Equine Alcohol Intoxication: beer drinking and welfare

We've discussed here whether you can drink and ride, and we've discussed waiting to have a glass of wine until after all your riding and barn chores, but to what extent should you give alcohol to your horse?

There is certainly a line between right and wrong, as with most controversial topics.

What is YOUR horse drinking?

Some (and I dare say most) vets would confirm that a limited amount of alcohol given to a horse wouldn't be detrimental at all.  Here is an article that asserts 1) horses have enzymes in their gut that actually ferments their raw oats and grains as part of healthy digestion and 2) intoxication correlates with body size to amount of alcohol, so one beer would have little effect on a 1000 pound horse, unlike a 10 pound dog.

Speaking of dogs, Here, one blogger writes of his desire to "get my dog drunk," though he feels bad that the dog won't know what is happening to her as she becomes intoxicated and disoriented.

Just because it is legal to give your animal alcohol, doesn't necessarily make it right.

California Civil Code Section 597, the primary law relating to cruelty of animals, states that:

"Whoever, having the charge or custody of any animal, either as owner or otherwise, subjects any animal to needless suffering, or inflicts unnecessary cruelty upon the animal, or in any manner abuses any animal, or fails to provide the animal with proper food, drink, or shelter or protection from the weather, or who drives, rides, or otherwise uses the animal when unfit for labor, is for every such offense, guilty of a crime punishable as a misdemeanor or as a felony or alternatively punishable as a misdemeanor or a felony and by a fine of not more than twenty thousand dollars ($20,000)." (Emphases added by me).

I do not intend to pass judgment or assert welfare violations by the blogger noted above, I merely use his post as an example of the sometimes blurry line between right and wrong.  By reading other parts of his blog, he seems to love his dog (who knows if he ever even followed through with his intent, or if it was merely a joke, and presumably a dog would not continue to drink beer if she didn't like it, especially if water was readily available).

I have let my horses sip at a beer after a horse show, and Zenyatta the racehorse is known to have a particular affection for stout beers (and has a cocktail named after her!).  Some people make a regular habit of adding beer to a winter's mash, and you wouldn't believe the number of online videos of horses drinking beer!

The article written by the vet offers one warning:  sensitive horses could be allergic to the sulfates in some alcohol, like red wine.
At the same time, she wrote that stout beers like Guinness can in fact be nutritious due to the mineral content.

While animal welfare should always come first, I think that most horses can safely (and legally) have a couple glasses of wine or bottles of beer.  As always, I recommend withholding any alcohol consumption (by you OR your horse!) until the end of all barn work and chores.

Happy Monday!  I hope you all enjoyed your LAST August weekend!

Equine Syndication and how to own a $16 Million horse

I've recently started following a fun equine blog called "Three Days Three Ways."  There is one particular post on equine syndication that I thought would be interesting to discuss from a legal perspective.  The "Three Days Three Ways" post (find it here) interviewed a woman who owns some of the horses ridden by Phillip Dutton in eventing competitions all over the world.

{Photo source is my favorite Equine Photography Blog: Capture the Light Photo, which also offers once-in-a-lifetime equine photography workshops in Kentucky; the next one is November 1-3, the week before the Breeder's Cup.}

Equine syndication is, in its most basic form, shared ownership of a horse: each investor pays for a certain percentage of ownership.  This is particularly popular with race horses because:
1. Top quality race horses are very expensive, and
2. Good race horses have the potential to win a lot of money, and to be economically valuable studs after racing.

(An article from 2006 reveals that $16 million was paid for a colt named Forestry!  It was a corporation, and not an individual buyer, who bought him.) 

Same photo source as noted above, photo taken at the Fasig Tipton sale in Lexington

I've met people at parties or weddings who find out I love horses, and they tell me with a rather cocky affect:
"Oh, well I own a racehorse."
I had always been floored- how impressive, a racehorse!  So of course I would ask a million questions:
Stable? Age? Tracks where he races? Medical issues with young racing horses? Sire and Dam?

