Written Release of Liability. It’s important for all horse owners to understand that when someone signs a release, he or she can still bring a lawsuit against you for injuries (to themselves or, in this case, the injuries to their child). But, a written release of liability serves as an excellent deterrent and, ultimately, an excellent legal defense. When someone signs a release, he is acknowledging the dangers of horse riding and handling, and representing that he is voluntarily assuming the risk of those dangers (or, in this case, assuming a risk on the behalf of their child). “Assumption of the risk” is your best defense in an equine legal dispute.
A quick point on parents signing release forms on behalf of their children: Child custody laws vary by state. Where parents share joint legal custody of their child, some states only require one parent to release liability in order to assume risk for their child, where others require both parents to make the release of liability a viable defense. If you don’t know your state’s stance on this issue, err on the side of caution and require both parents to sign your release of liability.
Insurance Coverage. Few people carry liability insurance on their horses (which is similar to car insurance), but if you are allowing another person to ride and otherwise handle your horse, you might consider it. In the event your horse injures a third party or damages their property, this provides coverage for defense fees, as well as pays claims for which you are legally liable during the policy period. If you’re not insured and someone is injured and sues you, you’ll pay for both your legal defense, their medical costs, and other losses out of your pocket.
In summary, keep no secrets and tell no lies about the animal; have the lessee sign a release of liability assuming the risk of the dangers of riding; and consider insurance coverage.