Horseproblems Australia
Post Office Box Victor Harbor
SA. 5211
(61) 0885521418
horseproblems@horseproblems.com.au

 

 

RISK MANAGEMENT FOR THE HORSE INDUSTRY

John O'Leary
Horseman
25th August, 2003

www.horseproblems.com.au


 

Since September 11th, Risk Management Insurance has been basically impossible to obtain for the Horse Industry and has decimated a fair portion of the businesses in it.

Historically, the Australian Horse Industry has been a Risk Management nightmare and in some ways, they had it coming to them. Now, the Insurance Companies are trading off guarantees for improved practices, in return for the supply of limited Insurance risk.

I note that very little has changed. Individuals and Clubs are not getting the message. This is a small attempt at warning you in actual real world scenario's, how and why you could be sued during your life as a horse person.

I am not a Lawyer and advise that you seek Legal Advice if required, however I have studied Law and consulted in many Court Cases involving horses and Risk Management issues. Moreover, as a Horseman, I deal with and think about such issues every day and in reality, can see dangers and risks far before others.


"Horsemanship - the Art of reading the future, with 'Risk Management in mind" John O'Leary

"BUYER BEWARE"

Vet's everywhere, most of them, tell all their Clients that if they get caught with a Crooked Horse Sale, it is "Buyer Beware" They live in the 'Dark Ages' and are wrong.

Remember, to be found guilty, they have to prove Negligence on your part, however, it can cost you big $$$ to defend any matter. You are best off protecting yourself before hand. Think safety and risk. If you are found Negligent by the Court, your Insurance Company will most likely refuse to pay out. Here are some possibilities:

  • You sell a horse and it bucks the buyer off a week later, injuring them. They can sue you and if I, as an investigator, can prove that during that hors's past history, that it had behaved in a similar manner, you could well be found guilty.

  • You use drugs to mask an injury or say arthritis. A blood test or X-Rays can find you responsible at Law.

  • You advertise a horse and you allow the potential buyers' to ride it without the appropriate safety gear and they injure themselves, they can sue you and probably win.

  • You are selling a horse, it is classed as a good rider's horse. A Learner Rider comes and you allow them to ride it. The horse runs away with them and they become the 'Human Javelin' and are killed on a fence post. You could be found negligent as you did not ascertain the true ability of the rider prior to allowing them to ride it. 26th August, the day after writing this, I am involved with a Court Action against the seller of a horse. The rider received a broken neck.

  • You pull any of the dozens of scams that horse sellers commit and chances are you will be found out and possibly sued.

  • Areas where you allow such people to ride your horse can fit into the category of negligence imho. A lack of arena fencing, rough ground, holes, dangerous fencing and the like.

  • The local Pony Club has a show. They use the good old star droppers with their bunting. A rider falls off and is pierced by a star dropper. Guilty? Quite probably.

  • The local Pony Club leaves the front gate open, horse escapes, hits car, driver hits tree and is in a wheelchair as a result. Guilty? Most probably.

  • The Dressage Club holds a comp and uses steel pegs for the dressage arena. The rider falls on a peg. Negligence could quite possibly be held by the Court and in my opinion, quite rightly so.

  • The Dressage Club rope arena has a horse get tangled in the ropes and gallops off with a rider who is injured. They sue. Negligence?? I would think probably. The ropes are always too low anyhow and I think that the use of these arenas show incompetence.

  • Here is a classic that occurs at our local Pony Club. They hold hack shows. The warm up arena has a show jump in the center. The hoon show jumpers are crossing the arena at the gallop and meeting the children who are riding around the circular perimeter. A child falls off and gets dragged. The club is almost certainly guilty of Negligence.

  • The Coach is teaching on an arena without perimeter fences. The horse runs out the imaginary gate and bolts up the driveway, kid falls off? Negligence? Probably.

  • Jump wings without removable cups. Horse gets injured badly. Rider sues your for negligence. You have to defend, the rider provides evidence of the danger of such cups etc. 

  • The local Dressage Club holds the Dressage in the North Adelaide public parklands. The main gate is open onto a virtual Freeway. A horse escapes (they have). Negligent? Most probably. The complainant would sue the EFA, the Dressage Club, the owner of the horse and the Adelaide City Council. Probably jointly and let the Court sort out who were responsible.

  • You are towing your horse down the road and you do not have it tied up inside the float. The horse turns around and jumps out into the oncoming traffic. A major accident occurs and injuries caused. Would you be found guilty? Possibly. (This has happened on a number of occasions.)

