Galloping on Equal Grounds: The Equine Liability Act

Equine Liability ActTaking a horse for a stroll and trampling over a pedestrian can be a case for suing and chasing a careless horse rider for damages. In such an event, an individual cannot directly attribute the blame on the horse. But say that another animal, such as a squirrel or a stray dog, for example, distracts a horse and causes disorientation, who do you blame for the injuries that follow?

Preston, Pence & Lionsbee discusses the Equine Liability Act, emphasizing how it works in favor of the equine professional. The court cannot hold them liable unless they fail to provide reasonable efforts maintaining the equine’s behavior. It must parallel the logic within the context of the activity wherein the participant is involved.

The Limitations on Liability

In the state of Utah, a law exists to protect horse professionals from liability in the unfortunate event that someone is hurt or killed engaging in horse activities. As defined by the Utah Equine Activity Statute, “equine activity” includes the following:

  • Equine shows, fairs, competitions, performances, racing, sales, or parades that involve any breeds of equines and any equine disciplines, including dressage, hunter and jumper horse shows, grand prix jumping, multiple-day events, combined training, roads, driving, pulling, cutting, polo, steeple chasing, hunting, endurance trail riding, and western games;
  • Boarding or training equines;
  • Teaching persons equestrian skills;
  • Riding, inspecting, or evaluating an equine owned by another person regardless of whether the owner receives monetary or other valuable consideration;
  • Riding, inspecting, or evaluating an equine by a prospective purchaser; or
  • Other equine activities or any type including rides, trips, hunts, or informal or spontaneous activities sponsored by an equine activity sponsor.

There is an estimate of 4.3 million people who participate in horse-related activities on an annual basis. By sheer numbers alone, there really is a need for Equine Law. People need to be aware of these laws just in case an accident occurs.

Take the Equine Activity Liability Act for example, as it basically means, “Ride at your own risk.” Without a waiver or a signed document of agreement, the law won’t be able to protect you. These acts differ from state to state, but in Utah, horse professionals must first assess a participant’s horse riding abilities before the activity proper.