University of Vermont AAHS

LITIGATION CORNER: Children's Camp Accident

by
Jan Dawson
President, AAHS

[reproduced from Winter 2000 Caution:Horses, Vol. 5, No. 4]

A young girl fell off a horse at a children’s camp and broke her arm. The break was a compound fracture. A bacteria common to all stable areas invaded the bone and many surgeries later the young girl had regained only 75 per cent of the use of her arm. At the time of the fall the horse was standing still. She had apparently leaned over to adjust her stirrup and as she did so, the saddle turned and she fell off.

How, you ask, could this happen? The girls were going out on trail rides. A group would come in and another would mount the same horses and go out. The written procedures stated that cinches would be checked for each ride. Factual testimony indicated that this could not have been done. It certainly had not been done after the riders had been mounted.

There was expert testimony in deposition that it is quite possible for someone to mount a horse before the cinch is completely tight. Many camp and dude ranch horses will puff up and wait to let the air out till the rider is mounted, but as this accident happened on a later ride it was obvious that the cinches had not ever been properly checked. This would indicate that the cinch had probably been loose for some time.

Here was a situation where the written procedures were in place but there was no oversight. Had there been anyone assigned to check cinches routinely before and after each ride as horses went in and out, this accident could have been prevented.

Having the appropriate procedures does not help if there is factual testimony that the procedures were not or could not have been followed.


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