Over the years, this column has addressed the fact that New York is one of only four states where there is no legislation regarding liability for injury to people engaged in equestrian activities which per force involve an inherent risk due to the fact that being around horses can be dangerous due to their size, strength, and the unpredictability of their deeply-embedded prey instincts.
In March, I attended an event for landowners hosted by the Genesee Valley Conservancy and the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Livingston County which offered a triple-whammy of three strands of workshops over three sessions throughout the evening, from which we could pick and choose. One of those I attended addressed liability concerns. The presenter, Buffalo attorney David Colligan, started off with a polling of the attendees as to who felt New York does or does not have good laws to protect landowners from liability for people on their land, with or without permission. Contrary to the majority of opinions expressed, he reassured us that New York’s existing laws are in good shape in that regard, with the one caveat that no money be involved in others’ access to the land. This caused me to scratch my head, as I had the understanding over the years that this whole inherent risk thing was a serious concern.
I would, however, like to add a small disclaimer here that I am just an interested bystander with no legal degrees, certifications, or any other standing as a knowledgeable expert. If you have questions on such please don’t quote me in the belief that if you read it online it must be true. Please check further with those who have more knowledge and authority than I do. It’s up to you who that might be.
A recent alert from a recent New York Farm Bureau Action Alert has made things clearer in my mind. Thus, I am passing it along in hope it will help you as well, and thereby all those who enjoy taking part in horse activities. Here’s the rub – it’s not about people riding on your property with or without permission. As long as there is no money involved, you’re in good shape, unless, of course, you put up trip wires, covered pits with stakes in the bottom, or other such gotchas with the intention of doing harm.
The Farm Bureau’s alert states that “New York’s litigious environment has diminished the number of insurance carriers willing to cover equine establishments and activities, while dramatically increasing the cost for liability coverage.” Many riding clubs, therapeutic horse riding instruction stables, and youth organizations such as 4-H can no longer afford the liability insurance necessary to continue their programs in this state.
New York desperately needs legislation to address the inherent risks associated with equine activities. Write your legislators today and ask them to support equine inherent risk legislation!
The alert contains a letter that can be sent electronically or printed and mailed to your state representatives, with links to identify who those representatives are and how to contact them. Please consider taking a stand on this issue here.
We have the joy of taking part in so many equestrian activities and groups in this amazing countryside where we live. It would be not only sad, but deeply troubling to see those opportunities for us and generations to come disappear because insurance rates make them no longer feasible to be held.