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Equine Risks and Responsibilities for Horse Owners and Riders

October 11, 2016

Perhaps you or someone you know has just purchased a beautiful mare or gelding. Friends and family will undoubtedly want to come and see it, and some will want to potentially ride the horse, walk the horse, or assist with other tasks. Some may have riding and horse handling experience, but some may not. Any horse rider, regardless of their level of expertise, assumes certain risks when they choose to participate in equine activities. However, the horse owner could also be at risk of substantial liability costs when allowing others to be around or ride their horse. As a horse owner or rider, it is imperative to be aware of the risks involved and to protect yourself and others from injury.

Horse Riders Beware: Major Health Risks and Responsibilities

Studies looking into traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) are extremely popular today due to the analysis being conducted on high-profile sports such as NFL football and FIFA soccer. However, between 2003 and 2012, the National Trauma Data Bank conducted studies on equestrian sports and determined that they produced the highest rates for adult traumatic brain injury (45.2 percent), with football and soccer in second place (both at 20.2 percent).

Ultimately, because of the risk of catastrophic, life-changing injury, all parties involved in equestrian activities need to be responsible for their actions and must clearly understand the risks when working with and riding a powerful animal like a horse.

The State of Equine Law in Alaska

Currently, there are statutes in place that protect horse owners when horse riding accidents occur while others are on their property and are around or on their horse. One such current law in Alaska is commonly called the “equine activity liability statute,” and it states that all parties should understand that equine activities are potentially dangerous and that participating in such activities indicates an acknowledgement and understanding of the risks involved.

One of the statute’s primary goals is to lessen the number of equestrian-related lawsuits. It is also an extremely important statute designed to protect against civil liability if a person is injured during an equine activity; its text needs to be prominently displayed for all parties to read and understand.

However, the statute does not make horse owners immune from responsibility, and there are circumstances that could open the horse owner up to liability. Some examples are listed below:

  • The person directly involved with the horse at the time of the accident doesn’t need to be the one injured to make a horse owner liable. If a spectator is injured, the owner may be considered liable for their injuries.
  • If injury occurs because of failing equipment, the owner may be liable. Make sure all tack equipment is in good working order before riding or letting someone ride a horse.
  • If a horse that requires a high level of experience is given to someone not at the same level, the owner may be liable if that person is injured. Know who will be around your horse, their experience level, and your own experience level.
  • Something as simple as a loose fence board or a driveway pothole may open a horse and/or property owner up to liability. If there are known flaws on the land or within the facility and they cause injury, the owner may be held responsible for those injuries.
  • Warning signs and legal waivers are a necessity when people are over to ride horses. Again, the terms of relevant statutes should be prominently displayed in the barn, near riding rings, and in other areas of a horse riding facility.
  • If a horse escapes its paddock and causes damage, the owner may be liable.
  • Of course, if the horse owner intentionally or woefully disregards someone’s safety when they are riding or are around the horse, the owner may be liable.

As a horse owner, you should speak with your insurance agent to make sure your home, vehicle, and/or individual insurance policies will protect you if an equine-related incident should occur. As a rider, it is important to know the risks and know your abilities when attempting to ride. If everyone takes the responsibility of horse ownership and horse riding seriously, the vast majority of injuries that result from equine activities can be prevented.

The Law Office of William D. Cook: Advocating for Injured Victims

If you or someone you know has been injured while horseback riding or watching an equestrian event, contact the Law Office of William D. Cook for expert legal counsel. Attorney Bill Cook is uniquely qualified to take on brain injury cases due to his in-depth study of the brain and spine; he was also a former judge and is able to combine this background with his litigation experience to form a comprehensive support system for your case. Call our toll-free number (800) 757-7757 or fill out our convenient online contact form to schedule a free consultation.


Danner, K. (2016, June 5). Horses and the law: Protecting yourself in the horse industry. Irongate Equine Clinic. Retrieved from

Mohney, G. (2016, April 1). Horse riding is leading cause of sport-related traumatic brain injuries, study finds. ABC News. Retrieved from


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