Exam A

 Case 3:

woman goes on a trail ride while a guest at a ranch. She observed that the saddle of the horse

assigned to her “looked old and in disrepair.” She informs one of the wranglers of “the potential prob- lem,” but rides in the saddle without incident to a site where the group dismounts for a picnic break. When the group is ready to resume their ride, the woman at- tempts to remount. Her horse’s saddle comes off and she falls to the ground, injuring her leg. While lying on the ground after the fall, the woman notices that the cinch “looks worn or threadbare.” The injured woman sues and the

ranch asks the court to dismiss the case pursuant to the state’s equine immunity statute.

What is the outcome? a) The case must go to trial so a jury

can determine whether the ranch did all it could to prevent the accident. b) The case must go to trial because the saddle may have been “faulty equipment.” c) The case must be dismissed be- cause falling off a horse is an “inherent risk” of trail riding. d) The case must be dismissed because saddles may

slip, and these are risks inherent to riding that may re- sult in a fall.

The case will go to trial. The court ruled that a jury would have to decide whether the saddle or equipment provided to the woman was in fact faulty, and whether the wran- gler’s “inaction” in the face of the woman’s reports of a problem with her saddle rose to the level of “wanton or willful disregard” for the woman’s safety. The answer is b.

 Case 4: A

hotel guest and four others sign up for a guided trail ride. Before setting out, the guest signs a

release which advises her of the risks associated with horseback riding. The resort has also posted in multiple locations signs warning of the inherent risks associated with horseback riding. The guest falls off the back of her horse when it in-

64 September/October 2018

How Well Do You Know Equine Law?

creased its speed to catch up to the horse in front of it. The guest is injured. She blames the accident on the guide for allowing the horses on the ride to get too far apart, and for not stopping and waiting for the gaps between the horses to close before moving ahead of the group. The guest and her husband sue the resort for ordi-

nary and gross negligence. The resort asks the court to dismiss the lawsuit on the basis that the guest had signed a release.

What is the outcome? a) The case must go to trial so

a jury can determine whether the guide did all that could be done to prevent the accident. b) The case must go to trial be- cause the woman rented the horse. c) The case must be dismissed. d) The case must go to trial so a

jury can determine if the release is valid.

As to the gross negligence claim, the court held dismissal was properly granted because “reasonable minds

could not conclude that the [guide] demonstrated care- lessness or recklessness to a degree that shows utter indif- ference to the consequences.” The guest failed to present anything “beyond speculation” that the guide’s handling of the ride was “so dangerous relative to the existing risk… As to evince ‘utter disregard’ for the safety of the riders.” In the absence of gross negligence, the release the woman signed barred her ordinary negligence claim. The answer is c, the case must be dismissed.

Krysia Carmel Nelson is a Virginia at- torney who is a nationally-recognized expert in equine law. She represents horse owners, trainers, riders, breeders, equestrian facilities, farms, clubs and associations across all nationally and internationally recognized disciplines. She currently rides and competes her Hanoverian Affirmed on Appeal in the amateur hunters. She can be reached at



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