Trainers are an important part of the horse world but seem to be the first to blame when a student is injured, a horse sale goes badly, or there is an injury to a client's horse in their care, custody, and control. The better you document what you are doing and what the student’s understanding is of your services, the better you protect yourself and your business.
Do you have a liability policy covering you/your business?
If someone is injured while you are instructing them, you could be liable. Are you protected? Do you have the financial means to hire a lawyer if someone sues you? When people fall off horses or are injured while riding, many times they are reluctant to accept responsibility or acknowledge that there are certain risks inherent in the sport. Even if the allegations are groundless, they can make a claim against you or sue you. You will then have to respond appropriately.
Does the facility where you teach require you to have liability insurance?
If you have a written agreement with the facility owner, read it carefully. Know what you are responsible for and if you are required to protect them if someone is injured during a lesson. Are you required to name them as an additional insured on your policy? Failure to do so may be a breach of your contract.
Do you do a preliminary assessment of your student before the initial lesson?
It is important for you to document what you know about their abilities, particularly what they tell you. Keep that record and if you want to be extra cautious, periodically document your student’s progress. If they are injured and decide to look to you for compensation, records go a long way in showing their capabilities and the progression of their training. Medical bills from horse-related injuries can be substantial. It is important for you to be able to show that you were aware of the rider’s abilities and have kept on a proper course of training. At regular intervals, you may want to have a discussion with your student to cover where they are in their training, what their goals are and how you plan to achieve them. Make sure goals are realistic on both sides.
Do you have coverage for your personal property?
As you travel to other barns and take your equipment with you, is it insured for theft? This is particularly true if you ride your students’ horses and carry your equipment with you. Consider the value of saddles, helmets, tall boots, communication systems, etc. Check your homeowners policy to ensure that property is covered. As a trainer, this may be considered business personal property and may require you to have a business policy.
Do you trailer your students to shows?
If you haul your students’ horses in your trailer, consider the risk involved. If you have an accident or if the horse is injured while in your care, will they look to you for compensation? Even if the injuries are not caused by your negligence, owners may still try to recover from you. Consider asking them to sign a waiver before you go, holding you harmless for any accidents, injuries or death while the horse is in your care. If the horse belongs to a minor, ask the parents to sign the waiver. Another means of protection is to purchase care, custody and control insurance that will insure personal property in your care, custody and control. Horses are considered to be “personal property”.
Do you offer training board and board horses that belong to your students?
This is where you need a good solid written agreement as to what each party is responsible for. Outline the services you will be providing. Find out if the horse owner has insurance on their horse providing mortality, major medical and surgical coverage. If you are leasing the barn and running your business out of someone else’s facility, again a written agreement is important. Does that owner require you to have any special insurance? What are the expectations as to how you manage your business? What exactly are you leasing? Responsibilities should be clearly defined between owner and trainer and between trainer and student.
It is worth the time and effort to have a discussion with your insurance agent to be certain you are fully protected. Horses Daily's Mary Phelps is a Markel Equine, Farm and Liability Specialist. Working with her CSR Tracey Scharf they are available to help guide you through this process. firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, 1-800-572-3286. many of the needed forms and information can be found on our website equineinsurancedaily.com.
Geri Hollander is a Claims Manager with Markel in the Primary Casualty Division. She has been with Markel for 21 years and in the claims industry for 41 years. Geri has managed claims in many lines but focused on the Property, Liability and Equine lines of business. She is a horse owner and a dressage rider, who trains with 4* event rider Lainey Ashker. Geri’s partner is Excalibur (Timmy) a 15 year old Holsteiner/Thoroughbred gelding that she has owned and ridden for the past 9 years.