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Exam A


Test your knowledge of equine law. by Attorney Krysia Nelson


How well do you know equine law?  Case 1:


horse owner is taking a pri- vate lesson when another


horse in the ring throws its rider and begins running around the arena, “bucking and leaping out of control.” The loose horse col- lides with the owner and her horse. The horse owner falls off and injures her leg and ankle. She files suit in court, alleging the stable was neg-


ligent because its instructor allowed the other “high spirited” horse and rider to enter the arena while she was having her lesson. The stable asks the court to dismiss the lawsuit on the basis of the state’s equine immunity statute. The horse owner opposes the dis- missal, arguing that the instructor had failed to make a “reasonable effort” to determine her ability to safely manage her mount under the lesson conditions the instructor had created.


What is the outcome? a) The case must go to trial so a jury can deter- mine whether the instructor did all she could to pre- vent the accident. b) The case must go to trial because the woman


was riding her own horse. c) The case must be dismissed because the wom-


an was riding her own horse. d) The case must be dismissed on the basis of the equine immunity statute.


A federal court in Wisconsin dismissed the lawsuit, hold- ing that the horse owner’s claim was barred by Wiscon- sin’s equine immunity statute. The answer is d. The court explained that the “exception” to immunity


relied on by the horse owner did not apply because she was riding her own horse at the time of the accident. The court explained that the exception might have ap- plied if the instructor had provided the lesson mount. On the basis of the equine immunity statute, the


court dismissed the case finding that the facts alleged by the horse owner brought the case squarely within the scope of the immunity statute.


62 September/October 2018


 Case 2: A


hotel guest books a trail ride for himself and some relatives. He advises the outfitter in


advance that he is over 6 feet tall and weighs 210 pounds. In response, the outfitter assigns him to ride their biggest horse — “Big” — who is big enough to need his own, custom designed tack. The guide conducts two safety checks before


taking the riders out on the trail, including check- ing girths to make sure that all saddles are securely fastened. Nonetheless, during the ride, Big’s saddle slips to one side and the guest injures himself when he attempts to jump off. The saddle remains affixed to Big, but shifts from his back to his side. Big did not react during the incident. The injured guest sues the trail riding outfitter.


The trail riding outfitter asks the court to dismiss the lawsuit on the basis of the state’s equine immunity statute.


What is the outcome? a) The case must go to trial so a jury can deter- mine whether the trail outfitter did all it could to pre- vent the accident. b) The case must go to trial because the slipped


saddle was “faulty equipment.” c) The case must be dismissed because falling off a horse is an “inherent risk” of trail riding. d) The case must be dismissed because girths may loosen and saddles may slip, and these are risks in- herent to riding that may result in a fall.


A court in Montana dismissed the injured guest’s lawsuit because the circumstances giving rise to the ac- cident arose from the inherent risks of equine activity as defined by Montana’s Equine Act. The answer is d. The outfitter argued that Montana’s Equine Act


barred the guest’s lawsuit, but the guest claimed that the “faulty equipment” exception to immunity applied. The court disagreed with the guest, reasoning that he had not alleged nor shown that any piece of tack or equipment broke, was defective, or did not work or per- form as expected. “Among the risks inherent to [riding] is that saddle girths may loosen . . . and cause slippage of the saddle, which may result in a fall.”


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