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Bad footing - who is liable?

Bingo! A person can’t place 100% responsibility on the BO when the person has the ability to mitigate the damages. There’s both “contributory negligence” and two types of “comparative negligence,” which varies by state. These are good explanations:


It also depends on what your board agreement says about the condition of the facility and what they promise to provide. And what, if anything, you agreed to release them from. As well as the inherent liability law.

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Not a lawyer. But.

My guess is that there is no case here.

Boarders are responsible for their horses when they are present. If they document that they are aware that the footing is poor and rode anyway, they are responsible.

If this was something like poor fencing that allowed horses to escape and cause damage - I suspect the farm policy would kick in. If the barn owner somehow electrocuted a horse due to negligent wiring, or injured a horse in some other way while handling, their insurance might cover vet bills.

But I think it’s a tough case to claim knowledge of poor footing, choose to ride, and then expect legal recourse from the barn owner. Something unknown, maybe – like something buried in the footing that the owner knew about but riders did not. But just poor footing? I’m guessing no.

Or - at least - not enough to cover the legal expenses it would take to get an injury covered.


Curious to read the comments here. The high drama barn I was at had arena issues in a different form. A boarder was hand walking her horse in the arena, and stepped on a nail. After that, one of the boarders rented a big roller magnet and pulled an ungodly amount of screws/nails out. I went out and bought my own and walked the arena every time it was dragged and continued to pull ungodly amounts out. BO knew but took no initiative themself.

After the initial nail in the hoof incident, I started using my hoof boots every ride even though he didn’t need them but we weren’t there for long after all that. It was not the only issue as you might imagine.


I’ve been at plenty of farms with God Awful crappy arena footing. But it is really expensive and neither facility owner North customers want to bear the cost to replace it. . This is one of those significant issues where Farm owners are nervous to charge the real cost of up keep.

borders don’t have a lot of choices because very few owners are not losing money. You have few facilities available, and even the ones that are available aren’t making enough money to offset the cost of the wear & tear.

In the long term, I don’t think it benefits, the industry very much to ponder who is going to be left, holding the blame. The fault is with all of us who are perpetuating a system that can’t hold his self up and can’t hold it self together.


But I can!

Sometimes my mind takes hold of a notion and won’t leave it alone, glad there are others like me. Asking the question is not a precursor to action, or in action, but I just want to know dammit.

In this case, it’s an interesting question, zero idea on the legalities, but would imagine that those who choose to stay and accept a known risk or somewhat liable.


You. It’s your horse. Your option is to leave if it’s unsafe or ride somewhere else. Your likely signed a liability release, which protects the barn owner.


If you have stayed in the facility long enough for you to decide you feel the footing is “unsafe”, and used the arena despite this fact….it’s on you.

And, as the owner of a boarding/training facility, this post makes me nauseous. I hope I never have someone like you in my barn…speculating about liability.


Yep, seems like assumption of the risk to me.

The boarders know the footing isn’t great, everyone talks about it, and yet they choose to keep riding on it.

Add to that the fact that as far as I know, there are no recognized standards for arena footing. Some of our local-yokel backyard-ish barns still have arenas that appear to be just sand/dirt with more than a few weeds growing in them. It’s up to the horse owner if they want to ride in such an arena.

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That’s an interesting question. I worked for 20 years for an insurance company and the first question is: were the complains about poor footing written or you just talked about it? If there is something written (maybe not of years ago but quite recent) it could be useful. Here in Italy barn owners usually have and insurance that covers their liability, if proven.
But the fact that the owner was with the horse at the moment of the injury would exempt barn owner because the horse was under owner’s liability in that moment.


Your likely signed a liability release, which protects the barn owner.

well sort of as

in a liability case, you only have to show that the defendant caused your injuries

but in a negligence case, you have to show that the defendant was at fault because he or she acted without due care or breached a duty of care.

In what posted both parties were aware of the issues(s?), as some one posted above then the problem becomes contributory negligence which could be comparative negligence.

