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Equine Law - Be Aware of the Risks to Riding or Owning a Horse

Hundreds of people up and down the country enjoy country sports, and horse riding is no exception.  Horses can be unpredictable however so can all the other circumstances surrounding owning, riding, keeping, looking after and selling horses. There is a whole minefield of risks involved whether horses are your hobby, business or both. Equine law spans lots of different areas of law, from personal injury, to property to debt recovery and veterinary negligence, the list goes on...

A recent case highlighted just one area which sees a lot of dispute and litigation in relation to horses – accidents. The case involved a lady who had regularly ridden a particular horse belonging to a friend for three to four months. Both women were experienced horsewomen. The horse had been taken to the dentist after starting to pull his head to the right as the owner was concerned that he may be suffering from a sore mouth. The horse’s teeth were filed and the dentist recommended that the horse not be ridden using a bridle with a bit for the following week. A bitless bridle was borrowed and the horse was tacked up. The horse had not been ridden with a bitless bridle before, and was tried with it first in the lungeing school, then in an enclosed area and finally outside. There was no indication that the horse was not co-operating and the rider did not indicate that she was having any difficulty, in fact, she decided that she would like to canter up the field. When she set off , the horse went more quickly than had been expected – more like a gallop than a canter – and it was clear to the owner that the lady was visibly trying to restrain him. However, the horse suddenly veered to the right, went through a gap in a hedge and the lady fell off, landing on a tarmac area and sustaining injuries. The accident was followed by a negligence claim against the owner and then an appeal.

The case that followed highlighted the difficulties when interpreting the Animals Act 1971 and the problems in establishing who may be at fault when there has been an accident, especially given the inherent characteristics of horses in general. The risks of riding when put together with the choice to ride and the knowledge of those risks create a difficult backdrop to these kinds of cases and the judges all had different reasons for reaching the conclusions they did. In this case, the results of the initial claim and the subsequent appeal were that the claimant lost.

Accidents are one thing, but there are also numerous other areas of law to consider. Who has the responsibility to keep animals fenced in and what happens if they get out? What do you do if you have bought a horse which simply is not the animal you were told you were buying?

Lanyon Bowdler has a depth and range of expertise in all areas of equine law. We have a team of people who understand the countryside and also understand business and can offer sound and practical advice in the event of a problem, as well as providing all the help you will need in avoiding a problem in the first place by setting up contracts, business arrangements and business structures which can protect you. We also have specialist lawyers in insurance litigation.

So, if you need help and advice with regard to setting up a livery service, business advice, buying or selling property, professional negligence, or any  horse related disputes, speak to our experienced team on 0800 652 3371.