Ship your Horse: Two Horses To Europe in Two weeks!

We all know that getting married often involves not just marrying your spouse, but also the in-law family.  I was fortunate enough to gain a cousin-in-law who is as passionate about horses as I am!  Emily is a show jumper originally from California, but a couple years ago relocated to North Carolina with her horses.  In today's guest post she shares her experience shipping two of her horses to Europe, and dealing with all the regulatory and legal requirements in a period of just two weeks. 

Those big crates being loaded onto the plane have Emily's horses in them

Shipping two horses to Europe in less than two weeks
by Emily Bridge
Written for Ribbons and Red Tape blog

Pre-Departure Notes
Last month I was given a dream opportunity to send two of my horses to Europe. The catch: I had less than two weeks to organize their health and travel paperwork. Normally getting a health certificate or even an updated coggins report just requires a simple call to the vet and some blood work. However, because the horses were flying internationally (essentially being exported in the eyes of the USDA), a whole different intricate set of documents was needed.
The biggest issue of all was identification paperwork. With no FEI passports or official breed association papers, it was a hassle to get documentation to prove the horses were in fact who we said they were. Think of it as being 16 years old and trying to fly from CA to NY without a driver's license; you have to resort to using a school picture ID. We ended up using a copy of the page from the official auction booklet where I originally bought the horses. It showed a side view of them jumping and a copy of their lineage. It was an unorthodox method, and since the horses' original names did not match their registered USEF show names even more paperwork had to be signed by the vet to guarantee they were in fact the same horses.
An additional issue was that one of the horses in the group was a stallion. Due to potential diseases that can be spread from breeding to infected studs, an additional set of blood work and tests was required to prove that he was not a carrier of any diseases.
I was lucky enough to have a vet who was willing to make the endless phone calls and numerous trips out to the barn to satisfy all of the requirements for the USDA and the airline. Mersant International, the intermediary for KLM airlines, sent a huge packet of explicit instructions stating exactly how many days before the departure date vaccines were to be administered and blood to be drawn. Each horse had several viles of blood taken in order to perform numerous tests. Juggling the schedule for the medical requirements seemed to turn into a complex math equation; the simplest of which, Spring time vaccines had to be given no more 60 days but no earlier than 30 days before the flight and the second round of blood work for the stud had to be exactly 10 days before he left. 

En-Route: JFK -->AMS
On May 30th the horses were hauled to JFK in New York where they were stabled overnight at the quarantine facility attached to the edge of the airport. The next afternoon the boys were checked by a vet before loading into a trailer that would take them to yet another part of JFK. There they were paired up and secured in stalls within large metal boxes. Similar to a trailer, each box had a divider in it to separate the horses and then a small area in front of them where a person could stand. The horses' boxes were the last to load onto the 747 plane so the amount of time they were confined would be minimized. Though my trainer was given a ticket to have a normal economy seat with other passengers, he was able to go back and forth mid-flight to check on the horses. Contrary to FAA regulations he did not have to remain in his seat with his seat belt fastened for take off and landing; he was able to stand with the horses to make sure they remained calm!

Arrival in Holland
After 7 hours in the air the plane arrived in Amsterdam. There, the boxes with the horses were unloaded and taken to a quarantine area where our tack was checked by customs and the horses were examined by a vet.  Unlike shipping to the United States, Amsterdam did not require the horses to stay in isolation for several days. As soon as they were cleared they loaded into a trailer and were taken directly to the farm 3 hours away in Someren, at the eastern edge of the Netherlands. 

