Legal Questions and Answers for the Horse Community

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Rachel Kosmal McCart
Please note that the following information is not intended to be legal advice or to create an attorney client relationship. Before relying on any information, you should contact an attorney licensed to practice in your state. See also BAEN's legal disclaimer. To submit a question for this column, email your question to Please identify yourself as well as any other parties involved so that we can be sure to avoid conflicts in interest in answering your question. We will keep all parties? identities confidential. By submitting your inquiry to this column, you grant permission for your inquiry to be published and for your inquiry to be edited for length, grammar or clarity. Due to space limitations, we cannot publish an answer to every question we receive, but we do try to provide an unpublished answer by email or telephone. View previous Q&A's in the Legal Solutions Archives.

Q: Thank you for launching your web site, and sponsoring the BAEN column. I have moved back to an English barn after a year at an open discipline barn; my question centers on a pretty interesting difference between the two -- the REQUIRED use of helmets.

At the open barn, "helmets were optional" unless you were under 18 and/or had your parent sign a "waiver of liability" release. My new trainer insists that there IS no such thing as a "release of liability," and that helmets are more tightly monitored for minors than they had been previously (i.e., ASTM-SEI standards). I am confused and thought you might clarify the helmet-requirement laws.

A: The use of helmets for horseback riding, at least in California, is not a matter of law. There are no legal requirements to wear a helmet while horseback riding. However, many riding stables have rules regarding the use of helmets. In fact, I highly recommend that my own boarding stable clients require every rider to use a helmet, as it is in everyone's best interest to help prevent serious injuries. Personally, I wear a helmet EVERY time I ride, even if I'm not jumping. More than once, it has saved my noggin, and it is much easier to replace a crunched helmet than a crunched head. Thank goodness that modern helmets are so much more comfortable than the helmets my mother made me wear when I was a kid! For more information about horse safety, including helmet use, you may wish to visit the American Association for Horsemanship Safety . [ See also The Top 10 Reasons It's Cool To Wear A Riding Helmet - Ed. ]

Liability releases ARE enforceable in California as long as they are drafted in a clear and specific way that informs the person signing of the risks they are assuming. For more information about liability releases and enforceability, see "Liability Releases" on Equine Legal Solutions.

About the Author: Rachel Kosmal McCart, the founder of Equine Legal Solutions, is a lifelong horsewoman and experienced lawyer. Equine Legal Solutions, the Legal Counsel with Horse Sense TM , offers a full range of legal services for the horse community, including dispute resolution, customized contracts and risk management assessment.
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