Horse Rental and Guided Trail Rides for Liability

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If you offer Horse Rental & Guided Trail Rides, you have a unique business that only a few Insurers in the U.S. are willing to insure.  Operators offer a fee service of providing from guest riders with a horse (rental of a horse), saddle and bridle, and helmets and other equipment as needed for the ride (outfitting), and trained staff supervisors (guides) to lead and assist the riders during the ride.  The purpose of the trip or trail ride is recreational riding of horses that is combined with a tour to view regional features and scenery, to fish, or to take guests into a remote setting to camp or visit a resort.   Ride duration is often from one hour to four hours in duration.  Guides & Outfitter Services provide longer rides that last for several days and may be overnight in remote areas.  Most run for a season of six months, but some may run year-round.  Operators must have access to trails.  Some have on property they own or lease, and many operate at local, regional, state, or national parks and on other public lands by agreement.

This is one the highest risk categories of all horse activities to insure.  It must be properly underwritten, managed, and priced. We have been insuring Trail Rides for over 35 years and have developed risk reduction standards that have been tried and tested, keeping our program successful long-term while most others are not.  Ark Agency is proud of this record. When applying for insurance you’ll be asked to review the risk reduction program and confirm that you’ll be able to comply with management requirements. Most of the standards are now well-established in the industry.

As an operator of these service, you worry that you may be sued or otherwise have a claim made against you for bodily injury or property damage by a customer, guest or someone else who comes in contact with you or your 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 either 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 Horse Rental & Guided Trail Ride Services.

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 are Horse Rental & Guided Trail Ride Services? High Risk.

Because riders are mostly novices and ride horses in natural area, open-spaces, this is one the highest liability risk categories of all horse activities. Even though rides are generally controlled well, and the horses are novice-trained, riders may not have the best balance and fall or jump off if a horse moves anyway but straight ahead.  This is one of the most common reasons for incidents occurring that result in injury to a rider.  Riders sometimes over-cue the horse, or try to make a horse go faster than is allowed by holding a horse back so it will run ahead. Doing this may irritate or scare the most docile of horses.

Today, most operators provide pre-ride training and warnings, do saddle checks prior to riding out, have riders wear or sign off on ASTM helmet use, and use other other means to keep rides as safe as possible.  Most rides are provided in a safe and enjoyable manner.

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.

If You Rent the Property Your Business Occupies, We Can Also Insure Your Tack, Equipment, and Machinery for Loss or Damage

As a stable property renter, you may not have access to property insurance for tack, equipment and machinery you use in your business. Ark Agency can insure these items by adding a Property Coverage Endorsement to the General Liability Policy. Additional premium is charged for this endorsement and the items and values must be declared in the application process.

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 four most common claim incidents for Horse Rental & Guided Trail Rides are:

1. A guest rider becomes injured by falling or jumping from a horse when either the rider or the horse gets scared.

2. A guest rider or horse is bitten by an insect or swarm of insects.

3. A guest rider is injured during a sudden rain and thunder storm; a horse may slip on soggy footing or lightening may strike nearby.

4. An injured guest rider requires more care than the resident medical care staff can provide, resulting in a medical crisis.

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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A very special tribute to horses. Eight million horses and countless mules and donkeys died in the First World War. They were used to transport ammunition and supplies to the front and many died, not only from the horrors of shellfire but also in terrible weather and appalling conditions. ... See MoreSee Less

This is one of our favorite images from history. In 1917, 650 soldiers from Remount Depot 326 formed this stunning tribute to all of the horses lost in World War I. Brings a tear to your eye! Learn more here -> oldphotoarchive.com/WWIStatues .

6 days ago  ·