The conversation would quickly become uncomfortable- they knew I loved horses, but they didn't know I am a horse owner, rider, and near-expert in some horse issues- 
and as I soon learned, these people "owned" a racehorse, meaning, a 10% interest in the horse that they bought as an investment, for tax purposes, as a whim, as a favor, etc., and actually knew nothing about horses at all.

As amusing as I find such scenarios, I actually think syndicates are a great invention for supporting equestrian sport, otherwise it would be cost prohibitive for many of the riders and owners to purchase, maintain, and compete top level horses.

There are a number of business, legal, and tax implications in forming a syndicate- so even if you are not planning on sharing ownership of a $16 million horse, but just a $10,000 pleasure horse, and even if it is with someone you trust- be sure to visit an equine attorney to go through the agreement and to form a contract between the owners.
When people are economically and emotionally invested in animals, you need in writing what the owners will do if they disagree on a plan of action for the horse, such as whether to pay for colic surgery or not, or whether to sell the horse, and if so, for how much, among other issues.

Would you ever buy into a syndicate? If so, for what type of horse?

When a bad economy results in more stolen pets and how to protect your horse from a thief

In March I wrote a post (you can find it here) on Forensic evidence and stolen horses.  Today I saw a news bulletin that dog thievery is on the rise; the article (found here) cites a 49% increase in stolen dogs.  The hypothesis is that a bad economy is driving thieves to steal valuable dogs, either for their own family use, to collect a Reward offered by the owner, or to sell over the Internet to an unsuspecting buyer.

Dogs aren't the only stolen pet- horse thievery is rampant as well.

The consequences for an owner of a stolen pet is often not only economic (in losing an investment animal, such as a young horse) but also emotionally damaging.

Our family dog Allira was taken earlier this year; she is trusting and loving, and was unfortunately all too eager to jump into a stranger's car.  Fortunately a friend of ours noticed this person's "new dog," told us, and we were able to recover her.  Poor thing had been put into a concrete kennel (she has never been kenneled before); needless to say, she was overjoyed to come home!


The consequences for a horse thief vary from state to state, and the punishment depends on the value of the property stolen (remember everyone, horses are property under the law), and the amount of property stolen.

In Texas, one of the reigning agricultural law jurisdictions, says in Chapter 31 of the Penal Code that thievery is a "state jail felony" (as opposed to a misdemeanor or death penalty) if:

"(A)  the value of the property stolen is $1,500 or more but less than $20,000, or the property is less than 10 head of cattle, horses, or exotic livestock or exotic fowl" (Section 31.03 (e4A))

If the value of the horse is greater than $20,000 then it becomes a Class 3 Felony, and a Class 2 Felony if the horse is valued at more than $100,000.  I'm not sure how many of you have horses exceeding that value, but for those Olympic riders or racehorse owners out there, if your horse exceeds $200,000 in value, then the thief will be punished with a first degree felony and its accompanying sentence, among other penalties.

In California, the penalty for horse thievery is analyzed under traditional property theft laws:
In Penal Code Section 487, Grand Theft is defined as stealing property, including:

"(d) When the property taken is any of the following:
   (1) An automobile, horse, mare, gelding, any bovine animal, any
caprine animal, mule, jack, jenny, sheep, lamb, hog, sow, boar, gilt,
barrow, or pig..." 
 The value of the stolen property must be at or above $950 (or for farm crops, including hay, valued at or above $250).

Sometimes Grand Theft is considered a misdemeanor, and other times a felony (fyi, stealing a gun will ALWAYS be a felony).

On top of the misdemeanor or felony penalty (1-3 years in prison, a strike on your record, fines, etc.), there are also enhancements that are added on, for example:
-One year if the amount of the property was worth more than $65,000
-Two years if the amount was worth more than $200,000
-Three years if the amount was worth more than $1,300,000, or
-Four years if the amount was worth more than $3,200,000 (I added this in case some of you have a REALLY great horse!)

Imagine stopping by the barn one morning, looking forward to feeding and watering your horse, and rather than being greeted by a happy nicker, you are faced with an empty stall or paddock.
How do you find your horse?
More importantly, how can you prevent thievery from ever occurring in your stable?

