Since you're reading Horse Journal, you're probably a reasonably experienced horse person. So the chances are good that, if you saw an inexperienced person having trouble riding or controlling their horse, you?d try to help them, especially if it looked as if either horse or rider were about to get hurt.
But I have to wonder whether we should do that these days.
The horse world has always been a sensitive place to offer help, because everyone thinks they know what they're doing with their horse and can get highly offended. But these days, since many people are so quick to call their lawyer, you never know when some bozo might try to sue you for helping.
My first thought was, ?No good deed goes unpunished,? when I came across a story on an Internet chat room several weeks ago that started this way:? A young girl, riding down the shoulder of a two-lane highway, bareback, without a riding helmet, in shorts and barefoot?and with only a halter and lead rope to guide the horse. What could possibly go wrong'
Still, I ask you, if you saw this girl, clearly struggling to gain control of the horse, would you stop your car to try to help' Or would you drive hurriedly past, afraid of the equine liability you were about to fall into'
The tale?s unfolding made me wonder why you should help anyone with a horse, unless they're related to you, a close friend or paying you.
The girl fell off, face first, as the Good Samaritan stopped her car. She immediately dialed 911 and ran to the girl?s aid. After the paramedics arrived, she caught the horse (who hadn?t gone far), and then arranged for a local veterinarian to pick the horse up and house it while she attempted to find its home.
After the veterinary staff had taken the horse, the Good Samaritan went to the hospital to check on the girl and to see if she could find out where the horse belonged. The girl, now conscious, had told her parents that the Good Samaritan had caused her to fall, by spooking the horse. So the father screamed at her for endangering his daughter.
And now for the rest of the story, as told by the Good Samaritan: ?Then Mom tells me that the girl had STOLEN the horse from their neighbor?s pasture during a temper tantrum and was ?running away.? Apparently she?d had some informal lessons, but nothing that would give her common sense.
?And the horse is a YEARLING. Owners were livid, and I think that they were nice not to sue [her].?
But ?Dad wants to sue ME for apparently getting his daughter bucked off the horse. I left before things could get more heated. As soon as I got into my car, I contacted my lawyer, who said in no way do they have a case.?
I hope the next chapter isn?t the girl?s parents suing the horse's owner for not doing more to keep their daughter from stealing the horse. I wouldn?t bet against it, although it says tons about the baby horse's temperament that she, literally, got that far down the road.
So, I have to wonder, why bother to help anyone' Is helping someone who doesn't grasp the danger they're in worth the risk of getting legally punished' Or would you feel worse if you didn't help and later discovered that either the girl or the horse was killed'
it's really sad that liability makes us second-guess what we should do.
John Strassburger, Performance Editor