Return to the United States
When I eventually ship the horses back to the US it will be a very different process. The key factor will be from which European country they will be shipped. The horses were originally purchased in Argentina and flew from Buenos Aires to Miami, where they changed planes and landed in Los Angeles.  Argentina, similar to the US, is strict with their guidelines of what animals can enter and exit the country. As a country, Argentina is free of many of the diseases the US tests for. Therefore, the three horses imported, a stallion, mare, and gelding, only had to stay in quarantine for 5 days. This time, since the horses will be returning from Europe, the gelding will stay in quarantine for 5 days, but the stallion will have to remain for 31 days and be bred to once again to test for any diseases that can be passed on through breeding.  It is a frustrating necessity that the stallion is quarantined for such an extended period of time. It interrupts his training and show schedule and many stallions become a bit wild after breeding.  However, it is better for the USDA to be overly cautious than to risk a potential outbreak of a disease to a country with such a large equine population. 

All in all, my advice to others who consider shipping their horses abroad is to begin organizing paperwork and health forms long before you plan on shipping the horses. With this type of travel you can never be too organized! 

One of Emily's boys, Clock, in his new European digs in Someren, the Netherlands


Thank you so much for sharing your experience Emily!  And best of luck with figuring out the regulations/ legalities for their return to the U.S.

Please see the other "ship your horse" posts, as well as the posts on stallion importation to the U.S.

You can find more photos of Emily's horses in transport to Europe posted to my Charlton Equine Law Facebook page.

Triple X Olympics: Female Equestrians

With the recent selection of the U.S. Dressage team, the anticipation for equestrian London Olympics 2012 is at a fervor! (Please tell me you have seen the satirical Colbert Report video about "dreh-sahhge").  The equestrian games will run July 27- August 12.
 One of the major headlines is that Saudi Arabia has decided to permit females to participate in the games.  Previously, Saudi Arabia did not permit females to represent the country in the Olympics because the audience would be of mixed-gender.

Dalma Rushdi Malhas, born in Ohio, but also has Saudi citizenship

But when the Olympic committee threatened to ban all Saudi athletes from the games unless females were allowed to participate, Saudi Arabia decided to change its course.
Enter equestrian Dalma Rushdi Malhas, considered by some as Saudi Arabia's "token" female athlete.  Dalma won a bronze medal in the Singapore 2010 Junior Olympics; she was invited to the games this summer, but unfortunately has not qualified due to an insufficient number of clear show jumping rounds and insufficient record of jumping the requisite height (one source notes it is due to injury of her Swedish warmblood mare).  She is now aiming for Rio Games 2016.

Dalma has brought important attention to gender equality laws in sports.  In the U.S., gender equality in sports took an enormous leap forward by the enactment of Title IX, a section of the Education Amendments of June 1972.

    "No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance."
Once Title IX was signed, female participation in U.S. high school sports leapt over 1000%, and over 600% in varsity collegiate sports in one year.  Male participation increased during that same time by 22% and 46% respectively.
I couldn't imagine not being permitted to compete in equestrian sports based on my gender alone; the Saudi policy change is certainly something to cheer at this summer's Olympics... let the Games begin!
{Image Sources: Equus Blog}

The Modern Liability Waiver: Electronic Signatures

Signing a liability waiver: can we make it more modern?

The previous post was about whether a "group" liability waiver would be valid for a trainer and the trainer's (adult) student to sign.
While group waivers are typically valid, they are generally considered to not be as strong as individual waivers.  So what if you are concerned about the mountains of paper required in having a single liability paper for every single rider?

Try turning to technology.

Electronic Signatures to a contract are generally valid under the "Electronic Signatures under Global and National Commerce Act" (for less of a mouthful, it is called the E-Sign Act).  What constitutes an electronic signature (e.g., can you just type your name?) is governed by the state-by-state based Uniform Electronic Transfers Act (UETA).

For the sake of this post, we will presume the signature is written onto a screen with the trainer's finger or a stylus, such as at the grocery store check out line, at Macy's, etc.

I found that there is a free app for the iPad called SIGNificant, and I think it is pretty amazing.  You save a PDF of your contract or liability waiver to the app, give the iPad to the trainer to read the contract, ask the trainer if she has any questions, and if not- the trainer double clicks the place where she wants to sign, and signs with her finger! (I found a stylus to be better, but both work).  The app then allows you to take a picture of the person who is signing (for proof), save the contract, and email it to the trainer, and back to yourself.
A liability waiver could also be available on your website or by email, and parents who cannot accompany their minor child could use the app to sign the waiver and email it back (a variation of printing, signing, and faxing it back).