In a related category, I know over the years some of my tack, and that of others, has mysteriously grown legs and disappeared.  This happens frequently at shows, when security is low, and there are a lot of people circulating through the show grounds.  I always take my tack home at night when stabling away from home.

My prior barn faced a slew of saddle thefts a couple years ago; they were determined to largely be a crime of opportunity: if you leave your saddle out, someone will notice, and there are some people in the world who will be willing to steal your saddle for his or her own profit.

As suggested in the original dog-theft article, keep a current picture of your horse, along with a note all markings and tattoos, so that you can identify your horse to authorities in the event of a theft.

Do you have any other tips to add? Do you know of a horse that was stolen?

Summer Rides and Summer Tunes: trail riding on public land

Happy Friday!

Do any of you plan on trail riding this weekend?

To follow-up with yesterday's post, if you trail ride on public land, California has a rule that applies to you!

It applies to you because the statute says (find full text here of CA Gov Code §831.7)

"'Hazardous recreational activity' also means:
(3) Animal riding, including equestrian competition"
The law makes it clear that if you are engaging in hazardous recreational activities on public land, like a national or state park, then the public entity or employee is not liable to you (or spectators of the activity) for damages to you or your property (that includes your horse) arising from the activity.

Of course, there are also a number of exceptions:
1. If the public entity/employee does not warn participants of known dangerous conditions on the property (like an open well or mine)
2. A specific fee is charged to do the activity on public land (this is different than a mere park admission fee)
3. The public entity is negligent in maintaining the property in good repair (you tie your horse up to provided hitching posts that have negligently not been kept in good repair, your horse pulls back, and the hitching post knocks you into a coma; the negligently maintained property must result in injury related to the hazardous activity)
4. Gross negligence or reckless behavior on the part of the public entity

So if you are injured on public land while trail riding, in order to recover you must meet one of the exceptions.  If you are a public employee defending against a lawsuit, you would argue that the injury to the horse or rider does not fit an exception.  My hope is that the conflict never arises, and we all have safe rides!

Hope this music video sends you happily off into a summer weekend of riding!
(Video found from my friend's blog, Pearls of Caviar, a blog about wine and fine food!)

Summer Evenings: Trail Riding on Private Land

I'm sorry for not posting for a week; when the twilight stretches to almost 9 pm, I end up spending an extra hour grazing Bella in the last bit of sunshine, rather than getting back to my computer!  As much as I enjoy blogging for all of you, I have to say, I think soaking up the last bit of summer is worth it!

Mirabella, a perfect subject for Summer Evenings

One of my favorite summer activities is trail riding.  Morning, afternoon, or evening, I find nothing so peaceful as meandering along tree-covered paths, up hills, along streams, and adding a rocking canter or two along the way.  

I ride on both public and private lands, and on occasion I hear of riders who fall on the trail and are injured.
If you are a landowner and a rider falls while on any part of your property, could you be held liable for injuries to the rider (or the rider's horse)?

According to California Civil Code §846: “An owner of any estate or any other interest in real property, whether possessory or nonpossessory, owes no duty of care to keep the premises safe for entry or use by others for any recreational purpose or to give any warning of hazardous conditions, uses of, structures, or activities on such premises to persons entering for such purpose, except as provided in this section."

Trail riding is considered a recreational activity, so it looks like the answer is that a private landowner is not required to protect riders from hazardous conditions (i.e., a rotten tree branch that falls and hits a rider, rabid wild animals that attack the horses, or gopher holes that trap a weak fetlock).  

