University of Vermont AAHS

Negligence and the Riding Instructor:
The Foreseeability Factor and the Industry Standard

by
Jan Dawson
President
American Association for Horsemanship Safety

Negligence is the failure to prevent a reasonably foreseeable accident by being careful.

How careful is careful enough and can we depend on something called "the industry standard?" There is a DUTY to be careful to the extent that if a dangerous problem is reasonably foreseeable you must take steps to prevent the problem from injuring somebody. Not seeing the danger in time or at all is the major reason why people are sued.

The industry standard used to be the procedure used by most people similarly situated. Not anymore. The industry standard is, in reality, whatever the courts say it is. The industry standard has changed for everybody. It's now in cyberspace. What that means is that it is unlikely that there will be varying degrees of competence accepted in different geographic locations and different situations. Why? Because we all have access to the same information.

Ignorance and lack of training have become matters of choice, not necessity.

What this means for those who teach beginners or employ others to teach or supervise is that the lack of understanding of how to balance a human/horse unit systematically and safely will no longer be a defensible position. The trained expert, on the other hand, will explain what might have been done and the defendants in the lawsuit will be left to explain why no more training was offered or sought or required. "Cost effectiveness" won't be an appropriate response. Neither will the statement, "We've done it this way for 20 years and never had an accident before." The victim's family won't care that they were the first.


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