Horse Show and Event Liability Insurance

horse show event liability

Insure Your Horse Shows & Events for Liability

If you sponsor, hold and manage horse shows, competitions or events, you have a public exposure to liability that needs to be insured for your protection.  Events are mostly short-term, lasting from 1 to 15 days.  Events may or may not be sanctioned by a state, regional or national organization.  They may be put on by a benevolent horse club or association, a charity, a group of people, or a community organization like a Chamber of Commerce or Lion’s Club. But a sponsor may also be an individual or single horse business owner. Some are intended to make a profit, or raise funds for charity, and some only hope to break even.  There are too many types of events that horses participate in to list here.  But common types are:

  • Horse Breed Shows
  • Western Games/ Gymkhana
  • Horse Demonstrations
  • Team Penning Events
  • Driving Competitions
  • Pony Rid/ Pony Party
  • Hunting Events
  • 4-H Evnts
  • Wagon Trains
  • Antique Machinery Exhibits
  • Field Dog Trails (on horseback)
  • Ranch Competitions
  • Orienteering Competitions
  • Polo Events
  • Instructional Clinics
  • Short-term HDV Rides
  • Play Days
  • Cutting Horse Events
  • Historical Re-enactments
  • Rodeo
  • Horse Pulls
  • Driving Events
  • Endurance Rides & Races
  • Pony Club Events
  • Dressage Competitions
  • Trail Rides
  • Cross-Country Trails
  • Open House Events

Events can have several different types and levels of public exposure, but first and foremost they involve participants and spectators. Under our insurance program participants that are not members of the insured organization are covered for bodily injury, while many insurance companies exclude this important coverage. (Note: Rodeo Participants are excluded from coverage for Bodily Injury under our policies.) Spectator’s bodily injury and property damage are generally covered by any event liability policy. But these are some other possible exposures as well: Advertisement of Events, Vendors, Livestock Providers, Hired & Non-Owned Auto, Food Service & Dining, Beer & Wine Service or Sales (not insured under a General Liability Policy; Dram Shop Insurance is required), Use of Rented / Borrowed Facilities & Grounds, Use of Public Property (such as Fair Grounds, Park, Public Streets & Parking Lots). Some events involve only 20 participants and less than 20 spectators. But some can have hundreds of participants, spectators, and potential crowd contact in the thousands. So the level of public exposure can be quite different depending upon the event.

If you are a horse organization having numerous events during the year, you may want to consider an annual policy to insure all your events, members and member activities, and business activities, as it may cost less and provide better coverage. A Horse Business may be able to insure all their events and other services and activities under a Horse Farm, Stable & Ranch Owner’s Policy, or a Commercial Equine Operations Liability Policy.

As an event sponsor, you worry that you may be sued or otherwise have a claim made against you for bodily injury or property damage by a participant, spectator, guest, bystander, or someone else who comes in contact with the event and property. If sued, you will need to hire a lawyer to defend you and you wonder how you would go about doing this. If found negligent or responsible, you would likely have to pay for a court-ordered or agreed-upon settlement to the injured party. Fortunately, much concern can be relieved when you buy a Commercial General Liability Policy [GL] to insure your events.

Commercial General Liability Insurance protects you from financial loss should a participant, spectator, guest, bystander 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 Horse Show & Event Sponsorship & Management? Moderate to Moderately High

Holding a public event can be complicated and involve many people to assist, participate, and spectate. The presence and use of horses and other animals in unfamiliar surroundings with a lot of activity and stimulus around adds to the risk.  Depending upon the type and size, event exposure is ranked moderate to moderately high.  The fact that most people are riding their own animals (not owned by the event sponsor), and carry their own liability insurance, modifies the level of risk somewhat.  Yet, a lot is happening in a short period of time and there is a fairly high potential for incidents to occur.

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.

General Liability Coverage & Limits

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.

Common Liability Claim Examples

The 5 most common claim incidents for Horse Shows & Events:

1. A spectator trips over a rope, a rock, or in a hole while walking the premises, and is injured.

2. A spectator is injured while watching the event by a flying object kicked up by a horse or thrown by someone, or bleachers may give way, or someone may fall from or on them.

3. A non-member participant is injured while warming up or participating in a class.

4. A participant’s horse gets away from a handler and gets into a roadway and is hit by a passing car.

5. Food purchased or provided at the event causes several people to contract food poisoning.

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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