However, there are of course exceptions:

1. Landowner will be held liable if a rider is injured due to malicious or willful conduct/ failure to warn.   Example: landowner sets a bear trap on the trail to deliberately catch a horse, or fails to warn riders that bear traps have been set out on the trails to catch bears, or there is an open mine on the property that the landowner deliberately does not warn against, or the landowner has invited the local hunting club to use the land to hunt deer, without disclosing that important fact to the riders)
2. If the landowner is paid (or given other consideration) by the riders to use the property, then there is a duty to warn, guard against, or perhaps fix known dangers 
Example: a local trail riding association pays a sum of money for the right to cross a corner of the landowner's land)
3. If riders are expressly invited, rather than merely permitted to be on the private property, then the landowner has a duty to warn, guard against, and perhaps fix known dangers.  
Example: this can be a murky distinction, but if a landowner has expressly invited the local pony club to do a mock fox hunt in his fields, then he has a duty to warn or guard against dangers.  If he does not, he could be liable.

In California, landowners tend to not allow riders onto their property, out of the fear of being sued.  Even defending yourself can cost a lot of money!  While I understand the landowners who choose to prohibit any access, I know that many landowners also want to give back to the equine community, and allow foxhunting, eventing, schooling shows, or pony club events.  

If you are a private landowner who invites or permits trail riders (or bikers or hikers) onto your property, I would recommend having a liability release form signed by the riders, and I would also suggest that you walk your property with a liability expert (such as a lawyer) to discuss what you can do to help minimize the risk of injury on your property, such as posting signs, having safe gates and fences, and anticipating what could spook horses (are there barking dogs next door?  will there be tractors or pesticide planes operating in nearby fields on the day of your event?)

A special thank you to the private landowners that have graciously given back to the equine community to permit riders to visit; my hope is that riders and owners alike mutually benefit and enjoy the relationship!

A discussion of the liability, or right of recovery, for injuries from trail riding on public lands is up next!

What's in a Name: Trademarking your Equine Business

My hometown seems to have added a number of equine facilities recently, and I was happy to read an article (here) in one of the local papers of a hunter/jumper barn named Jump for Joy Stables.

I quickly ran an Internet search for the stable, by name.  That search resulted in 239,000 results, though none on the first page were relevant to the stable in my hometown.

I added the word "California" onto the search, with a narrowed result of 99,300.

I then added the specific hometown, and finally found a closer result of 89,300 with only 3 of the links on the first page relevant to the stable.

Through Google searches I found a "Jump for Joy Training Center," "Jump for Joy Equestrian Center," and a "Jump for Joy" organization specializing in kangaroos.

Later searching eventually found more information on the particular barn, but it made me consider how many barns named Jump for Joy there must be: it is a catchy name, with positive connotation, and directly results to hunter/jumper barns.  However, due to the seemingly high popularity of the name, it does raise a Trademark flag for me.

Jump for Joy could be a jump into trademark peril

Trademarks are words or symbols used in trade of goods to distinguish one's goods from the goods of others.  A service-mark is the same as a trademark, but used to distinguish services rather than goods.  In the hunter/jumper barn situation, service-marks are more likely to be relevant.

A trademark is valuable because it permits you to prevent others from selling the same type of good or service under the same or confusingly similar mark.  Therefore it is also important to protect your trademark, and not allow other companies to use the same or similar marks, because that can dilute your trademark and your accompanying service or good (make them less valuable)!

While it is advisable to register your trade or service mark, it is not necessary to register in order to gain a right to protect your mark.  A right to a trade or service mark arises when:

1. You are the first to use the mark: this is the main, and most important element of a trademark right!
(I took an entire law school class on what "use" of a mark exactly means, but I'll spare you those details at the present!)
2. You are claiming trademark protection in the geographic area that you use the mark (then state law applies, rather than Federal law).  For example, if you sell horse treats under the name "Horse-ios" only in California, then you likely only have the trademark protection in California.  But state laws can differ, and some states will extend trademark protection to other regions to prevent unfair competition.

I know we all love free things, so click here if you want to run a free search in the U.S. Patent and  Trademark Office to see if your business, or if your next creative idea, has a sufficiently creative name.  You can click on the registered names to see who trademarked the name, which state the person/ entity is in, and the type of good or service that is covered (if you're the type of person that likes the "inside scoop," this is way more fun than facebook!).

