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Students Get in the Saddle for New Equine Law Course

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The Horse Industry

Statistics show that the horse business is a $39 billion industry. It contributes about $102 billion to the GNP. Yet serving this giant industry are about 100 lawyers in the entire country. With 4.6 million Americans involved in the industry as horse owners, service providers, employees, and volunteers, I contend there is a growing need for legal specialists in the field.


Both the animal and the industry have unique features that are not replicated in other industries, and these unique features have twisted the general framework of common laws and statutes. For example, a common feature of horse contracts is the parties' general reluctance to commit the deal to writing. Because the statute of frauds acts to prevent enforcement of oral contracts, horse cases will commonly find ways around the statute of frauds that are not usual in other cases.

Warranties are unusually construed in horse cases, as are agency law and securities law. The horse industry has obtained exemptions and exceptions to the Internet gambling laws, and horses are treated differently under the U.S. tax code. In addition, association regulation is given disproportionate weight by judges.

In sum, an ordinary attorney who embarks on a horse case is likely to do his or her client a major disservice because the animal, the law, and the industry are unique enough that the lawyer just will not know what he or she does not know.

The Equine Law Curriculum

As an equine lawyer, I am eager to have the field better recognized and, more importantly, the horse industry better served. In my own practice of the law I became convinced of the necessity of offering this course when I went forth to learn more for my own practice needs and noticed the dearth of available educational modules in this field. There's a substantial amount of material written about the field, but no one has ever pulled it all together and sorted it into a coherent educational format.

Over the past year I've developed a curriculum that aims to offer students an education in the legal backdrop of and the practical experience necessary for practice in this field. General areas covered are industry practices, sales, contracts, securities law, insurance, gambling statutes, tax law, equine activity liability statutes, and ethics. Concord Law School, where I also teach contract, evidence, criminal, and torts law, agreed to launch the program online.

Students have reacted very favorably to this new branch of law studies. As you can imagine, some of these students hail from more rural areas where horses are easier to find than law schools! Because Concord's program is uniquely accessible compared with traditional law school programs, students wishing to spend at least some time in the saddle or working with the equine industry may do so and still learn the law.

About Concord's Online Program

Because Concord is Internet based, students can study the law from any corner of the country-or the world, for that matter. I'm based near Boston, but my students span the entire United States and are located overseas as well.

As a professor, I teach the class in real time over the Internet, and my students listen in and respond by texting (also in real time). I can moderate the discussion by either selecting to post all the responses immediately, delay some, or order them in a manner that takes the discussion in a certain direction.

What I find is that I actually get far more responses and feedback from students under this system than I would in face-to-face interactions in a "brick and mortar" classroom. Obviously, I can get a much better sense of how much students are getting out of the course and can teach better accordingly. For their part, students say they like to participate in this format because it's more color-blind and gender-blind than a traditional classroom. Some of our students feel embarrassed because they're older than the average student, while others-because they are taking the class from home-don't have to worry about what they're wearing!

And Lastly, About Horses

And speaking of horses, if you've ever tried to search for anything related to horses on the Internet, you probably came away as frustrated as I have. The industry has traditionally been underserved by the online revolution, much in the same way that it has been underserved legally.

In reaction, I helped create an Internet search site with a powerful new search engine that is devoted to horses and the horse community. The site, www.queryhorse.com, uses a search engine that was designed for the intelligence community and other large-scale information clients that have specific and detailed needs.

I grew up breeding, raising, and training horses on a family farm in Missouri. I played on the polo team at the University of Virginia and later at Tulane University, where I got my J.D. I worked as an assistant district attorney for eight years after graduating from law school and joined the faculty of Concord in 2000. I've been in private practice since 2003, with horse cases becoming a bigger and bigger part of my practice, in essence because I'm the only one in the area who practices equine law. I hope—thanks to this new curriculum—that this may change in coming years.




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