Horse Riding Liability & Negligence: Who is Responsible When Riding Goes Wrong?
In an instant, a memorable family outing or vacation can turn disastrous when there is an accident and injury involving a horse. These large and often unpredictable animals can be very loving and gentle when calm, but a “spooked” horse is a recipe for disaster that frequently means a trip to the hospital for someone involved. And weighing anywhere from 800 to 2,200 pounds makes a fall involving a horse a severely dangerous accident for both the horse and the rider.
Horse Riding Liability When An Accident Happens
Practicing smart riding and prep techniques is an excellent way to prevent these horse related injuries; but when accidents happen, those involved are often left wondering what to do next. By understanding how liability is addressed under Kentucky law and reviewing certain details about what occurred when the injury occurred, you may find that you have a viable claim worth pursuing for proper recovery.
Who Is Liable for Horse Related Injuries in Kentucky?
All activities that involve a horse and are not horse racing or showing are governed and controlled by Kentucky’s Equine Activity Liability Act.
Kentucky’s version of the Equine Activity Liability Act has a strong emphasis on the “inherent risks” that are associated with farm animal activities, and how these risks are to be protective for the sponsors of such activities - not the participants. Examples of such inherent risks noted within the Kentucky Revised Statute include the following:
- the propensity of farm animals to cause injury through unpredictable reactions
- collisions associated with farm animals
- the potential for participants to act negligently
- surface conditions
All of these risks are impossible to eliminate from farm animal activities, and so sponsors of such activities only have the duty to warn participants about these risks, rather than reduce the risks. This places the responsibility on the participant to be cautious and careful when around farm animals, such as horses, and can make for a safer environment overall. When participants know that there is a serious danger associated with an activity that could lead to death or hospitalization that they’d be responsible for, people generally think twice about their actions. That’s why educating yourself about both the dangers associated with horse related activities and the liability of such activities is a great first step in awareness and prevention of such injuries.
But not all of the responsibility to prevent injuries is placed on the participant of a farm animal activity, and sponsors have specific duties to educate, warn, and provide a certain level of care when preparing and selecting the farm animals to be used. Understanding what these duties involve can help an injured party know whether they have a potential claim and whether the sponsor of the activity in which they were injured was taking the steps necessary and required by law to prevent such injuries.
How Does Negligence Apply to Horse Riding and Farm Animal Activities?
While it may appear that there is an uphill battle towards any recovery in a horse injury case, there is no way to protect sponsors of farm animal activities who are negligent. The Kentucky version of the Equine Activity Liability Act provides protection for sponsors in many instances, but any type of negligence or willful injury to a participant immediately negates all of that protection.
Being able to openly identify that negligence then comes down to understanding all of the duties imposed upon the sponsors of farm animal activities and how sponsors are to comply with such duties. Failing to comply with a duty prescribed by law may open up a sponsor of a farm animal activity to liability, but only when there is an injury proximately related to the failure to comply with that duty. This means that fluke accidents related to inherent risks that are unassociated with the duty will not create liability against the sponsor. However, knowing the duties applicable to farm animal activities can help you stay safe and build trust with sponsors who follow these duties diligently.
What Duties Are the Responsibility of Horse Activity Sponsors?
The sponsors of farm animal activities have a specific list of duties imposed upon them by KRS 247.402. The list of duties is detailed and explained below. By not observing one or more of these duties, sponsors of farm animal activities open themselves up to liability for injuries proximate to their disregard of the duty.
The duty to inform – sponsors and managers of farm animal activities are responsible for informing participants about the inherent dangers of such animals and activities
The duty to warn – Kentucky law strictly imposes a duty on sponsors of farm animal activities to place warning signs in conspicuous locations and include the same warning in all contracts used for participating in such activities
The duty to inquire about experience – sponsors and managers are to inquire about the relative experience of any participants of farm animal activities so that they may properly match them with an animal
The duty to adequately match experience – sponsors and managers of farm animal activities are responsible for adequately matching their animals with a rider of similar or compatible experience
The duty to maintain property leased, rented, or owned – sponsors and managers are responsible for providing a safe area for any farm animal activity, even when on land that is only being rented or leased by the sponsor or manager
The duty to maintain safety – all sponsors and managers have the duty to maintain a level of safety by not allowing willful or wanton disregard for the safety of a participant or negligently causing an injury to any participant or spectator of a farm animal activity
What Warnings About Horse Activities Are Necessary in Kentucky?
One of the easiest duties above for sponsors of farm animal activities to comply with is the duty to warn participants about the inherent risks of these activities. This warning is how sponsors are able to use the protections afforded to them by the Kentucky Farm Animal Activity Act and avoid liability through the understanding of an inherent risk by the participant. Failure to include this warning about inherent risks in all contracts signed by participants and post signs with the warning in visible areas around where the activity takes place will prevent a sponsor from using these protections against potential claims.
The warning mandated by KRS 247.2027(3) is as follows:
Under Kentucky law, a farm animal activity sponsor, farm animal professional, or other person does not have the duty to eliminate all risks of injury of participation in farm animal activities. There are inherent risks of injury that you voluntarily accept if you participate in farm animal activities.