Connecticut Supreme Court ruled horses as “a species naturally inclined to do mischief or be vicious"

“Hi Stacy! I plan on spending the rest of my working career in the equine industry, hopefully as an instructor, giving people the opportunity to receive a strong foundation with an overall knowledge on horses, how to ride, and starting them off showing. With that, I am somewhat worried as to were the industry is going. I am from a part of New Jersey about 30 miles outside New York City where I get asked all the time about my opinion on the on going protests to get rid of the carriage horses that live and work there. Between situations like this, as well as events like when in Connecticut a boy was bitten by a horse and the case was taken to the Connecticut Supreme Court and ruled horses as “a species naturally inclined to do mischief or be vicious” due to one specific case, what do you think the future of the equine industry if things like this are passed? So far people have been able to fight and be the voice of the horses and have been able to save them so far, but if change that is not in favor of the horses are made, how do you think this will effect the equine industry? What are your thoughts on what is going on? And what are actions that educated horse people can do to help educate others and save the industry that makes up ours lives that we love so much?”-Rachel D.

Thank you for brining this to my attention. After reading your question I searched the internet and read an article titled, “Horses the Next Pit Bulls? Connecticut Supreme Court Finds That Horses Are Inclined to Be Mischievous, but They Are Not Presumed to Be Dangerous” on the Hodgson Russ Attorneys website.Texas equine law sign

As a horse owner, it is frustrating. These people chose to approach animals that were confined…it isn’t like they were chased down by a loose horse. They made a mistake. It is a shame that the child was bitten but his parents chose to put him next to an animal. Any animal carries the ability to do harm and generally the larger the animal the greater the natural risk. Hamsters bite all the time, they just happen to be small. I have never touched an elephant but someday I want to touch one, and maybe even go for a ride . Even though I have this desire, and I do hope to go to Thailand some day, you can bet that I won’t be randomly approaching an elephant without being within arms length of that animals handler!

Thankfully many states do have laws that offer some protection for equestrians. I’m not an attorney and I’m not offering legal advice but the general idea is that many states recognize that there is ‘inherent risk.’ These laws are not intended to allow owners to be negligent, but they do allow that equines are not risk free.

But this still leaves A LOT of grey area. And that leaves room for lawsuits.

I wish I had an easy answer. Education and prevention will both be key. Thanks for getting me thinking about this issue.

What do you think?

Ohio equine law sign


  1. Kristen on December 16, 2014 at 2:05 pm

    My home state of Indiana has a very similarly worded warning sign, which I promptly purchased after acquiring my first horse. I used to work at a boarding/training facility and would not have known of the need for such a sign had I not worked there. However, I always thought the wording use of “Equine Professional” engaged the sign into a legal loophole. What is determined as “professional”? I don’t sell lessons or train other’s horses for a fee, or offer boarding, so does that leave the signing hanging near my horses as merely a decoration? or will it really protect me from liability as I enjoy sharing the experience and love of horses with others? Indeed Stacy, a lot of grey areas.

  2. c. bolin on December 15, 2014 at 8:37 pm

    all the above answers are perfectly on target especially , when do we except responsibilities for our own actions! and for goodness sake, why do politicians have anything to do with this?

  3. johanna on December 15, 2014 at 1:29 am

    this is a sad state of affairs.
    i am glad though, to see some states are ‘smarter’ than others and do not hold animals responsible for injuries like this.
    people are moving farther and farther away from nature/animals and farther away from being responsible for their own actions.
    i am personally very saddened by all this.
    Connecticut use to be a champion of horses–at least when i lived there 30 years ago. it seemed everyone had a horse and if you didn’t, you were riding your neighbor’s.

    do people want to ”sterilize” the Earth of anything potentially dangerous to humans?

  4. Alli Farkas on December 14, 2014 at 7:45 pm

    In August 2014 the governor of Connecticut signed a new law declaring that horses are not naturally vicious. You can see the whole story here from the Connecticut Dept. of Agriculture:

  5. Jo Bianchi on December 13, 2014 at 11:56 pm

    I saw your comment that you like elephants! Please check out the Endangered Ark in Hugo, OK. They have an elephant program there and I bet you would be very welcome.

  6. PL Packer on December 13, 2014 at 11:35 pm

    I have the Oregon version of this law posted in my barn, on my fence and at the top of the driveway. I sometimes close the gate at the end of the driveway and let the horses out to graze, I want people to know they enter at their own risk (that and I do keep a chain padlocked on the gate while they are loose, some people don’t respect closed gates!) When my daughter and I gave lessons we had everyone sign disclaimers that aren’t worth the paper they are written on but it makes people AWARE.

  7. Rosie on December 13, 2014 at 11:17 pm

    Was the judge referring to the horse or the boy?

  8. gayle allen on December 13, 2014 at 10:57 pm

    If you operate a business involving horse riding/training etc. Draw up a disclaimer worded exactly the same as the relative legislation, then have your clients sign. That is the best you can do in relation to a client attempting to make a claim if they are injured.

  9. amy k on December 13, 2014 at 10:47 pm

    You have to read the entire ruling to understand the courts ruling. under that state’s legal definition of “vicious” the ruling is correct. I do not agree but to change the ruling one must petition tbe legislature to change the legal definition of vicious.

    I personally believe the parents in tbis case were completely negligent. They took their small child to a LARGE strange animal they know nothing about and then the child got hurt. Lack of common sense amazes me.. I have always had horses. My kids grew up with horses and i still would not take them near a strange horse at such a young age.

  10. Judy Shockey on December 13, 2014 at 10:00 pm

    The law in Texas now says “Farm Animals” and state that Equines are farm animals. It was updated a while back so we had to change out our old signs. But now it covers rodeos, playdays, trailriders and any other event involving farm animals. Just sharing. 😉

    • Stacy on December 13, 2014 at 10:12 pm

      Good to know, thanks!

  11. Ingrid Pearson on December 13, 2014 at 9:59 pm

    I predict the industry is going to be more regulated.already there is one stated that requires instructors to be licensed. Helmets are becoming more mandatory for certain events and age groups. Equestrian professionals should be trained on proper signage, documentation, and contract. Did the equine professional have a duty to protect, breach that duty, is proximal and probable cause accounted for, and was there resultant injury due to the breach of duty.

Leave a Comment




100% Private - 0% Spam

Something went wrong. Please check your entries and try again.

No one taught you the skills you need to work through these things.

Riders often encounter self-doubt, fear, anxiety, frustration, and other challenging emotions at the barn. The emotions coursing through your body can add clarity, or can make your cues indistinguishable for your horse.

Learning these skills and begin communicating clearly with your horse.

Click here to learn more.



Get the free printable guide

    Download now. Unsubscribe at anytime.