What if the horse causes harm? Who is responsible then?

As much as we love to see our horses, they are and still are animals that can come out unexpectedly. Sometimes they cause material damage or injury to a person, for example because they were surprised by something that happened on the side. There are countless scenarios in which a horse could (unintentionally) cause damage or injury, but who is really responsible for it?

The legislator has placed strict liability on the owner of the animal and therefore on the owner of the horse as well. Owner refers to a person who raises a horse for himself. The law assumes that the owner is also the owner. There were many controversies on this issue. It is not easy to determine this liability because there is no owner registry in which horse owners are obligated to register. On the other hand, the identity of the horse must be registered and there is also an obligation to register for those who wish to compete the horse in events. But it’s not because someone has brought a horse to a contest that they are the owner/owner of a horse right away, and that often causes a lot of confusion. It is not always easy to prove who is ultimately responsible for a horse.

What if another horse kicks you?

Imagine the following situation: You are taking lessons at a riding club and during that lesson you are kicked by another horse. You have an injury to your leg and are therefore unable to work. By law, the owner of the horse that threw the kick is liable for the injury you incurred. The owner can still appeal to the third party liability insurance company. If there is no third-party insurance, the owner bears the entire damage himself and can try to transfer it to the association and / or coach.

But if the owner of an equestrian center is allowed to use an indoor horse during lessons, then the owner of that equestrian center is liable for damage caused by riding the horse during the riding lesson.

Not always the owner’s fault

However, the issue is not always black and white as shown above. There may also be a shared blame. Let’s go back to the example above for a moment. Suppose the kicking horse had a red ribbon hanging in its tail clearly indicating that distance must be maintained and that the injured rider got too close, there might also be an error in it. This is usually investigated and may be included by a third-party insurance company that covers legal liability only. If there is also contractual liability, in addition to legal liability, this type of damage is not automatically covered by third-party liability insurance.

Multiple owners of the same horse

If a horse has several owners, all of these joint owners are jointly and severally liable. In other words: every horse owner is 100% responsible. However, the victim only needs to be compensated once for the damage. Under certain circumstances, it is possible that the victim erred or accepted the risk, as a result of which the victim can sometimes bear the damage partially.

What about the dowries for children?

What if a child’s dowry causes harm, who is responsible? The Civil Code includes a special arrangement for damages caused by the dowry of a child. The bottom line is that the parents of the child in question are always held liable for the harm caused by the child’s dowry. Please note that here the parents have a strict and far-reaching responsibility as the owner of the dowry of the child, because as long as the child is a minor, he is under the authority of the parents and therefore these parents are also responsible for the dowry of the child. This is different from when the dowry that a child rides is owned / owned by someone else. In this case, not the parents of the child, but rather the owner of the dowry, are liable for the damage caused by that dowry.


If you are in doubt as to who is liable for damage and/or injury during, before or after a lesson and/or at a competition, always contact legal counsel. For example, De Driehoek Advocaten is always happy to help you with that.

Source: Triangle Lawyers

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