This post was reviewed by Nicholas A. Battaglia, Esq., an attorney licensed in New York and New Jersey. He is owner and legal content writer for a law practice marketing firm and a realty group focusing on new construction builds in upstate New York, where he lives with his lovely wife and his counselor-at-bark Flora, a mixed breed rescue.
Vicious propensities and horses: nothing to nay about. Generally, even if you are not at fault, as long as you’re the horse or other domestic animals’ owner, you will be liable for the damage it caused. Provided further, you have the knowledge or at least have known of such animal’s vicious propensity.
In this article, we’ll understand more about the vicious propensities of horses. Also, we’ll discuss your liability as an owner as well as the causes and cures of these characteristics. So, you should read each section religiously. I’m sure you will be enlightened after reading this article!
What Is Vicious Propensity?
It is the propensity to commit any action that may be detrimental to another person’s safety or property in a certain circumstance. Essentially, it is a proclivity to cause harm to another. To further explain, it’s the animal’s inherent tendency to act in a way that can harm either a person or property.
Indeed, the behavior alone is not dubbed ferocious or dangerous, as long as it shows an inclination to commit an act that can result in another’s harm. Say, for instance, per New York law, you can recover from damages from the owner due to a domestic animal attack.
Such a statement is true if the owner has observed that his animal previously manifests vicious propensities. Unfortunately, you can’t sue the owner for simple negligence, such as letting the animal run around the place. On a positive note, the owner has a strict liability if the requisite, as mentioned earlier, is present.
For instance, a court may find that there is a vicious propensity when the dog constantly and aggressively barks at the mailman—but not always. Wait, there’s more to that! You can establish an animal’s viciousness by showing that it has bitten or at least attempted to bite someone. Or it can be shown through your neighbor’s testimony.
A Case Showing The Horse’s Vicious Propensities
Vicious propensities and horses: nothing to nay about.
For many years, the vicious propensities of horses, especially as a group, are not actionable. These acts don’t fall within the definition of vicious propensity. For that reason, injuries and damages due to the acts of horses cannot be compensated. And usually, these acts were just referred to as “acting like horses.”
In Saratoga Country, New York, however, its appellate court held that the horse’s victim could pursue a negligence claim found in the common law. In case it’s successful, the horse’s owner would be liable, and he may be exposed to further lawsuits and verdicts.
Just like in the case of Robert Carey v. Burton Schwab that ruled the owner liable for the injury caused by the victim. The defendant and two other women were riding their horses going to a local tavern. While in there, two of the horses were freed to the road; so, they run down the road.
When the plaintiff saw what’s happening, he immediately got in his vehicle and pulled it in front of the horses to corral them.
Indeed, the horses stopped and defendants collected the reigns. They gave them to plaintiff to hold so they could get the other horse. But, the horse was scared and spooked, and head butted plaintiff.
This act leads the plaintiff to lose consciousness, so he fell to the ground. Unfortunately, he was then stepped and dragged on. Due to this incident, Carey sued the owner of the horse. However, he believed he had to establish vicious propensities and the owner’s knowledge regarding this.
The defendant sought the dismissal of the case, arguing that he doesn’t have prior knowledge of his horse’s vicious propensities or at least a history of such behavior. Also, testimonies are attesting that the horse was docile and calm.
However, there was a line of cases regarding pure negligence in maintaining domestic animals. This includes ensuring that animals are well secured. If they are not, they can cause serious injury.
The Appellate Division found that the defendants did not have vicious propensities of the horse, but still were negligent in securing the horse. Enough with this case. In the next section, we’ll understand why horses tend to be vicious.
Vicious Horses Explained
Most probably, horses that serve as pets are confined in spaces so they won’t get loose quickly. Do you know that confinement is linked to numerous behavioral problems?
Well, there’s no doubt if it’s answered in the affirmative. They are free-ranging animals that want to wander around; in fact, it was shown that more than 60% of their day are allocated for foraging.
And the remaining time is for them to rest by lying down or standing. Sometimes, they are also fond of grooming or engaging in any other joyful activities.
Even under barn circumstances, you know that horses tend to eat small meals, but many times a day. And yes, they’re very socialite. They want to interact with others, improving their entire well-being.
If you isolate them, it will lead to various developmental issues. Unfortunately, it may result in vicious propensities that can make you liable as the owner.
That’s why if you love your pet and you want to be stress-free from legal liability, you should know how to manage these behavioral problems.
Aggression Of Horses
Undoubtedly, it’s common for horses to be aggressive. They would neck wrestle, chase, bite, kick, and show other threats. There are also many aggression signs such as the following:
- Threats to kick
- Rapid tail movements
- Retracted lips
- Ears flattened backward
- Head bowing
Furthermore, your horse may also be submissive. You will know if it manifests the following:
- Clamping the tail
- Lowering the head and neck
- Turning away
Anyway, let’s further elaborate.
