Ohio Equine Immunity Statute
When I tell people our family owns a horse farm, many times the response is, “can I come over and ride?” We love having people out to our farm. We love sharing our passion for our beautiful horses with as many people as we can. Unfortunately, doing so does not come without risks and liability. Thankfully, Ohio law provides some basic liability protection for horse owners and organizations. Ohio Revised Code Statute 2305.321 (Ohio Equine Immunity Statute) provides those that who operate in the horse industry are protected against liability for injuries that occur because of an inherent risk of equine activity. The following are important things for you to know:
- The statute only applies to equine activities, but the term “equine activity” is interpreted broadly by the courts. It includes horse shows and competitions, recreational horse riding, training of horses and riders, boarding horses, and farrier services.
- A person does not have to ride a horse to be covered. The statute also interprets “equine activity participant” broadly. Ohio courts have ruled that spectators at horse shows are also protected.
- Immunity only applies to situations where there is “Inherent Risks.” This is an important requirement. The statute defines this term as a “danger or condition that is an integral part of an equine activity”.
- If the horse or property owner is found to be negligent, the owner could be liable, and the statute does not provide any protection.
- “Equine” means a horse, pony, mule, donkey, zebra, or alpaca.
- The term “equine activity” does NOT include horse or mule racing.
- In Smith v. Landfair, 2014 Ohio App. LEXIS 3243 the court ruled the horse owner was an “equine activity participant”, entitled to the immunity because absent the exceptions, the Ohio General Assembly did not intend for an equine activity participant to suddenly become liable when she briefly lost control of her horse when the horse acted in a sudden, unpredictable manner.
- Equestrian center, its owner, and its manager were immune from liability under Ohio’s Equine Activity immunity statute because the victim and his parents failed to demonstrate that human activity caused the victim’s injuries; the seven-year-old victim was thrown when a pony reacted to a sudden clap of thunder. Markowitz v. Bainbridge Equestrian Ctr., Inc., 2007 Ohio App. LEXIS 1411
Rebecca Skeeles riding Half-Arabian/Half Saddlebred Good and Plenty CCF in Half-Arabian English Pleasure Amateur to Ride class at the 2017 Ohio Buckeye horse show. The show is known as the show where National Champions are made because many Buckeye winners go on to win National Championships the same year. Attendance and parking are FREE. The show will be held May 19-22 at the World Equestrian Center in Wilmington, OH.
Rebecca Skeeles, Esq. is an Associate Attorney with Eques, Inc. She has owned and shown Arabian and Half-Arabian horses her entire life. She understands the horse industry and represents clients with all breeds of horses in aspects of equine law, including purchase agreements, breeding contracts, liability issues, collections, horse-related activities, and horse boarding facilities.