs of defending were huge.

The case points out how important it is to treat each seemingly minor accident as a potentially big deal. Always make sure the instructor and any witnesses describe in detail every single thing that happened. The student and parent in attendance during the accident need to also write and sign a statement recording exactly what happened, too.

Always make sure all the witnesses sign their statements. Months later the accident reports, complete with signatures, may save you from the time and expenses of defending against a ridiculous legal action. It’s amazing what can change in the recollections of the student and parents months after the occurrence.

NAES was retained to examine the factors surrounding the case. As you may guess there was nothing wrong with anything the stable or the instructor did in instructing the intermediate rider.


March 2021
NAES Top 10 - #1,
From February, 2007

Case of the Month revolved around the value of a 10 year old Arabian English Pleasure show horse. The IRS had challenged the taxpayers’ $30,000.00 assessment of the mare’s value in a donation; IE (the famous “8283” non-cash charitable deduction).

I was retained by the taxpayers and showed that the mare was actually worth much more than the taxpayers had claimed. The IRS frequently doesn’t comprehend horse valuations but finally capitulated after I submitted my report.

Sometimes it’s very wise to have a Certified Appraisal done before being challenged by the IRS.


April 2021
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From September 2014 used for April 2021

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 (numbers) 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.


May 2021
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From December 2006 used for May 2021

Case of the Month involved the questionable training of the client’s horse. The trainers had taken the horse on the road to show, all while knowing the horse had serious lameness issues.

It was apparent to the client that the only reason in bringing the horse along was to help defray the costs of showing incurred by the trainers.

When the client complained, the trainers said that “it was important for the horse to learn what it was like on the road.”

The lesson to be learned is that even if you are not that wise about the horse business make sure your trainers completely explain the reasoning behind their decisions. After all, it’s your money.

In this case, the client finally verified the proper treatment after speaking to the horse’s veterinarian; taking the horse “on the road” was not one of the vet’s recommendations.


June 2021
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December 2012  used for June 2021

A young rider took a tumble during a jumping lesson at a stable in the East. She suffered a broken leg and collar bone; certainly not life-threatening but serious never the less.

The rider’s step-father had signed a release although he had not yet received legal guardianship. He thought that signing the release would absolve him and his wife from any legal action plus the stable owner would be protected as well at least that’s what the stable owner hoped.

The accident came back to haunt the stable owner when the young rider’s attorney showed that the signed waiver was worthless since the step father was not the legal guardian at the time of the accident and could not sign away the legal rights of the minor aged rider anyway.

The stable owner’s insurance company had to pay a hefty sum to the former student. The lesson learned is to always have your attorney review your legal standing when there’s a divorce involved so you’re not caught not being a legal guardian at the time of the step-child’s accident.


July 2021
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July 2005 used for July 2021

I just spoke with a barn owner in Washington State who has gotten himself into trouble by being too nice to a boarder at his “self-care” stable.

The only document he had the lady sign was for the self-care for her 5 horses which specified the monthly amount per horse and an arbitration clause; obviously, NOT ENOUGH!

Now she hasn’t paid and has conned the barn owner into thinking she’s broke, etc.

Always remember that even if your stable is self-care, the horse owner is required to feed, water and clean the stable area at a certain time; if not, you need the authority to take care of the horses and then auction them off for the past due board and the cost of your having to “do their job.”

Some State Status will allow you to take possession of the horse if the bill is not paid after 30 days. If you are forced to evict a boarder, get a third-party vet out right away to perform a health exam and in writing (copy for boarder) because later the boarder could accuse you of physical problems the horses acquired at your boarding stable.

Have your attorney create boarding contract supporting your state status, along with other items that are important in protecting yourself, business and your other boarders, i.e. making sure all your boarders have mortality insurance on each horse they own.

You will want to have Barn Rules as well, such as specific times that your barn is “open, no extraneous vehicles parked at your facility, and accepted behavior at the barn. The “Rules” should be there to ensure safety.


