There are many large facilities throughout the United States. When they have a "multi-use" event it often means something more than that several disciplines of horsemanship are practiced in the same arena. A county fair may have livestock and tractors. Large horse facilities are often asked to lease some of their beautiful, flat space to other groups for a one-day event.
These events need to be examined carefully. The divergent uses may contain additional risks that require special planning and physical preparations. The landowners liability gives him a duty to make sure the facility is safe for the intended "other" use. The other user, as well, has a duty to be sure that the premises to be leased offer a safe place to participate in the non-horse activity. Will the other users be safe from the horses? Will the horses and riders be endangered by the other use?
The charity auction, silent or otherwise, is one example. One may assume that at a charity auction accompanying a large horse show or other horse event most, but not all, of the participants will have some knowledge of horses. Still, when the participants are busy viewing the objects to be sold or actively participating in the auction they would not be watching for horses and need to be protected by adequate measures.
Even if all the participants in the auction were "horse-savvy" the possibility of a loose or runaway horse is a foreseeable occurrence at any horse activity, so the auction participants need protection for that reason also.
Just as the horses may pose a danger to the participants in the auction, so may the presence of the auction or other activity pose an extra danger to the horses and riders.
The following are guidelines for coordinating non-horse events at equine facilities and horse and non-horse events, together, at any facility.
1. Many events are not compatible with horses. For example, farm equipment, motorcycles, tractor pulls or basically any competition or show involving wheeled vehicles with motors, as any of those may certainly spook the horses.
2. Wheeled vehicles without motors and all horse drawn vehicles would require considerable care as many horses are not accustomed to seeing such things.
3. Hot air balloon activities, ultra-light planes, skydivers, and helicopters must be considered incompatible with horse activities.
4. If at all possible, choose a day when there will be no horse activities in order to hold the other activities and if horses are generally kept on the premises the owners, handlers, and riders must be warned and arrangements made for their safe use of the facility while the other event is going on.
5. If it is necessary for a horse event and a non-horse event to be held simultaneously then each event must be made safe from the other and neither event must pose an additional risk to the participants of the other.
6. Spectators must be protected from loose horses and runaway horses.
7. The non-horse event participants and its spectators must be protected from the effects of the horse event or activities. That means that horses should not be able to enter the enclosure for the non-horse activity for the protection of the horse, horse and rider, and non-horse people and property.
8. The easiest method of protecting everybody is to fence off the non-horse activity, leaving pedestrian gates and larger gates if necessary. While some horses can jump even a five-foot fence, it is not likely, especially with a rider on top who is trying to avoid the fence and stop the horse altogether. Horses have difficulty jumping big fences if the rider is set against it. A five-foot fence or panel certainly satisfies the industry standard for safe horse fencing.
9. It is essential that the non-horse activity be located in a reasonable place away from the main horse activity. If the facility has permanent or portable barns the worst place to put the non-horse activity would be between the main horse activity and the barns, as most horses, regardless of where they are from, will go to the nearest "herd" and that usually means the nearest barn. This type of location poses a grave risk for the riders, as well as in this instance there would be a serious obstacle between the horses and the stable which is not normally there. This situation could result in serious liability to the facility as well as to the management of the non-horse activity depending to which group the victim belonged.
10. Spectators at most horse activities assume the risk of injury due to accidents caused by horses being horses and for unusual incidents of play or competition. They do not assume the risk of injuries caused because they were not provided with a safe place from which to observe the sport. The participants at the non-horse activity are not "spectators" for purposes of the horse activity and should not be given permission to cross over and view the horse activity unless they too are given protective warnings either on their tickets or by some other means. Further, in most states the equine activities statute applies only to "participants" which usually excludes "spectators" unless the spectator places himself in an unauthorized area.
A spectator who participates in a game or activity involving livestock may, by so doing, forfeit his spectator status and become a participant for the purposes of the statute.
It is often difficult to think of both sides of the picture as most of us are accustomed to viewing things from the perspective of the horse professional who is attempting to provide a safe environment for horse people to safety participate in their sport. Most insurance companies get
nervous when spectators are involved. These same companies become even more uncomfortable when non-spectators (read: innocent bystanders) are involved.
Summary: When dealing with a non-horse use in the middle of a horse facility or any facility simultaneously hosting a horse activity and a non-horse activity, one must realize that the non-horse people are paying little or no attention to the horses. They are as much at risk as children. So if one protects the non-horse activity from the horses as if it were a day care center, those people and property should be well protected because no one would allow horses inside an enclosure with a day care center and they would adequately monitor the situation. Then one must make sure that the non-horse activity poses no additional risk to horses, riders, and handlers. The general principles of risk management analysis would still apply.
Contributed By: Jan Dawson (President, AAHS)