Please note, I am not providing legal advise that is what a Real attorney is for, my expernce is from being sued. Just be aware that that laws vary by state or country and most all laws are clear as mud that is why there were 1,327,010 active lawyers as of Jan.1, 2022, use one of those as your source of legal advise

(regarding waivers, a liability release signed by a parent on behalf of a minor child often is unenforceable, varies by state and activity)


This is the core of it. Obligatory Not A Lawyer, but this is where it becomes on the boarders. This is not a new issue, either, so it is an instance of “ride at your own risk”. I doubt any “real” lawyer would take this on, not just because there’s no case but also because any damages received would be far less than the legal fees to sue. Having gone through some expensive vet visits myself, it still won’t scratch the surface of legal fees.

It is in the best interest of your horses to leave. And if legal talk is really the “buzz” at the barn, I wouldn’t be surprised if the barn shuts down entirely (or kicks most people out and starts fresh). I am also guessing the BO
A. Doesn’t see the problem and won’t fix it, and
B. Isn’t making enough off board to fix it anyway
If you(g) wanted to stay, it would be worth crowdfunding new footing or footing repairs among the boarders. But I’m guessing no one wants to foot (lol) the $50k+ it would probably take to put a new ring in


Thinking more on this, liable or not…what does the reality look like if legal action were to be pursued?

A) You’d (proverbial you) be looking at several thousand dollars worth of an attorneys time to start.

B) If the BO would be considered to be liable…do they actually have the money to fork over to improve the footing? If they don’t I think everyone would be SOL. Or maybe they did but it just went to their legal fees.

C) At that point, you might as well have taken that money and found a better place to board.

D) Extra at that point…would you really want to stay at a barn that you sued the owner? I can’t imagine that would be comfortable.

Apples to oranges, but SO just went through some legal stuff coming out on top for a rental property he owns. It was expensive, and it took the better part of two years to resolve…and we still have 3 months for the settlement to finalize.


In addition to the fact the owners are assuming the risk of riding on this footing, in most legal cases there would also be a proof problem.

Say a horse turns up lame after a ride, or slips/trips and goes down at the trot. The boarders will probably be sure it was the poor footing that caused it. But that’s different from being able to prove it in court. The defense will be that horses go lame all the time, and horses slip/trip all the time… it could have had nothing to do with the footing.


If the BO has liability insurance (which they SHOULD have) the insurance company will pay the legal bills. Just like when you are in a car accident.

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If that would be the case, I still would think points A, C, and D still apply.

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I’m not sure that’s true.

If someone’s horse is injured and they sue the farm owner and lose, I’m not sure the farm insurance will pay anything. What would stop people from just harassing an owner if their legal bills would be covered even if they don’t have a legitimate case?

In an auto accident - we’re assuming it’s a human that is injured, not a horse.

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Actually, it is usually a car that is “injured”.

If one stayed in a hotel, who would be liable if the bed collapsed when one was sleeping in it overnight? Or one fell over because of a hole in the carpet in the hotel corridor? If one hires a car, isn’t it a reasonable expectation that the vehicle has had adequate maintenance and is safe to drive? If a surgeon uses dirty instruments, is that the patients fault? Surely a client paying to use the facilities of stall, arena, turn-out etc can not be held responsible if the stall, arena, turnout are inadequately maintained by the owner of the barn that offers the service to the client. I’m sure an insurance company would say the owner has liability for any injury.

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If you knew the bed was bad in the hotel, would you sleep in it? The people at this farm know the ring is unsafe, so there is a difference.


I am not even close to sure that an insurance company would say that.

Honestly, if the footing at this barn was known to be amazing and then randomly a horse fell because a sink hole appeared, that is far closer to the examples you gave and more likely for an insurance company to pay than a place with bad footing forever.
A person has a responsibility to mitigate their damages. You can’t keep stepping on the nail and then complain when it punctures your foot.