The proprietors of the barn where you go to learn horseback riding will ask you to sign a ‘liability waiver’ or ‘hold harmless agreement.’
You may feel wary about doing so. If you get badly hurt is the barn totally freed of responsibility?
Why Do Barns Have This Policy?
Because we live in a society whose members are prone to suing each other for little or no reason, horse riding barn operators have to protect themselves from frivolous law suits. The liability waiver is their answer.
By signing this document you declare that you understand the risks inherent to horse activities and release the barn from responsibility for injuries as a result of those activities.
In other words, horse riding is not completely free of risk, and your learning to ride a horse is coupled with the awareness that the barn is not necessarily liable if you get hurt. Horses are unpredictable, big animals which can spook, bite and kick.
What Happens if I Get Hurt Because the Barn Was Negligent?
Different states have their own statutes limiting how much you are limited in your ability to sue.
Basically, although designed to discourage frivolous laws suits, the liability waiver doesn’t prevent you from suing the barn for injuries due to acts of ‘gross negligence.’ This covers conduct which is willful, wanton or intentional.
An example would be the barn putting a raw beginner on a high-spirited horse which the rider clearly couldn’t handle. This is carelessness which a reasonable instructor would not permit to happen.
Where Does That Leave Me?
Most courts look more favorably on the rider than the barn, so don’t be concerned that you’re signing your rights away with the liability release form.
However, you must accept a certain level of risk inherent in riding activities and take sensible precautions to stay safe. Always do as your instructor says.
Don’t walk behind horses you don’t know well, or pat an unsuspecting horse on the rump, offer treats to an unfamiliar horse or run around the barn and paddocks. If you do, you’re asking for trouble and cannot blame the barn if you get injured.
Before you even think of going near a horse, get your own medical insurance. The barn’s liability insurance will not cover your medical bills if you get hurt – that is your responsibility.
Like all adventures, riding comes with an element of risk. As long as you accept that this goes hand in hand with the fun you’ll have, there’s no need to worry about signing a liability waiver.
Posted on 2010-05-18
When you learn horseback riding at a barn you’ll be asked to sign a liability waiver (link to content article “Why Do I Have to Sign a Liability Waiver?”) or ‘hold harmless agreement.’ This releases the barn from responsibility for injuries resulting from the risks inherent to horse activities.
Here are some good habits to get into as a beginner to horseback riding to reduce your likelihood of injury when spending time with horses.
Always wear sturdy shoes round the barn and don’t be tempted to wear open-toed sandals or flip-flops. You can guarantee that the one time you do the horse will tread on your toes.
Many riders don’t wear protective helmets because they think it looks ‘cool.’ Ask them how cool they feel when they land in hospital with severe concussion or when they come out of a coma – if they ever do.
The fact is, not wearing a riding helmet when on horseback is simply asking for trouble. Even football players wear helmets, and they’re not at risk of falling off a horse!
How to Fall Off a Horse
All riders fall off their horses some time or other. You don’t want to focus on this possibility, but if you know how to deal with the situation when it arises you won’t worry about it in advance.
Falling off a horse doesn’t have to hurt anything other than your ego if you know how to do it properly.
When you feel yourself reaching that point of no return to the saddle, relax your body (however hard that sounds), let go of the reins and roll yourself up into a loose ball. When your body makes contact with the ground, the landing will be much softer than if you’re rigid.
When you’re operating round horses you need to be alert without being afraid. Getting into good habits will soon mean doing the safe thing automatically.