Insure Your horse club or association for Liability

horse medical insurance

Benevolent horse clubs and associations are those formed for benefit of the common interests of the members. Most are formed as corporations and may have official non-profit status, or at the least, do not have a profit-making motive. Club income usually comes from membership dues, events, fund-raisers, and donations or grants which go to cover the costs of operation and to raise money for charities.Some clubs own or lease property, while many do not.  If your club or association operates with a profit making motive, please contact our representative by phone or e-mail and we can help you.

To follow is a list of those that commonly apply for insurance:

  • Riding/ Saddle Clubs
  • Driving Clubs
  • Polo Clubs
  • Hunt Clubs
  • Pony Clubs
  • 4-H Clubs
  • Trail Riding Clubs
  • Team Penning Clubs
  • Breed Associatioins
  • Endurance Racing Associations
  • Western Games and Gymkhana Clubs
  • Horse Show Organizations
  • Volunteer Mounted Units
  • Search & Rescue Organizations
  • Horseback Orienteering Clubs

Horse Rescue Associations

Most riding, driving and horse show clubs are formed as a local or regional group.

Breed associations have the common interest of a specific breed of horse and may be involved with breed promotion, registry, sanctioning of shows, and compiling competition points on horses.

Pony Clubs and 4-H Clubs provide teaching events, competitions, and activities for youth.

Volunteer Mounted Units and Search & Rescue Units are community service organizations that assist police departments to find lost persons, may act as parade honor guard for sheriff’s departments, or provide crowd observation and approach services at large events.

Horse Rescue organizations usually accept horses the owners can no longer care for, and find new owners or caretakers for them.  Most are not involved in legal siezure activities.  (Note that it is difficult to secure insurance for those that assess or are involved in legal seizures.)

Whatever the purpose of your association or club, it is an important part of the horse community, having a strong value for the promotion of, and the safe, humane use of the horse. Whether large or small, with high budget or low, property owning or not, each club has business functions. Because of this and the fact that horses are a key component of the activities, a club opens itself up to liability exposure and claims for bodily injury and property damage by third parties (people who are not club members). Therefore, a Commercial General Liability Policy is a necessity to protect the club and membership body from financial loss due to liability.

As association managers, directors, officers and members, you may be concerned for the club’s financial protection.  You are concerned for the club’s responsibilities to non-member participants and spectators at events, and land owners whose property you may use, and other third parties. Such concerns are legitimate. You worry that your club may be sued or otherwise have a claim for bodily injury or property damage. If sued, your club may need to hire a lawyer to defend it. If found negligent, the club would be responsible for the cost of the claim. Fortunately, much of the concern can be relieved when you buy a COMMERCIAL GENERAL LIABILITY POLICY [GL] from a reputable Insurer to cover your unique activities. In event of a covered claim, the Insurer provides legal defense and pays for defense costs, and pays for claims costs and settlements made against you up to the limits of your policy. Just as important is the fact that knowledgeable professionals will handle and manage the details of your claim in a way that looks after your claim and litigation interests; so that you can continue functioning with the least amount of “hassle.”

Commercial General Liability Insurance protects you from financial loss should a customer, visitor, or a trespasser become injured [Bodily Injury] or their property is damaged [Property Damage] in relation to your operations, and they make a claim or file a law suit against you for damages.

How Risky is the operation of a Horse Club or Association? Moderate or Moderately High

Most club activities include monthly member meetings, social gatherings such as trail rides, picnics and banquets, several shows or horse events per year with some being open to the public and some not, one or two low exposure fund raisers such as car washes, bake sales or used tack sales, have income of under $20,000 per year, and are managed closely by its local board of directors.  Non-member spectators and event participants consitute the greatest public exposure which is often quite low.  The base pricing for a liability policy on such a club reflects its moderate exposure.

However, clubs with high income and membership, that hold large events the public attends or participates in, that have unusual fund raising activities, that manage a high number of competitions and payback money, register horses, and / or own property that they rent to others, will fall into a higher risk category.  The premium for their policy will reflect the exposure.

Because horses are part of the club theme, the exposure is never low.  Horse activities are reasonably safe compared to many other activities people participate in. Yet, horse-human activities do carry inherent risks. Accidents do happen when people at different stages of capability attempt to touch, handle, train, ride, drive and control large animals that are unpredictable even when well trained. And some horse-human accidents are serious. Even with the best of intentions and management practices anyone can have a claim made against them and be sued.

You Must Plan Ahead – A Five Pronged Strategy

No one wants someone to be injured on or in relation to their property or business operations. No one plans to have an accident that results in a liability claim they are responsible for. Yet, you still must plan against and for an accident, and there is a five-pronged strategy you should follow:

  1. Accident Avoidance is the first strategy. This is best accomplished by implementing a thoughtful operational risk reduction plan that provides a reasonably safe physical environment and procedures for horses and people. All staff members should be trained in those practices. [NAHA Risk Reduction Programs can assist you.]
  2. Emergency Procedure Planning is the second strategy, and it can be important to minimize the severity of an accident and provide proper care at the time.
  3. The third strategy is to use well-worded Warning and Release of Liability Agreements. [NAHA can provide contract models for you to evaluate and use.] Have them completed and signed completely and correctly by all participants. Keep the signed forms on file and safely stored for several years as suggested by an attorney in your state.
  4. The fourth strategy is to carefully review and comply with your state’s Equine Activities Immunities Law, if your state has one. All states have some form of the law except California, New York, Maryland, and Nevada. Some require special wording in warning and release agreements, and some require posting of specific warning signs on your property.
  5. Purchase an Equine Liability Insurance Policy that adequately covers and lists all of your specific activities in the policy. The policy should be placed with an A rated domestic insurance company having a good reputation for service, knowledge of equine risk, and for handling equine liability claims. Be wary of low pricing, as generally a low price means something important is missing in the policy or the Insurer may not understand how to price equine exposure. This important fifth strategy can protect you and your business from financial loss should an accident happen. It helps fulfill the sense of responsibility you have about serving the public, but it provides more than peace of mind. In event of a covered claim, the Insurer provides legal defense and pays for defense costs. It pays for claims costs and settlements made against you up to the limits of your policy. Just as important is the fact that knowledgeable professionals will handle and manage the details of your claim in a way that looks after your claim and litigation interests, so that you can continue functioning with the least amount of “hassle.”

