Horse farm owners to get update on liability at workshop

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 3, 2006

Here’s the scene: You see two fillies frolicking in a field. You stop to observe their beauty, and lay your hands against the fence that separates you from this tranquil scene of nature — BZZT!

That’s when you’re shocked by a few thousand volts from the electric fence. Who’s responsible for your pain and suffering? The horse owner, who should have known better than to line his property with an electric fence — a violation of state law.

This is exactly the sort of scene that Lawrence and Scioto Soil and Water Conservation districts are trying to avoid as they present an equine environmental and liability awareness program in May.

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Some of the less shocking topics that will be include protecting water quality, manure and nutrient management, pasture management, facility design, conservation practices, neighbor relations, regulatory compliance and Ohio’s equine liability law.

Gregg Spear, District Technician of Scioto SWCD, said that lawyers will be on hand during the one-day event to help keep horse owners informed of their legal obligations to the environment and those around them.

“They’re probably not up-to-date on the laws,” said Spear. “And another big issue is manure management. We’ve had a rash of manure complaints occurring all over the state. Any time that’s going into the creek, it’s a water quality issue according to state laws.”

As an example of the largely unrecognized equine legal issues, Spear points out electric fences, which could provide not only an unwelcome shock, but also a hefty lawsuit.

“I see it numerous times driving down the road, any boundary line fence is not supposed to be electrified, and I see it all the time, just driving around the county,” Spear said. “People are just not knowledgeable about the laws and the liability of it.”

Spear said that paying attention to these regulations is especially important because of the close relationship that horses and animals share.

“People see cattle, they keep on walking, if there’s a horse there, it’s just the nature of people that they’ll walk over to the fence,” Spear said. “People grab hold of the fence, there could be a liability.”

The topic that will receive more focus in the workshop is not how horse farms can damage people, but the effect they can have on the environment.

“Manure on horse farms is typically handled and stored very differently than other livestock farms and many do not have a direct link to crops like other livestock farms,” said Spear. “Therefore, it is very important that they learn to recognize the challenges that they face.”

The event will begin at 8:30 a.m. on May 6 at the Ohio Horse Park, 400 Bobcat Lane, Franklin Furnace. To make a reservation to attend the training session, or for additional information about the program, contact Peggy Reynolds at (740) 867-4737 by April 28th.