The concerns with using electronic signatures are authenticity (if signed off site, can you verify that the signature wasn't forged), and the same variables as discussed in the last post for all waivers: sufficient time to review, a knowing and voluntary waiving of rights, bargaining power, and clarity of the dangers involved, in addition to the other factors listed.
It would be advisable to let the trainer or rider know that he or she can receive a hard-copy of the liability waiver if that is preferred over an electronic waiver.
Also, if you choose to use electronic waivers, be sure to save them to multiple sources, such as an external hard drive in addition to your email or iPad.

Is your barn up to date with technology (does the music in the barn play on Pandora, does your barn have a Facebook page, do you use an iPad)?
Would you feel as comfortable with signing an electronic waiver as a paper one?
Or, do you think technology should be left out of the barn- we do go to ride to "get away from it all" and "get off the grid" after all!

Group Liability Waivers: Is it worth saving the paper?

There has been a bit of gap in time between now and my last post because I have been researching different angles of a liability waiver question that I was asked last week.

Question: Can two different adult riders sign on a single liability release form?
Facts: a trainer and her adult student go to try a horse for sale.  Both want to ride the horse, and both sign their names on the bottom of a single liability release form.

My first reaction was, why not? The purpose of a waiver or release is to alert a participant of the potential dangers of the activity, and to have them sign and accept that in consideration for the right to participate in the activity, the participant will not hold the facility/ activity sponsor liable for harm that occurs.  Why not save paper and have each rider sign his signature to a group waiver?

But then I thought of common practices- we typically each sign our own releases for risky activities, such as for sky diving, zip lining, etc.
Why would that be?  And would it render a liability waiver void to have more than one signature?  I had numerous theories as to why a waiver may or may not be voided as a result of multiple signatures, and went to one of my favorite sources to find a little clarification.

An unexpected dismount: is your liability waiver up to date?

But first, some background information on liability waivers or releases..........

Liability waivers can often bar a lawsuit if they are enforced, but we also read many cases of a court deciding that the liability waiver should be void in whole or in part.  
Some of the factors that a court considers in its decision to uphold the waiver or not are:
1. Time: did the participant have enough time to read the waiver so that the participant's waiver was "knowing and voluntary?"
2. Bargaining Power of the parties: does one party have an "upper hand" over the other party, or a greater amount of persuasion or power?
3. Clarity: is the language of the waiver, and the dangers being waived sufficiently clear, or are they ambiguous?

There are of course a number of additional factors that are used: whether a minor is involved, whether the waiver breaches public policy, and whether the harm arose from a contemplated danger of the activity.

My theory was that a liability waiver signed by multiple, unrelated, adult parties could be valid, but it may also be attacked for ambiguity of who exactly are the parties to the waiver, and for violation of the "knowing and voluntary" requirement.  For example, if a trainer were to sign the waiver, and the trainer's student signed on the following line, the student may claim that she was "just doing what the trainer did," and as the amateur student, relied on the trainer having read the release and did not herself read it.

However, group waivers are often used; as Dr. Doyice Cotten of pointed out, group waivers in which multiple parties sign are often used for health club sign-in sheets, and could be used for group trail rides.

Group waivers are not really advisable, though; as one article posted to noted:

"Gang or group style signatures where all participants sign underneath a single document are frowned upon by the courts. Remember, these waiver/release documents are contracts and they need to be treated with the seriousness of a contract. You need to be able to demonstrate that the participants who are signing these contracts understand them and are signing them voluntarily. So, if a line forms at your event where parents/players are waiting to sign, the parents/players in the front of the line may feel rushed and they might not understand the rights that they are giving up."

My rebuttal would of course be that having just a trainer and a student sign, merely two people, would not create the "rushed line-up" effect.

