Monday, December 14, 2009

Something None Of Us Want To Think About...

...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.



  1. I am surprised yet not surprised by this topic here.

    Blacklists are dangerous things. I mean who makes the decisions as to who is placed on these lists. Who determines who is the administering body that puts trainers on the list?

    Blacklists have no place in any industry and it is illegal to blackball people.

    I know there are trianers like JR that are legit and do a good job, but I thinke even JR would tell you, as strongly as he feels about his profession, blacklists are a bad thing.

  2. I understand the sentiment, however, here is the opinion of many legitimate trainers like myself and other equine industry professionals who are the good guys: We get a bad rap and a bad name because of the unethical and often downright dangerous folks out there.

    Honestly, a "blacklist" in the traditional manner isn't probably the way to go ~ which is why I mentioned having something more like a "seal of approval" or something similar lauding those good guys among us.

    I had no problem with the original Official Equestrian Blacklist site and their intentions, and was supportive because I understood their intentions. They had a built in means of mediating disputes and moderating the input, and were providing a means to have any and all claims investigated, verified and thoroughly checked out before anything was ever mentioned publicly.

    But, the nature of human beings as it is, and how litigation-happy people tend to be, I fully supported their decision to withdraw the site and regroup. Note: I do not know these folks, have never met them personally and only communicated with them online, so I'm not carrying a torch for anyone. My contact with them was actually through answering an ad on Craigslist, I believe, in relation to putting their site together and being interested in input from the public. I merely understood their frustration in dealing with an unsavory element in our industry and wanted to offer moral support for their efforts.

    No doubt it is a very sensitive issue. Thanks for your input.

  3. There is a difference between sentment and opinion. My previous comment was an opinion. That being said, USEF is already a governing body for the equine world. They do have the legal right for sensure and suspension from horse shows. They are also recognized by breed associations as well

    If you want sentiment, well yes, I have know JR for many years and value his opinion as a professional horseman. He does know what he is doing and he has helped me in my professional career. And I have seen him get more from a horse in 30 minutes than most can get in a week. That is sentiment!

  4. I agree that blacklists are not good things. We have all read blog posts where individuals "go after" others for whatever reasons, legitimate or no, and the nasty exchanges serve no purpose other than to hurt feelings, for the most part, and make blog visits unpleasant at best.

    That said, I think a positive list of reliable and trustworthy individuals for horse activities (buying, selling, shoeing, training, hauling, giving riding instruction, etc.) would be a very good thing. Just the word "blacklist" automatically carries a negative tone.

    I've never used "Angie's List" and don't know how it works, to be truthful, but if there were such a list where horsepeople could submit their own or others' names as "reliable" for whatever horse product or service they provide, that would be a good thing. Someone would have to monitor the comments, asking for revisions of those that are libelous, but visitors seeking help could read all the comments and decide for themselves whether or not to contact the individual on the list.

    Because I need temporary help with horse chores, I hired a young man who lives just down the street to come 3x a week and clean for me. He was late twice and missed two cleaning days completely, so when he finally showed up, I thanked him and said I could clean from now on (white lie), but if I needed something heavy moved or lifted, I'd give him a call.

    A gal in the area who knows EVERYONE gave me the name of a student she uses, and he's coming tomorrow to clean for me.

    Everyone has horror stories about gawdawful horse people "for hire," but a positive list would very welcome for newcomers to the area and for those like me who need temporary help.

    The comments would have to be monitored by the site monitor, but I agree there is a need for something to help people find the RIGHT horse help.

  5. Actually, USEF is only a governing body for certain facets of the equestrian industry and there have been defections from their ranks in recent years. Saddlebreds are moving away from the federation and there is talk of the Arabian breed doing the same. Many other breeds and registries are not under the auspices of USEF, such as AQHA, APHA, ApHC, PtHA and more (though the AQHA uses USEF for their drug testing these days). Neither the NCHA, the NRHA, the NRCHA or the USDF are under the umbrella of USEF, either, though some associations do work hand in hand with them.

    All that said, understand that I am not calling for any vigilante group to go out and "blackball" people. :) We do simply need a way to sort the good from the bad, whatever that may be ~ and you need to be aware that a majority of those USEF censures and suspensions are purely financial mistake-related issues, entirely unrelated to the focus of notifying the public about unsavory individuals out there masquerading as trainers or other equine industry professionals.

