...and something that is very necessary. That's what today's post is all about. I'll explain, but read on.
Well, someone finally got around to it. Making and seeking to maintain a website based "Blacklist" for the horse industry. My impression? It's about damn time! Unfortunately, due to our litigious society, they were forced to cease publication relatively quickly due to pressure from the targets of their listings. I cannot say I'm surprised, though I find it a tragedy.
I've spoken with the folks who started "The Official Equestrian Blacklist" website back in 2008, and it seems they started this project with the best of intentions. Trouble is (or was, as it were), the inherent nature of the equine world's bad seeds lends itself to a great deal of hassle when bringing their actions to light.
Why, might you ask, does the world need an equestrian blacklist? Your answer is pretty simple ~ there are just too many crazy people, scam artists, abusers, frauds and worse in this business. Not only that, they also tarnish the image of the industry and damage those professionals and others engaged in horse-related endeavors who are honest, as well as those who do not conform to their twisted sense of 'ideals'.
I love my profession and deeply appreciate the vest majority of my peers. We deserve to have our reputations protected while making sure people are alerted to who they should stay away from, though the source must be unequivocally above reproach.
My hope is that one day someone else, with zero ties to the industry so as to be completely impartial, and with an unimpeachable character will offer us a seal of approval of sorts with a means to instigate investigation of the less than savory individuals, making those findings public.
Truly this would be of benefit to we, the professional trainers and others involved in the industry, as well as to our clientele and it can certainly boost public confidence in the industry as a whole.
On a similar note, I also wanted to touch on legal issues which can affect both horse owners and equine professionals alike.
Unfortunately, due to a very strong trial lawyer's lobby in the great state of California, we still have no Equine Limited Liability law protecting those who own or make our living with horses, many years after efforts were first undertaken to try changing that. This translates to higher insurance premiums and no guarantee that we cannot be devastated by costly frivolous legal action against us.
How can you do your best to protect yourself? First, supervision at all times when anyone (and I do mean anyone, from your best friend to your neighbor's daughter, to your boss and his nephew ~ but most assuredly clients, students and the general public for professional trainers and facility owners) interacts with your horses.
Second, signage. Having simple signs that state the danger of horses (and what can happen) posted, as well as disclaimers of non-responsibility if someone does something which results in an injury to themselves might not necessarily prevent any lawsuits, however, they can show that people visiting your facility were sufficiently warned about those potential dangers.
For professionals, well written contracts are also a must, but remember to be sure you have the correct verbiage included, so run them by an attorney experienced in the field of equine law prior to incorporating them into your business. Here in California, there is no guarantee that you will not be sued if Little Suzy gets bucked off one of your horses, even with an agreement in writing signed by Suzy's mother, though you stand a far better chance of being able to defend yourself in court under such circumstances.
Another important consideration for riding instructors is insuring that all equipment used on your lesson horses is in tip-top shape, so regularly check, repair and/or replace anything that's worn or broken. Yes, leather repair can get pricey and new tack is expensive these days, but so is defending yourself against a lawsuit which arises out of a preventable accident caused by a tack failure such as a frayed girth or a broken buckle on a bridle.
Then we get to helmets; my rule is ALL minors wear them, at ALL times when mounted. Period, no exceptions. Adults have the option of using a helmet if they so desire (which is written into my contracts), but they can opt out. Not so with the kids, it's the law and you are bound to follow it.
What about if your horse gets loose, runs into the neighbor's yard and tears up a fence or causes other damage? Well, that is what homeowners insurance coverage is for, right? Okay, this one goes under the heading of prevention. There is plenty you can do. Check and double check your stall latches and gate chains. Make sure your property is fenced sufficiently to keep your horses in and unwanted critters out.
Bottom line, make sure you cover your bases and provide yourself with as much protection as possible.