Insure Your Horse Rental & Guided Trail Rides for Liability

guided trail rides insurance

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.  The operations may be called by other terms, such as “Pack & Trail” or “Guides & Outfitters.”  Operators offer a fee service of providing 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, or to take guests into a remote setting to camp, fish or visit a resort.   Most such operations are novice ride providers, though a few offer rides for highly experienced riders.  Ride duration is often from one hour to four hours in duration.  Guides & Outfitter Services usually provide longer rides that last for several days and overnight in remote areas.  Depending upon location, most run for a season of six months, but some may run year-round.  Operators must have access to trails.  Some may own or lease trail property, but many operate at local, regional, state, or national parks and on other public lands.

This is one the highest risk categories of all horse activities to insure.  It must be properly underwritten, managed, and priced to be insurable.  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. We know that a guided trail ride is often the first horse experience for many people. If that ride is safe and fun, a percentage will go on to become a horse owner.  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.

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 they ride horses in natural areas of open-space, this is one the highest liability risk categories of all horse activities.  Novice horses are kept for the purpose and the dependability of the horses mitigates the exposure somewhat.  Other mitigating factors: These days operators rarely allow horses to go faster than a slow trot; Operators require riders to either wear or sign off for ASTM riding helmet use; Operators give pre-ride instruction and warnings; Saddle checks are done prior to riding off.

Most riders have an enjoyable, safe ride. Yet, all horses are unpredictable to some degree and there is plenty of out-door stimulus to excite a horse to move in a way that may scare a rider or cause them to lose their balance.   Some riders will fall of, or simply jump off a horse while it is moving, or try to ride faster than is allowed, or they may try to overcontrol an animal. These are the most common causes of incidents that cause bodily injury.

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 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 and /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 footing or lightning can strike nearby.

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

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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CDL's, CMV's, ELD's and other confusing acronyms... Share with your horse friends! Our intent is to 1) define some of the acronyms and 2) explain when they may apply to you. This is in no way all encompassing of the mandate so be sure to review the linked documents below. Helpful brochure from American Horse Council: Unabridged version of the mandate:

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