Equine Activities Immunities Laws have been passed in 46 states. While these laws may help you avoid liability, they will not usually thwart a determined injured party from pursuing a claim or law suit. This is because to receive immunity under the law, the activity sponsor must have performed in a specific way according to what the law requires. And often immunity is determined through some type of expensive legal proceeding that can result in a large, often uncontrolled expense to an uninsured stable owner. You still need to be properly insured for liability.

The General Liability Policy includes specified maximum limits or amounts of liability insurance for:

Medical Expense: Pays for low cost medical expense with no questions asked about your liability or responsibility in the matter.

Legal Defense Costs: Today court costs and hiring of a lawyer can quickly mount to $50,000 or more, an expense you do not want to come out of your pocket if you are sued and have to hire a lawyer.  If sued in relation to this activity,       the policy provides legal defense whether the case has merit or not.

Settlement or Claim Costs: For bodily injury and property damages for which you are responsible and held negligent and liable.

Other Club Insurance Concerns & Coverages

Should you or can you insure more than one club or chapter under one master policy?  Underwriters are frequently asked to insure more than one club or association under a single ”master policy” as a “cluster” for liability insurance purposes. The intent of the clubs is usually to save money. The “cluster” of clubs may be affiliated by a state-wide or regional association, or just local chapters combining to make up one larger organization. We are cautious about placing this type of policy. The greatest concern is that the limits are “diluted.” For example, in most instances one club is well protected by having a $1,000,000 limit of liability insurance, whereas a $1,000,000 limit would be less adequate when spread over three clubs because the exposure would be tripled. In some instances, we’ve seen insurers cover as many as 20 clubs under a $1,000,000 limit and this is hardly adequate. It is almost always best for each club or chapter to carry its own policy and limits.

We will only consider placing a “cluster” policy when no more than three chapters make up the “cluster.”To be insurable this way, the clubs must be affiliated. All directors and officers must attend at least one combined annual meeting. Events should be coordinated by a central manager.  Each club in the “cluster” will be required to sign and follow the risk reduction standards. Total membership for all clubs should not exceed 300. Each chapter or “club” should have no more than 7 events per year and take in no more than $20,000 income.

The Club & Asssociation Policy provides Bodily Injury & Property Damage coverage for Non-Members:
General Liability Insurance does not pay the named insured, or its members or employees for damages or injuries they may incur. Club members are the body of the club — they are the club.  Many say that an entity or person or corporation ”cannot sue” itself, and that is more or less true.  Most members will have their own major medical insurance on their families, and horse liability insurance for their individual protection from accidents caused by and between members.  The membership may chose to purchase inexpensive Personal Accident Coverage through a separate policy that will provide up to $20,000 for medical expenses not insured by other insurance when a member is injured while participating in a club activity.   Personal Liability Insurance carried under a homeowners or farm owners policy will usually provide some protection for a non-paid board member or director who is serving as a volunteer on the association board and could be held responsible for related decision making.

Horse owner members should carry liability insurance on their horses for accidents their personal horses may cause. This coverage may be included in the member’s Homeowners or Farm Owners Insurance Policy. If it does not, horse owners can purchase a Horse Owners Policy for this purpose. Ark Agency offers this protection.

Worker Compensationand Employer’s Liability Insurance are not part of a General Liability Policy. Worker Compensation for horse operations is not always easy to find and is best purchased from a source in your state or a state worker compensation insurance pool, if your state has one.  Most states consider payment in kind to create an Employer – Employee relationship, even though no money is exchanged and under these circumstances Worker Comp is required by law.

Clubs and Associations may have a Directors & Officers Liability exposure. Ark Agency offers this liability insurance protection under a separate policy. Directors & Officers Liability Insurance is not generally part of a GL Club Policy.

The three most common claim incidents for Horse Clubs & Associations:

1.  A spectator is injured while on the show grounds or watching an event. They may trip on an object and fall, they could get too close to a horse or other animal, and sometimes risers collapse.

2.  A horse gets away from a rider at an event and is able to injure other riders and attendees, parked vehicles, or it runs into the road and is hit by a car. The horse must usually be destroyed, while there may be property damage to vehicles, and bodily injuries to passengers. This can result in a sizable claim and the club can be pulled into the claim because they manage the grounds and event.

3.  A non-member event participant is injured while riding their own horse in a club sponsored event.

Where to Begin

Your insurance needs are unique, therefore we believe in person to person service. Call or e-mail an Ark Agency Representative for an estimated premium, policy and company details, and qualification requirements. We work with several insurance companies and rates and coverage conditions vary. We will help you determine which application to use and advise on how to put insurance in force.

*General information is provided on this insurance topic. Acting on our coverage recommendations does not guarantee coverage if you have a loss or claim.


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