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Recreational Use Statutes


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All states have recreational use statutes.

They were enacted to encourage land owners to make their properties available free of charge (or for only a nominal fee) to the public for recreational uses.

The encouragement takes the form of protecting the land owner from legal liability for any accidents that may happen when the user is on the property for recreational purposes. The only exceptions are for intentional harms and for gross negligence.

Recreational uses include a wide variety of activities. Whether specifically mentioned in the statute or not, horseback riding is a recreational use.

Of course, the land owner retains the right to deny access to the public and the right to eject any member of the public who misbehaves while on the property.

If you have neighboring land on which you would like permission to ride, tell the owner about your state's recreational use statute. Or, better yet, print it out and give it to him. Relieving his fear of legal liability may tip the scales in favor of his giving you permission to ride.

(Scroll down to view state statutes.)

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Conversely, if someone asks permission to ride on your property, check you recreational use statute and take that into account in making your decision whether to grant permission.

Warning:  Some states interpret their recreational use statutes to apply only to landowners who open their land to all members of the public and who do not pick and choose who may use their land.  This is a significant limitation on the usefulness of these statutes for trail riding.  Some of these interpretative cases can be found on this web site in the Landowner's Liabilities segment of Law Cases for Horsemen.

These statutes were first posted in 1995.
They were reviewed and updated where needed in July 2001.
The statutes were reviewed and updated where needed in May 2003.  These changes were posted in August 2003.


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