University of Vermont AAHS

Whose Fault Was It Anyway?


by
Jan Dawson
President, AAHS

Of some considerable concern at shows, playdays and organized trailrides is who is responsable in the event of an accident. This is particularly important to trainers who haul kids and novice amateurs; 4-H leaders and officials who may not be riders themselves; and non-riding parents of riding children and teens.

It would be nice it there were a quick, simple answer, but there isn't, sorry. What we shall try to do is sort out some general thinking about negligence and see if we can make any general statements. Let's begin by mentioning some real accidents and see if, first they could have been prevented, and second who should have acted to prevent it and, third, reasonable alternative actions that might have averted the problem.

A child is injured when trampled by another rider after a fall.

A rider is injured in a collision with another horse.

A rider is injured in a fall when the horse was spooked by a string of flags marking the arena.

Spectators are injured when a loose horse gallops through their midst.

A young rider is severly kicked by the horse lined up next to her in a showmanship class.

A child is bucked off her horse on a trail ride when several riders galloped by her horse.

In each of these situations there are people who could have prevented the accident and people who could be sued - not always the same people.

Horse v. horse collisions can usually be prevented by both riders paying attention. But suppose you have an experienced rider and an inexperienced rider colliding. Easy enough, we'll hold the experienced rider responsable. Right? What if the experienced rider is nine years old and the beginner is l5 years old? What if the experienced rider is 30 years old? In the latter situations we will have to look to some form of management if the accidents happened during some form of organized activity.

Any organized horse activity should prepare for riders of differing experience being mounted at the same time. The preparation could take the form separating the times that beginners and others would be riding. If trainers or club leaders are present, the event management can make it expressly clear to trainers and parents that they, not the management, have the responsibility for their students and children. Make them acknowledge this specifically with their signature on a release. Spell out the risks.


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