Riding a horse is one of the most exhilarating experiences a person can have. I know this because I live on a farm and own several equine, and I see the joy in the eyes of my wife and daughter every time they come back in from the barn. Horses are beautiful and majestic and powerful, and it is simply a fact that with power comes the potential for serious injuries.
How Common Are Horse Injuries?
Depending on what research you do you may find some statistics to suggest:
- Many horse injuries happen while loading or unloading horses from trailers;
- Horse injuries can happen to novices or experts; and
- Most horse injuries occur either from being kicked by or thrown from a horse.
What Sort of Safety Precautions Should Riders and Stables and Tournament Operators Take?
When spending time around horses, whether you are riding them or just visiting at a stable, it is important for stable operators and horse owners to ensure that they have trained their horses properly, are following good safety protocols, and that the people riding the horses are wearing appropriate safety gear when required. If stable operators or horse owners fail to take appropriate protocols in these regards they may be found liable for the dangerous situations they cause or contribute to by their actions or inactions.
A recent case involving a horse injury highlights the dangers:
“A number of the witnesses at trial confirmed that they had suffered significant injuries caused by horses that were part and parcel of the horse world. They include concussions, kicks, bites, being struck and broken bones and falling off horse…‘We’ve all been kicked by horses.’ She witnessed or had been involved in over 1,000 accidents resulting in injuries around horses. She admitted that people get stepped on and accidents happen all the time including every day that are not always someone’s fault.”
Belton v Spencer, 2021 ONSC 2029 at para. 210
Can You Bring a Lawsuit or Insurance Claim After Suffering a Horse Injury?
Yes, sometimes, but the Belton case above is a good starting point to understand how challenging these cases can be. The injured plaintiff in this case was a 40 year veteran of the horse world, was originally from the UK, had coached and boarded and competed at a very high level. He was kicked in the head by a horse at a farm he owned, and the horse that kicked him was one being boarded at his facility. Crucially however, his serious injuries in this case happened in a circumstance where there were no witnesses, and on the date in question, the horse that injured him was one he had handled over 100 times at his own barn; additionally, there had been a total of zero previous problem incidents with this horse. As you can infer from these facts, this case was ultimately unsuccessful for the injured plaintiff. The court found that the injured person had assumed the risk of the activity and also that there was insufficient information as to how the injury was actually suffered.
What Facts Make a Successful Horse Injury Lawsuit?
A good starting point for a potentially successful horse injury case would include:
- Being injured by a horse with a history of temperament issues of which the injured person was not made aware by the responsible parties;
- An injury which occurs in a context where the injured person has not assumed much responsibility for the risks which are inherent to being around horses (no waiver, not in the context of jumping or racing etc.);
- An injury which occurs to a person who is less experienced around horses;
- An injury which occurs in a context where the person or people responsible for the horse fail to follow industry standard protocols for training or controlling the horse; or
- An injury which occurs at a facility which fails to provide for safe control of horses such as barns or stalls or paths and roadways which are poorly designed or too congested.
The above list is far from exhaustive and each case will be highly fact specific. It may be that a case could be successful even if none of the above criterion are met. The long and short of it is that when someone is injured because of a horse or equine accident they need to have their claim assessed by a knowledgeable injury lawyer early on with respect to the particular facts of their case.
About the Author
Warren WhiteKnight is a Lawyer and Partner at Bergeron Clifford LLP. He is based in the firm’s Kingston office but travels throughout Eastern Ontario each week as clients’ needs require. He holds a Certified Civil Litigation Specialist designation by Law Society of Ontario.
Warren is a Queen’s Law graduate where he achieved top 10% standing all three years, and received numerous course prizes and scholarships. He has been the Past President of the Frontenac Law Association.
Warren regularly represents his clients in court and tribunal proceedings and has an excellent track record of achieving results both in court and in out of court settlements.