When you think of technological changes, you may not immediately think of the horse industry. Everything is more accessible now, thanks to the internet, and that includes your sport horse trainer and/or students. With live streaming and robot cameras, trainers are now able to connect in real time via video with students across the state, country and even across the globe. If this is news to you, be assured that everyone from Olympians to backyard amateurs are taking advantage of this growing and cost effective trend. It can be as low-tech as a friend holding an iPhone so that a trainer might FaceTime with a rider, or as technical as an independent GPS-guided camera that tracks the rider in real time. Riders also email videos of themselves riding independently for critique by a trainer. Regardless of the method of delivery, the demand for remote lessons via technology is growing rapidly.
What many may not consider is how this affects risk and liability for the trainer and the rider. Did the trainer incorporate language for remote or virtual lessons into the standard waiver and release of liability form for their students? If a trainer is in Florida for the winter show season, but is teaching a student in Pennsylvania, which state’s laws will apply? Has the rider signed a release for their location and is that property’s release sufficient? Does the release address both choice of venue and choice of law? If a trainer cannot closely observe the premises/surroundings, tack, equipment, or even subtle body language of the horse, should additional language be included in a release to preclude liability based on the limitations of remote training in case of an accident? Should the trainer require that a third party be present where the horse and rider are located for safety and emergency response? Will an Equine Activity Act statute provide protection for the trainer and if so, in which states will the Act apply? Taking this a step further, did the trainer advise their insurance carrier of the virtual lessons and confirm coverage will be provided?
Remote lessons offer unparalleled access for riders to their regular trainer or a world-renowned trainer across the globe. They provide cost effective, convenient and possibly otherwise unavailable training to riders who do not follow their trainer to sunny winter climates or who live in remote areas or where travel would be cost prohibitive. However, there are numerous legal issues to think through in the delivery of these services and to keep riders safe.