I ran a search for Jump for Joy, which has 23 registered trademarks (this includes foreign words with the same meaning, such as Saltos de Alegria, which is espaƱol for Jump for Joy).  Jump for Joy, I found, has an active (a mark is always considered "live" or "dead")  registration for children's entertainment services, for deodorizers, day care centers, for "alcoholic fruit cocktail drinks," for cosmetics, and for clothing.  

But there is no active registration for a Jump for Joy relevant to horses.  As mentioned above, you can still have a trademark without federal registration, but it may be more difficult for a third party to have notice of your mark.

There are so many fun, tricky situations with trademarks (can the color blue of the Tiffany box be trademarked? What happens if someone registers your mark that you were the first to use?  What must a third party do to find out about trademarks already in use?  What if someone uses your mark, but it is in a different service or good?), but I will close here by encouraging you to be as creative as possible in the name of your product or service, and to do a little (free!) research on names!

Every Ride, Every Time: when getting on the bandwagon is a good idea

My father is a trauma surgeon and he has seen countless horse accidents in the course of his practice: broken backs from vaulting, kicks, and crashes.  Our family acknowledged the inherent risk in riding, but we were each firmly instructed to minimize those risks, most notably by wearing a helmet for every ride.  I don't have an answer for how various horse industries should adopt helmet policies (i.e., top hats in dressage competition, cowboy hats for Western), but I do encourage you to adopt a strict helmet policy for yourself and your facility.

I know many of you have already seen Courtney's story, but in case you haven't, and just to show my support for the cause, I am sharing it here.  

"There was the before, and then there was the after. Before, she basked in the thrill of cantering down centerline at the Olympic Games. After, it was a thrill to move her own feet, one in front of the other. Before, she rode half a dozen elite horses per day. After, climbing atop a 22-year-old therapy horse was a task worth celebrating. Before, she left her helmet in the tack room. And after . . . well, we all know the answer to that."  Read the rest of Courtney's store here.

Here is Courtney before her accident:

I encourage you to watch her message to riders after her accident, to see both the devastating impact of her helmet-less fall, and to support her cause:  Watch it here.

Riding is an incredible sport with such great rewards.  For myself, the risks do not outweigh the benefits; but I do feel particularly terrible when one of our own, a rider, faces such hardship.  
No legal reflection on this topic today, just wanted to join this remarkable bandwagon of supporting Courtney.

My weekend: a cheeky mare, a dirty bridle, and thinking of EALAs

Happy Sunday!  I've had a great weekend filled with plenty of horse activities, I hope you did too!
Some of you may have seen this picture of Bella posted on my facebook page:

She stuck her tongue out after I asked her what she thought of dirty, dangerous tack.
I'm just kidding, she was actually patiently munching on treats while I cleaned the dirty tack!
My father had apparently unearthed a molded mess of leather, which was bound for the trash heap, when he decided to wash it up a little.  While I conditioned it, I thought of the Equine Activity Liability Acts that I've discussed briefly before on this blog.

The EALAs (for short) are statutes enacted by individual states to help protect horse people from liability when a visitor to a horse facility or a rider is harmed.
You can find the list of states that have EALAs here.
Litigation-heavy California of course is one of 4 states without an EALA; most states have similar statutes, and here is the one in Kentucky:

"The inherent risks of farm animal activities are deemed to be beyond the reasonable control of farm animal activity sponsors, farm animal professionals, or other persons. Therefore, farm animal activity sponsors, farm animal professionals, or other persons are deemed to have the duty to reasonably warn participants in farm animal activities of the inherent risks of the farm animal activities but not the duty to reduce or eliminate the inherent risks of farm animal activities. Except as provided in subsections (2) and (3) of this section, no participant or representative of a participant who has been reasonably warned of the inherent risks of farm animal activities shall make any claim against, maintain an action against, or recover from a farm animal activity sponsor, a farm animal professional, or any other person for injury, loss, damage, or death of the participant resulting from any of the inherent risks of farm animal activities."

It is a little wordy, but essentially codifies that horse activities are dangerous, and while a horse-person needs to warn about horse dangers, the actual risk need not be eliminated.

