Horse Farm Liability

Insulating your equine business from liability requires thinking inside a protective box.
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A century ago, most personal injury claims were governed by a -common-sense legal principle called “assumption of the risk.” The idea is a simple one: If an individual knows that an activity is potentially dangerous but voluntarily takes part in the activity anyway, the participant is responsible for injuries he or she might suffer. The participant, in other words, assumes the risk of being -injured.

Although assumption of the risk remains a viable defense in a personal injury lawsuit, responsibility for one’s actions has taken a legal hit in recent years. -Aggressive personal injury attorneys, television advertisements that treat an accident like a winning lottery ticket, and even so-called reality courtroom shows like Judge Judy and The People’s Court have contributed to a litigious culture that devalues personal -responsibility.

Implications for the horse industry are clear. Horses are frequently seen as accidents waiting to happen; being sued for a client’s injuries is a real threat to farm owners, trainers, event sponsors, and other industry professionals; and losing a personal -injury lawsuit can bankrupt a business.

Thinking outside the box has become a shopworn cliché for creative thinking. Insulating your horse business from liability requires creative thinking inside a protective box using a combination of strategies: an emphasis on prioritizing safety, acting reasonably, complying with state equine liability laws, using signed liability waivers and releases, and obtaining commercial
liability insurance

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Written by:

Milt Toby was an author and attorney who wrote about horses and legal issues affecting the equine industry for more than 40 years. Former Chair of the Kentucky Bar Association’s Equine Law Section, Toby wrote 10 nonfiction books, including national award winners Dancer’s Image and Noor. You can read more about him at

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