A lmost all of us will have insurance for the two most expensive items in our lives, our home and our motor vehicle. However, a horse is often the third most expensive item you will own and some people do not realise the importance of or the protection provided by equine insurance.

Individuals

If you own a horse or ride horses provided by others, such as an equestrian school, you should consider some form of personal insurance cover. The policies offered by insurers vary greatly and some of them provide personal accident cover should you be unfortunate enough to suffer an injury whilst riding. Riding is a high risk sport and the circumstances that allow you to claim compensation from a third party are very limited. Section 5 of the Animals Act 1971 provides protection for owners of horses against claims by riders. Certain criteria have to be met for a claim to succeed and owners often argue that a rider has voluntarily accepted the risk of injury by deciding to ride the horse.

If you are a keeper of a horse and you allow other people to ride it, you should not automatically assume that you will be able to escape liability for any claims made against you simply because the person has chosen to ride your horse. The Animals Act 1971 allows certain exceptions to be raised to defeat any arguments of voluntary acceptance of risk and each case is considered based upon its own particular circumstances.

Another area of which many owners may not be aware is personal liability if a horse you own causes damage to persons and/or property. In 2003, the House of Lords (now known as the Supreme Court) decided that the owners of a horse which escaped from a field and was hit by the driver of a car were liable for the damage caused by the horse. The road on which the collision occurred was over a mile away from the field where the horse was kept and the field was surrounded by an electric fence and a wooden fence.

Even if you consider the area where your horse is kept is adequately fenced, there is always the possibility that it may escape, especially if it is startled and stampedes. There are very limited defences available to owners under current law.

You have to consider the amount of damage that a large animal such as a horse can cause if it does escape and particularly if the public walk through the field where it is kept.

Insurers will provide assistance with vets bills and legal fees if you have to pursue or defend a claim.

Employers and occupiers of property in the equine Industry

If you employ anybody as part of a business you are required to have insurance in place. The Employers’ Liability (Compulsory Insurance) Act 1969 requires all employers to insure against liability for injury or disease to their employees arising out of their employment. The minimum amount of cover required by law is £5 million.

Even if you run a fairly small business and you have people assisting you who you do not formally employ, you can still be deemed to be their employer if you exercise a reasonable amount of control over their activities. Even if all of your riding instructors are self employed, you can still be construed as their employer and you could be left facing a significant claim. As previously advised, the requirement for employers’ liability insurance is compulsory but there are a few limited exceptions that a solicitor or insurer can discuss with you.

If you are an owner or occupier of property that has regular visitors you should consider purchasing public liability insurance to provide you with cover against claims by members of the public. Occupiers of premises have a duty of care to ensure the lawful visitors are reasonably safe and all reasonable steps have been taken to minimise any risk to visitors. If there was some unforeseen occurrence or an incidence that could not have been prevented for a reasonable cost then there will be limited or no liability attached to the occupier. However, if the risk to any visitor is immediately obvious you could be found liable and may be left with having to pay a significant bill for any claims against you.

Summary

The key things to remember and to consider are:

  • The insurance policies will not only cover you for any injuries you may suffer but also claims made against you.
  • Some insurance policies will cover vet fees up to a certain amount and legal fees to make or defend a claim.
  • If you own a business and have employees, you are required to have employer’s liability insurance and your insurance company may also be able to provide you with guidance on how to reduce risk and liability.

If you require advice in relation to insurance cover provided and the benefits of the policies offered, please speak to your local insurance broker or any insurance company that may offer specialist equine insurance.