Aggression towards people
If your pet horse felt isolated in a small space, you might have observed how aggressive it should be. So, yes, this kind of behavior can usually be seen installs. Also, aggression to people includes induced pain, fear, related to dominance, sexual, and learned.
Whenever horses play with each other, they might display signs of aggression such as biting and kicking. And it is true in young ones. Don’t worry, though. They are benign to fellow animals but not to men. Just like dogs, they can be dangerous to others too.
Similar to how you deal with other problems, you also have to identify the main cause and remove it to manage the aggression.
Some owners would apply positive reinforcement or conduct extensive training to establish control over the animal. These actions should be done with counterconditioning and desensitization.
Aside from that, it’s crucial to manage the horse’s environment. It should have an excellent environment, such as an abundance of water, food, and space.
In case you have horses manifesting dominance aggression, make sure to separate them from the others; they might attack them, especially those near them.
Horse Injuries And Owner’s Liability
There are various ways how horse injuries occur. It is called equine-related injuries; it happens when you get injured by a horse, whether your family member or friends own such horse. The same is true when you have rented a horse through a stable.
Most of the time, this injury results when you fall off the horse. Other times, it occurs when you’re kicked or if you’ve not worn a protected gear. You’re lucky if the injury is just mild.
How about if the injury incurred is severe? Who would pay the expenses? What’s worse is when the injury resulted in death.
Yes, horses can be domestic animals. But, take note of their instincts. They can show vicious propensities whenever they’re under stress. In this section, you’ll understand when you will be liable as a horse owner in case you’re animal has inflicted injury to another.
Are you liable for horse injuries?
Your liability as an owner is dependent on the injury’s circumstances. If you’re the horse owner, you will most likely become the defendant of the case. If you’re the victim, you can sue not only the owner but also the instructor or the stable where you’ve rented.
As an owner, you are also protected by the law. However, you should take note of the appropriate law in your place. Generally, the owner is freed from liability if the following is shown:
- That the injured party ignored warnings;
- That the injured party gave the provocation; or
- That the injured party trespassed the property of the owner.
In case the injury occurred during a riding lesson or a trail ride, you may have signed a waiver of liability prior to such. In which case, some, if not all, of the liability of the owner may have been waived. As the injured, your ability to sue may have been limited.
Liability Not Automatic In Law
Under House Bill No. 5044 of the State of Connecticut, it must be shown that the horse possesses a vicious propensity; it’s essential to recover damages from the owner or keeper due to personal injury caused therein.
Furthermore, the law provides for a presumption that the horse does not possess such propensity; it follows that such horse is presumed to not engage in behavior that could result in human injury.
However, such presumption is rebuttable, such as if the horse has previously shown a vicious propensity that could result in personal injury. This behavior has come to notice or knowledge of the owner or keeper. Take note that all of these are true in any civil action against the horse’s owner or keeper.
Finally, the law states that you have no cause of action for strict liability for the recovery of damages due to injury caused by the horse. Well, it’s good to know that as the owner or keeper, you are also given protection by the law.
Aside from liability, you should also understand facts about horses. I guess you’re interested in knowing what law protects you as the owner or keeper because you are planning to pet one. If you already have a few, then it’s still best to be more knowledgeable about them.
Interesting Facts About Horses
Indeed, horses are full of mysteries; they’re usually linked to mythologies and fairy tales for many years. Yet, their behavior and language are quite hard to understand. If you’re a horse owner, then understanding their equine behavior will certainly help you!
Learn what their language means, so you will know what they want to convey. In this way, your pet will feel safe around you. Now, here are the interesting facts about horses:
#1. Body language
It’s obvious- they can’t talk through words. So, we need to know what they intend to say for horses to convey what they feel. Undoubtedly, they tend to say a lot, such as through body language (through their ears or eyes).
#2. Fight or flight
If there’s a sign of threat, a horse has a natural fight or flight response. Unlike other animals, it doesn’t have dangerous features such as teeth or horns for defense. However, their ability to run fast and their strong hind legs can help in defending themselves.
Take note of this: a horse that senses threat behind would kick back and run. Well, it is not equipped with a complete vision to its back. Since it has a very fast reaction time, it responds very fast too. With this, it is able to save itself from prey.
Sometimes, horses would see humans as threats; and that’s when they become dangerous. They would sprint or kick a person, resulting in injuries. Even if you’re the horse’s owner, you should establish trust. The same is true if it’s your first time dealing with a horse.
#3. Fast learners
Here’s what I love about horses. I guess you’ve already observed how fast learners they are. You can see this whenever you train them. There’s no doubt why it’s more efficient and easier training them. They can even assist you in performing tricks.
