Signaling a new and less-trusting attitude among residents of the gated Hidden Hills community, the City Council is considering mandatory horse licensing in an attempt to reduce illegal boarding and the number of lawsuits against the city.
The discussion comes partly as the result of a lawsuit against Hidden Hills by a woman who alleges she was bucked from a horse spooked by machinery on city land. Although Hidden Hills officials are confident the city is not liable for the woman’s injuries, they are concerned about the cost of defending this and other lawsuits.
“The hope is that licenses would serve as a mechanism to remind people that they are responsible for their own use of horses,” City Atty. Amanda Susskind said. “The concept is to include within the licensing process some acknowledgment of that responsibility.”
The city of Los Angeles requires licensing of horses, but neighboring cities such as Agoura Hills and Calabasas do not.
Hidden Hills City Council members also hope registering horses would limit commercial boarding within the secluded, upscale neighborhood, which is zoned mostly for residential use.
Some homeowners in the 2-square-mile city, with an average of about one horse for every five residents, have boarded horses for non-city residents--sometimes as a favor for a friend and sometimes for profit, said Claudette Rice, president of the Hidden Hills Horsemen.
She said the whole discussion over licensing is a sign of a “lawsuit-crazy society” and a heightened sense of distrust between residents of the ranch town.
“Hidden Hills has changed,” Rice said. “It’s no longer a place where one neighbor can say to another, ‘Hey, go ahead, you can put your fence on my property--we’re friends, it’s no problem.’ ”
“It’s still a close-knit community, but it’s not as friendly as it used to be,” she said. “People tend to take rules and regulations and push them to the extremes.”