This picture was posted on my Facebook page by my other horse loving relative. It certainly hits home. Many horse people rely on the Wisconsin Equine Immunity Statute, Wis. Stat. Sec. 895.481 when engaging in activities with these large, sensitive animals. This statute grants immunity under a list of circumstances in which a horse trainer, barn owner or general horse owner may be exempt from liability from third parties when ”engaging in an equine liability” However, this immunity is not absolute.
An exception to the Wisconsin Equine Immunity Statute is when one is “providing an equine” to a third party. This is specifically set forth in the Wisconsin Court of Appeals case, Hellen v Hellen, 831 N.W. 2d 430 (Wis. Ct. App. 2013). In this case, a relative was holding a horse on a lead rope while the other relative was saddling the horse, named Whisper. While Whisper was being saddled, Whisper stepped on the foot of the relative holding the lead rope, causing her to lose her balance and fracture her hip.
The Wisconsin Court of Appeals ruled in the Hellen case that the transfer of complete control is not required to fall under the “providing an equine” exception. The court referred to not only whether the person seeking immunity “provides” an equine, but also to whether that person makes a “reasonable effort to determine the ability of the person” to whom the equine is provided to engage safely in an equine activity”. In this case at hand, the holder of the horse was assisting the rider in her riding. Therefore, the rider was deemed to have “provided the equine” to the other relative and was not immune to liability pursuant to Wis. Stat. Sec. 895.481.
Too many horse lovers do not use appropriate judgment in this activity. It does not matter if you are a rodeo rider, a jumping enthusiast, a dressage queen or a trail rider. It does not mean that you must be a trainer or stable owner. You can simply be a horse rider introducing your normally bomb proof horse to a friend who is inexperienced with horses. All it takes is that one snow crash from the roof of a riding arena to make this normally calm horse react in a manner that can result in injury.