  • The local Eventing Committee runs an event. At the water jump, a rider falls off and has mild concussion. The person sitting at the jump does not stop the rider re-mounting and completing the course. (as is the case almost always.) The rider gets injured or dies as a result of being previously concussed or dis-orientated. A good case could be made in Court.

  • The local Pony Club has jumps that are in a state of dis-repair and/or, have dangers aspects to them. The jumps may also be incorrectly measured, make it impossible for a horse to jump safely or be of a design that actually causes a horse to make the wrong decision as with the jump in the Adelaide International Horse Trials a few years ago. If an injury happens, they could sue you and a fair case for the Plaintiff could be made.

  • The fact that a Pony Club or any other Equestrian Club has not availed themselves of the recent Risk Management workshops, could in itself be a factor used against them in some future case at Law.

  • You have agistment people. They allow their friends to ride their horse. No helmet, no ability and so on. They could sue you for not having the appropriate rules to cover all of these types of events.

  • The local Pony Club has a substandard tie up rail. It is too low and made from permapine which is a substandard product where tying horses up is concerned. A horse gets it's leg over the rope, pulls back and causes a chain reaction. The fence breaks and the horses run away with it smashing their legs and killing a child on the way through the car park. Could the Club be sued? Yes and my evidence, if called, would go a long way to making the case for the Plaintiff successful. Lack of teaching on the subject, ropes too long, tie up rails too low, use of permapine posts which are too small, rotten, kicking horses tied close to non kickers, hay nets tied too low and the list goes on.

  • You lend out your float. The horse goes through the floor. The owner sues you. You are in big trouble.

  • You have an accident whilst towing horses in your float. The car is not appropriate for the job. You have a problem at Law.

  • You supply agistment and the horse gets seriously cut by an obvious protruding bolt or a galvanized sheet that has come loose and has been loose for some time. You have been warned but done nothing about it. The Court would most likely find for the Plaintiff.

  • The local Pony Club has a Mounted Police Instructor attend. They get the kids to do an exercise they call "Around the World" where the child has to turn around 360 degrees whilst still on their horse. The horse bucks, the child is launched out the back and the horse kicks the kid in the centre of the back bone putting them into a wheelchair for the rest of their life. Negligent for sure. (I use Mounted Police because I have seen it.)

  • The Show Committee do not have the float area ropes off to stop horses getting out into the public area. The horse escapes and runs through the Devon shire tea area, then runs through half a dozen dressage arena's and ropes whilst people are competing in them. Negligent? Most probably.

QUESTIONS ON NEGLIGENCE

Is it possible that the following could be held as Negligence if one were sued?

  • Your horse is tied to twine. It breaks free, gallops through the car park and kills a toddler? Negligence because it was not tied solid?

  • You own a Stallion. You are at a show. The horse is tied to twine. It breaks free, mounts several horses, attacks a gelding among other things. Negligence? I would argue that it is grossly negligent to tie a Stallion to twine, regardless of the Industry teaching.

  • Your horse is tied in the float to twine. It breaks the twine and jumps out the back into oncoming traffic. They would sue you. You would have to prove that it was not your fault. The Barrister would argue that the use of twine to secure a 500kg animal from jumping in front of cars is negligent. I would agree.

SOME CASES I HAVE BEEN INVOLVED IN

  • Horse got out on a road and was hit by a car, driver being drunk. Horse killed but car a write off. The driver sued for $30,000. They failed as they could not prove ownership of the horse.

  • Buyer of horse sues seller 9 months down the track as the horse is rearing. Costs seller $18,000 in Lawyers costs prior to a Court case. I investigated and proved that the buyer had turned other horses into rearers'. The buyer withdrew the action on the steps of the Court.

  • Client purchased a horse from Interstate. No Vet check. Horse arrived with 'Club Hooves' and contracted tendons. She sued the seller. Vet says put the horse down. Case pending.

  • Horse reared over on a buyer. I proved it had done it before. Guilty.

  • Buyer with a broken neck, suffered during the purchase of a horse.

Horses come under the same Consumer Legislation as most other products and must be fit for the use for which it was purchased. You mis-represent the horse and you can be pursued through the Courts.

So, remember to be vigilant and to start thinking ahead. These days they are all your possible enemies who want to take away your family home.

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Mail: horseproblems at horseproblems.com.au