The bottom line is that a group waiver, or a liability release signed by both a trainer and the trainer's student, would not be per se void, and a well-written liability release could be effective for group waivers at a riding facility, but as a sweeping generalization, it likely wouldn't be as strong as an individual waiver.  

Have you ever signed a "group waiver" as opposed to individualized waivers?  Perhaps on a group trail ride on vacation?  Or for a team sport?

Many thanks to Dr. Doyice Cotten for the insight and feedback; you can find his book on sport liability releases and waivers here.

"It's the Friends that make us Nervous!"

My younger brother Collin is a polo superstar; he has gone to numerous interscholastic and intercollegiate national polo finals, and currently plays on Team USPA (U.S. Polo Association), a nationwide traveling polo team.   He splits his time between arena and field polo, though the summer season is dominated by field polo, and the winter season with arena.  He joins us today to share an anecdotal perspective about his experience with polo liability release forms...

Photo of guest post author, Collin White

Release forms in the polo community
by Collin White

Release forms are becoming more common in polo clubs these days. In my experience, signing a release form before playing a polo game is rare. Polo is a very dangerous sport where human and horse injuries can be frequent, but it’s uncommon to see a polo player sue the club. The polo community is very close-knit, and a personal injury during play becomes your own responsibility, rather than being a liability for the club.  If a polo player were to sue, he or she could potentially build a bad reputation.

On the other hand, there are a lot of friends of polo players that keep us all worried.  It is pretty comical when we see a friend of a polo player running around the polo field on one of the player's horses, nearly out of control (and most of the time not even wearing a helmet). Most likely this person has not signed a release because of the laid-back nature of the sport. While being entertained by the lack of horsemanship skills, we often joke around with the manager that he should be running out there on the field with a release form and pen because this may not be a pretty ending.

I have yet to see an ugly lawsuit against a polo club because of a personal injury, and I hope it remains that way.  Injuries are a part of the game, and the high risk involved in it is what makes polo so entertaining, as well as fun to play!

PS: Be sure to visit the Wine Country Polo Club this summer for some great polo games!


I appreciate Collin's honesty about the dangerous potential of playing polo, as in most every equestrian sport.  While every effort is made to ensure safety of the players and the horses, it is impossible to eliminate the inherent risk of galloping up to 35 miles per hour while focused on hitting a small white ball, along with 7 other players on the field.
If you have never played polo before, I would highly suggest beginning with indoor polo (slower pace, bigger ball, and only 3 players per team!) with a reputable club that emphasizes the polo ponies' health and well-being.

One reason why I've become an equine attorney is because such stories, like what Collin shared about the "laid-back nature" of many polo clubs, make me cringe at the potential legal liability.  While it is wonderful that the club players have such a rapport that lawsuits would be unlikely--and while I bemoan the issue of an increasingly litigious society along with all of you--lawsuits by riders unwilling to admit they assumed the risk by getting onto a horse unfortunately do exist.
While a liability release cannot (typically) prevent someone from suing you, a release can allow the judge to dismiss the case/ grant summary judgment early on, and horse clubs or barns can hopefully avoid costly trials.

How often are you asked to sign a release form when you go to a clinic, show, or to ride on a friend's property? How do you handle friends coming to ride on your property- do you rely on the friendship to prevent a lawsuit, have good insurance, or a release form?

(Wine Country Polo is in Santa Rosa in Northern California, be sure to plan a Sunday picnic at the club if you are in the area!)


This New Month of June brings Exciting News!

I am so pleased to announce the official opening of Charlton Equine Law: a boutique, full service firm that serves the unique legal needs of the equine community.

While I will continue to work with a local civil litigation firm in general business issues, I am excited to be able to offer equine-specific services in my name.

So without further ado, please visit the website of Charlton Equine Law!

(Please note that the website still has a few content gaps that will be filled-in shortly, but I'd love to hear your feedback.)

Celebrating the official opening with Bella and pup Allira!