A friend invited you to his ranch in Indiana to ride horses, and you eagerly accepted. However, before you even got on the horse, it kicked you in the knee, and you ended up needing surgery to repair it. Should the owner have to pay for your medical bills and other financial difficulties you have had?
According to the American Equestrian Alliance, the answer depends on a number of factors. The Indiana State Equine Statute provides definitions and conditions that may apply to your case.
What was your friend's role?
In this capacity, your friend is not acting as an equine professional because you did not provide compensation for the activity. Because he organized the activity and provided the facility, though, he would probably be considered an equine activity sponsor, which could put him in a position to be liable under certain circumstances.
What are the inherent risks?
Your friend is not liable if you are harmed due to one of the inherent risks of equine activities. These risks include the following:
- The risk of harm from a horse that is behaving naturally
- The risk of harm from a horse that is reacting to a loud noise, sudden movement, strangers, animals or unfamiliar objects
- The risk of harm due to a surface condition, such as thick mud or a pothole in the road
- The risk of harm from a collision with another horse
What are the exceptions?
A judge may determine that your friend showed a reckless disregard for your safety if he knew that you had never been around a horse, but brought out an animal that he knew was only safe around the most experienced riders. Similarly, if your friend purposefully caused the horse to startle, he could be held liable. However, because the interpretations of the statute could get quite complex when applied to any given situation, this information should not be interpreted as legal advice.