#4. Powerful memory
Aside from being fast learners, they also possess powerful memory. I tell you- whatever you’ve taught them, it will remain forever. And it’s sweet to know that they will remember you. Also, they are highly disciplined; they are able to follow a routine. Plus, they can adjust in horse trailers and stables too.
They’re sensitive creatures, given that they are very wise. They have great senses- hearing and smell. Not only can you trust dogs as guard animals, but horses also. They have perfect eyesight, even at night!
Just like dogs, horses are loyal as pets too. They get very playful and feel desensitized to people new to them, as long as they feel scared of. Horses generally don’t show fight or flight response from their owners; they adapt to a new stimulus, and they don’t find these threatening or frightening.
With these facts, you would appreciate how friendly horses can be. Vicious propensities are usually manifested whenever they’re scared or threatened.
That’s why as human beings, whether or not you’re the owner, you must understand their natural behavior. In this way, you won’t be liable or get injured due to these beautiful creatures.
Dealing With A Dominant Horse
It’s natural for horses to be followers. What’s funny is that they are happy whenever they are told what to do, clearly! But then, some horses are dominant. And that means that they do not necessarily do whatever you command them to do.
And whenever they are told to do this or that, they would resort to intimidating or aggressive movements such as shoving, throwing, or scraping a rider off. If this happens, they become dangerous. Sometimes, they would engage in acts resulting in another’s injury.
Here are the steps you should follow when dealing with a dominant horse:
Step #1. Determine if you can handle dominance
May I ask, can you personally handle a dominant horse? Remember, it can use force, and it can be aggressive not just to you but also to other people and even other horses.
The horse may weigh too heavy for you. Again, ask yourself if you can mentally handle a dominant horse. Anyway, we necessarily don’t speak about your size, but your horsemanship and attitude too.
In case you’re not capable, don’t hesitate to seek help from a pro. Let someone experienced handle the horse (to avoid the risk of injuring another person and to free you from liability).
Step #2. Know the ground rules
Understand the basics. Simply by wearing a helmet, you can face a dominant horse. Aside from that, I recommend you wear a vest for further protection. Also, carry a dressage whip or crop. But wait, make sure you know how to use this, okay? Don’t be afraid to use it!
Warning, though: I don’t say you should beat the horse, or this doesn’t advocate beating it. Be sure that whenever you use it, you know how. Use it correctly and appropriately. Whenever necessary (JUST WHEN NEEDED), provide a physical correction.
Then again, if you’re not ready or not comfortable dealing with a dominant horse, ask help from someone else who’s a professional to ensure effectiveness in handling it.
Step #3. Work on the ground
Start the work with the horse on the ground. See to it that you have enough space; you can have a round pen. The most basic rule is NEVER to allow the horse to drag you and make it feel as if it is in charge. Let it walk next to you.
Here’s how you can stop the horse:
- Bring the whip across its chest
- Place your shoulder ahead of its chest (if you’re comfortable doing so)
Give a little flexibility to the horse, though. For instance, give time for the horse to go in its stall. Rushing it may be dangerous.
Also, you can give quick corrections, such as by smacking it. But, don’t beat it; it’s abusive, and it is not effective in disciplining a horse. Unless necessary, such as if it shows extremely dangerous and dominant behavior such as threatening to rear orbiting.
Just like dogs, horses also appreciate rewards. Whenever they behave well, you can give an immediate reward. Through this, you can create positive associations and reinforcements.
Step #4. Work under saddle
A dominant horse tends to repeat a behavior that offers it the upper hoof. For instance, scraping off a rider would make it go back to its stall. Here’s the thing: No matter what it does, don’t allow the horse to get out of work.
Horses are intelligent animals. Dominant ones have above-average intelligence. Give them challenging tasks and make sure to make them do what’s right. In this way, they won’t have the chance to get to you.
Hopefully, if you’ve already known how to handle dominant horses, the risk of injuring another would be less likely.
Do I Need A Lawyer?
You have rights and obligations protected by law. Whether you’re the owner, keeper, or the injured party, it’s proper to seek help from a lawyer.
Are you still wondering about vicious propensities? Are you a victim of horse injuries? Or maybe horse attacks? Does your horse injure another person?
All of these questions can be clearly answered by your lawyer!
It’s A Wrap!
Vicious propensities and horse: nothing to nay about. Domesticated animals like horses can display vicious propensities.
If the horse is not necessarily dangerous, the owner or keeper may not be liable. Also, if the horse is dubbed normal and no previous incidents show vicious propensities, the rider usually assumes the risk of injury, thus freeing the owner from liability.
If you’re the owner, the best thing to do is manage horses, especially those manifesting dominant behavior. Otherwise, they may be prone to vicious propensities, which may lead you to liability.