August 2021
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October 2009 used for August 2021

Case of the Month pointed out again the necessity of safety issues when going to the almost ubiquitous dude ranch.

The case stressed the importance of wearing protective head gear. Often, vanity gets in the way of protecting your head from injury and long term problems.

In this instance, the parents of the children rightly insisted the kids wear horse-approved helmets. Unfortunately the adults chose not to wear the helmets…thinking that “after all, it was just a one hour ride and the helmets were “homely.”

During the ride, a rabbit frightened the mother’s horse that bucked and dumped mom on her head. The injury put her in a coma for one month and she literally had to re-learn everyday activities.

Of course, the mother sued the stable but won a mere pittance owing to the state of Colorado’s equine liability statute (45 other states have similar laws).

The lesson learned is so obvious: no matter your skill level, always wear the homely helmet; given the choice again, the mother would have gladly exchanged one hour of “homely helmet” use to years of physical and mental therapy.


September 2021

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August 2006 used for September 2021

Case of the Month involved an attractive young paint horse being held by a non-horse person boyfriend while the woman trainer did other duties.

The horse spooked, and the boyfriend not knowing what to do, let go of the reins. Whereupon the horse ran down the barn aisle and into traffic on the nearby street and was struck and killed by a car.

The suit against the trainer for failure to control the horse was messy but finally settled.

The lesson to be learned is to always make sure the person controlling the animal can actually “control” the horse.


October 2021
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May 2005
used for October 2021

NAES was contacted by a large insurance company to value an Eastern running Thoroughbred. The most value I could get on the mare was $10,000. The claimant, however, put in for $279,000…what a difference!

The claimant hired an old friend to act as an “appraiser”, and turned in a quite fanciful rendition of why the horse was worth so much.

Now the mare in question hadn’t won more than $10,000 total in the previous two years and, obviously, could not be bred.

I provided a studied review of just exactly why the horse couldn’t be worth as much as the claimant wanted and since the horse was un-injured the claimant received a very small sum.

I must assure you that I’ve appraised race horses into the millions but the value just has to be there…oh, what a thought!


November 2021

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May 2009
used for November 2021

This month’s case began with the plaintiff running into three horses who’d escaped from a farm with a poorly constructed fence. The crash happened on an interstate highway and ended with the plaintiff crashing into another vehicle resulting in death to the second motorist.

The defense tried in vain to wiggle out of the case but their client’s fencing negligence clearly had allowed horses to escape causing the disastrous consequences.

The insurance company had to pay out the policy limits plus a huge additional payment because of a “bad faith” insurance issue. (“Bad faith” often refers to an insurance company who could be required to pay more if it can be shown they acted recklessly with disregard to the claimant’s or the policy owner’s rights. Ask your attorney to explain more “bad faith” triggers).

The case points out two very important points: 1) Make sure your stable’s fencing is first rate and maintained 2) choose your legal group and insurance carrier well. The least expensive insurer may not be the best in claims settlements.


December 2021
NAES Favorites

October 2012 used for December 2021

What happens when your trusted trainer decides to take over ownership of your horse?

Because you live many miles away and you are unable to check up on your horse. To add to the problem you have no bill of sale for the recently purchased horse since you failed to insist on receiving all the documents because your trainer assured you he would take care of all the paperwork.

Adding to the owner’s problems is the fact that the trainer successfully showed the horse under his name, won 1st prize money in a $50,000.00 jumper class and sold the horse for $550,000.00 to a buyer from Brazil. Immediately, the new buyer shipped the horse to Brazil, the trainer married his girlfriend and flew off for a secret honeymoon in Lima, Peru.

The above is slightly inventive, but it shows what could happen should you neglect to demand a bill of sale and all sale papers. Also make sure you have a signed and binding contract with your trainer.

Remember, as an owner, you have a responsibility to protect your investment. I can assure you I’ve had similar cases where a lack of appropriate papers made all the difference. Therefore, the lesson is to secure and protect all your horse related documents and keep a close eye on your horse if possible.


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