In action, this means that if you have a horse that nips fingers, put a clear sign outside his stall warning of that danger, but (in general) you don't have to get rid of the horse.  Or, make sure you have a sign posted outside your arena of the dangers of riding, but if a horse spooks and throws a guest, that is a risk you cannot control (again, this is in general, provided the horse was suitable for the rider's skill).

Here is the refurbished bridle I was conditioning:

One of the exceptions to the EALA liability shield is if the horse owner, trainer, professional, etc:

"Provided the equipment or tack, and knew or should have known that the equipment or tack was faulty, and the equipment or tack was faulty to the extent that it contributed to the injury."

So if I had provided a rider with a bridle that I noticed (or should have noticed) had rotten stitching, and then the bridle broke during the ride, and the broken bridle caused the rider to be harmed, then I would not be shielded from liability under an EALA.

Remember: prevention of liability is always better than dealing with an injured horse or rider, so make sure you are in compliance with your state's EALA, such as having signs posted with the required words, in the correct color and size.
Even if you are in a state without an EALA, I would suggest compliance with the EALA requirements because it could help establish a case that an injured rider knowingly assumed the risk of the inherent dangers of riding.

So go inspect your tack this week and make sure it is in tip top shape, I'm happy to report that after some deep conditioning, the bridle pictured here was safe and ready to be used!

*Edit/ Update: I thought I would share with you a typical sign required under an EALA, click here to purchase it from the Kentucky Horse Council.

The legality of drinking and riding: Is your horse a car? Are you intoxicated? What state are you in?

The previous post introduced the combination of two of my favorite hobbies: horses and vineyards/wine.
Therefore, I thought it my responsibility to inquire as to the legality of mixing those two hobbies.

Is it a crime to drink and ride?

The headline on this post denotes 3 important questions you should ask before you have your stirrup cup, or two or three of them.

Henry, the 10 year old Appaloosa who has a beer at the local Australian pub every Sunday.
Read the rest of the story here.

You already know that driving a motor vehicle while over the state intoxication limit is deeply foolish, and blatantly illegal.

Some of you may know that riding a bicycle while over the legal limit can result in a BUI (many college students learn this the hard way).

But what about riding a horse while intoxicated?
Some say it's a great way to keep people out of their cars when drinking; after all, how much damage can a horse really do?
But there are other instances where drunk riders have in fact been rather foolish: they ride into vehicular traffic, they ride their horses into pedestrians, or as it happened in Alabama, into police cars while on crystal meth, and refusing to "pull over" the horse upon police command.

For those of you in Montana, you may have seen this ad:

I read an article on statutory interpretation of driving under the influence (you can find it here),
and it seems that for the most part, state laws are rather vague as to what exactly constitutes a vehicle, so most courts will charge you with public intoxication rather than getting muddled in the mess of whether your donkey, mule, horse, zebra, etc. is a vehicle.

But it is troublesome to me that the law isn't clear.

In Montana for example, a vehicle for the purpose of a DUI is something that is not propelled by animal power.  
But under the law, a horse drawn carriage is not a vehicle, even though it is pulled by horse power.  I've seen a few carriage races, and I know I wouldn't want those helmed by an intoxicated driver.

In my state, California, this is how a vehicle is defined:

A "vehicle" is a device by which any person or property may be propelled, moved, or drawn upon a highway, excepting a device moved exclusively by human power or used exclusively upon stationary rails or tracks.

However, while some states focus on "what is a vehicle?", other states, like Texas, focus on whether the intoxicated person was operating a "device," which is typically limited to inanimate objects.

I've ridden many horses that most certainly are not self-propelled (bored, gelded, warmbloods during the summer, anyone?) and they require human power (strong legs!).
And I've also ridden a fair share of highly self-propelled horses (causing such equitation errors as pinching my knee to keep my calf off their side!); those horses would not be safe to myself or others to ride without the keenest focus and clear attention.

Do you know how your state treats a drunken rider?

If you don't, what do you think:
Better to ride drunk than drive drunk,
Slap a RUI on an offender (that's Riding Under the Influence!)