RISK MANAGEMENT FOR THE HORSE INDUSTRY
© 25th August, 2003
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
it possible that the following could be held as Negligence if one were
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
SOME CASES I HAVE BEEN
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.
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.
horseproblems at horseproblems.com.au