    What is the answer? I'm not sure. I certainly don't pretend to have all the answers.

  6. That is exactly right, TBDancer, and both why comments on this blog are moderated (lest they become a war zone ~ this blog is not for that, it is for sharing and learning from each other) as well as why the post title is Something None Of Us Want To Think About. Because we really would rather not think about it!

    Here is the problem I think many folks would have with that positive list idea, which I do think is a GREAT concept: Who would administer and maintain it? There is such a vast lack of trust in the horse world, and so many people who have either personal bias' or downright dislike of each other (no matter, in some cases, whether or not an individual is a good trainer, for instance, which can be irrelevant for the ulterior motives or agendas of some).

    Having experienced firsthand being a target or a few, say one of those individuals was the "voice" of the listings? I am sure a couple of those people I went a few rounds with several months ago wouldn't bat an eye at denying me a listing based on a personal bias alone.

    Complete lack of agenda and bias is essential to the credibility and success of any such list. People would need to feel secure in the knowledge that they were reading honest assessments of the recommended industry professionals and have faith that they were getting accurate and truthful information.

    But it is good to be talking about these sorts of things! No matter how unpleasant the subject matter.

  7. Wrapping this topic up, here are my thoughts (which are my thoughts alone):

    As a professional, if you are really vehemently opposed to the concept of "The Official Equestrian Blacklist" website, which of course at this time is not longer or not currently active, I do somewhat question your concern. Those of us who are legitimate professionals in this industry and have nothing to hide are really quite unaffected by such a concept.

    I do understand shying away from the term "blacklist", though in reality the definition is simply 'a list of people or products viewed with suspicion or disapproval'. I personally am suspicious of and disapprove of many who are passing themselves off as trainers and equine industry professionals, when in reality they have no business doing so and only serve to lessen the credibility of the industry as a whole. People are tired of being taken advantage of, plain and simple.

    That said, it is my belief that we really do need a truly impartial board or group to oversee this industry and to manage listings of the good, honest and skilled professionals in the horse business. Who would be in a position to administer such a list is debatable. But it is needed. I have spoken with a friend who happens to be an executive in the medical industry and she brought up a similar concept last year. I would love to see such a thing come to fruition under the right circumstances with the right people in charge.

    And now this topic is closed for posting. I have said before, and will say again, this blog is not for heated arguments and when things start to get too hot, we're going to tone it down a notch. :) If you want to discuss it further, by all means feel free to take it to email ~ my address is on the front page of the blog and in my profile.

    Besides, there is a new blog post about to go up! :)

  8. Just a quick note ~ it has been brought to my attention that Dave Hirsch, known to some of you as "JohnieRotten" and who writes two different blogs, became upset when I rejected a comment he attempted to post on this blog along topic with several others.

    He apparently chose to libel and defame me on one of his blogs as opposed to contacting me privately in regard to the rejected posts or actually reading this blog post for my statement about why this topic was closed for posting.

    My statements about heated arguments and worse have always been clear here: they WILL NOT be tolerated on my blog. It is mine and I will administer it as I see fit. If you disagree with how I administer my own blog, you are under no obligation to read it.

    Now, there is quite a bit that I could obviously say about the topic at hand, including going to his blog in order to clear my good name, however I have determined that it just isn't worth attempting to reason with people like that.

    This will be my final comment on the matter of this blog post and the subject, to explain the facts surrounding misnomers and falsehoods apparently being posted on Mr Hirsch's blog.

    "The Official Equestrian Blacklist" was not my idea, was never my website and I have never had any affiliation whatsoever with the individuals who started and ran that site.

    I have never met those who began and maintained "The Official Equestrian Blacklist" website, nor spoke with them by telephone. Our only contact was briefly via email.

    They are apparently equine professionals living in or around the Verde Valley, Arizona area who have compiled a listing of those individuals with whom they have done business, wanting to list them on a "blacklist". Thus, their website.

    Finally, I have never inferred or stated that I wanted to have or publish a blacklist of my own in any way, nor have I, and any statements by others to the contrary are entirely and unequivocally false.

    Thank you to all our new visitors these past couple of days. I hope you enjoy the blog!


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