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Equestrian Advice & Guides Beginners Advice
Running a livery yard is hard, with yard owners having to take a lot of responsibility for both the running the business and the wellbeing of the animals in their care. Whether you run a small yard at home, or a large commercial equestrian centre, insurance should be an important consideration. There is a misconception, especially on DIY yards, that insurance is not necessary as clients are on a ‘do it yourself’ basis and should have their own horse insured, but this is far from the case.
By running a yard and offering your services, be it DIY or full livery, you must take responsibility for all aspects of that business. Having the correct insurances in place means that, in the event of damage, injury or losses, you can claim against your policy and prevent what could otherwise be a costly event. A claim of negligence, for example, resulting in the death or injury of a horse or person on the yard, can lead to huge financial losses, not to mention being detrimental to the business as a whole. There are so many ways a potential claim could arise on a yard, therefore it's important to make sure you have the necessary protection in place.
Whilst insurance costs can seem high, they can protect against all manner of incidences, from loss of earnings and injury to fires, thefts and liability. You can get tailored policies from most specialist equestrian insurers or brokers; they should be able to advise you on one complete policy to cover all of your needs based on your facilities and services. These policies will be broken down into various types of cover for all of the different aspects of the business.Here we look at the most important:
Public Liability Insurance: This insurance is by far the most important and should ideally be held by all yards, regardless of size or the livery packages offered. This is a policy which covers a business if a client or member of the public suffers a loss or injury whilst on the premises, and if the third party choose to make a claim for compensation. If this were to happen, the policy would cover the compensation and any other legal costs related to the claim.
Public liability insurance isn’t a statutory legal requirement for businesses but could prove invaluable if you have lots of visitors to your yard – both clients and general members of the public – or third parties visiting the yard to carry out services. There are so many ways an accident could arise on a yard, from staff or clients being injured by a horse, to falling bales, loose horses causing a road accident, injury to a horse from damaged fencing, a break in to the tack room… the possibilities are almost endless. Liability claims are one of the costliest, so its important to have a good provider that will fully cover any claims.
Building Cover and Property Owners Insurance: Especially important whether you own the building and land or not. If you are running the yard as a business, this needs to be a commercial building policy. This cover will manage any damage or disasters that affect the use of the building. Extended policies can also go as far as offering compensation for business disruption while the yard is returned to normal.
If you rent your yard, you should be clear with the landlord whose responsibility the insurance is and request to see a copy of their insurance if this is the case. Remember, this is for the buildings only and the success of claims will also depend on the condition and maintenance of structures so it is important to ensure that buildings are well maintained and if rented to again clarify with your landlord whose responsibility this is.
It's important to not only factor in insurance for the stables, it is important to consider any additional outbuildings or storage barns, and their contents. For example, yards who produce their own forage, or bulk buy from suppliers may have this stored on site in a barn. In the event of a flood, fire etc and your stocks being ruined, this is not only a huge outlay to have lost, but also the cost or replacement as well. A solid property policy should cover all aspects on the yard, not just the stables.
Facility Cover, Events and Facility Hire: As well as the yard itself, you should also consider cover for facilities too, and any substantial equipment used or purchased such as show jumps, mobile XC fences, floodlights or arena mirrors. If these are damaged or stolen, and no doubt costly to replace, it’s certainly worth ensuring these are covered as well.
If you hire out your arena, gallops, XC course, permissible off-road access or suchlike, you also need to ensure you have adequate insurance in place to cover anyone who may be using these facilities, and that they themselves have third party liability insurance. If you allow outside instructors to use your facilities for clinics or training days, or the same for riding clubs using your facilities for training or events, you should ensure they themselves have the necessary liability insurance in place bearing in mind this is opening the yard up to additional people and equines, and therefore a higher risk, over the course of the event or hire period. As a minimum they should all also have third party liability.
If you run events for external parties, however small and informal, you should be adequately insured. As this is not in the course of running a livery yard and the associated services, it is unlikely such events would be covered for liability and as such you should consider a specialist event insurance. This could be on an annual or per events basis.
Care, Custody and Control or Custodial Liability: One of the most common insurances taken out for those working on yards. By taking payment in return of services housing and caring for an animal, you are taking a part in the responsibility for their day to day welfare. This insurance covers you for work around the yard, and the responsibility of handling and caring for those animals as part of your service. This is recommended for yard owners, freelance grooms or anyone else offering services where for any period an animal is in their care.
One of the most common insurance claims by owners against yards is of negligence, perhaps relating to the death or injury of a horse or person. If an owner feels that a yard, its manager or their staff are to blame for the cause of an incident, they may submit a claim to their insurers. This is the insurance policy that can help protect you against such claims and cover the cost of veterinary fees, loss of use, legal fees or any other losses experienced by the owner.
Employers Liability: Employers liability is a legal requirement if you employ staff to work at your yard, either full time, part time or on a casual basis. Anyone working under your instruction on the yard should be covered by one of these policies. Even if staff are ‘freelance’ it is still recommended to have some level of insurance for your own peace of mind. Employees Liability Insurance will cover the cost of compensation claims arising from employee illness or injury, sustained as a result of their work for you.
Training of any staff and good health and safety practices will reduce the likelihood of accidents and illness. Make sure you know the regulations for your industry and carry out regular risk assessments with your employees.
Freelance employees such as casual labour or self-employees should also have their own professional insurance ideally to cover them for liability and for any duties they may be undertaking on the yard- so would be recommended as minimum third party liability and Care, Custody and Control insurance – but this should not substitute Employers Liability Insurance as them having their own insurance may not indemnify you from claim.
Personal Accident Cover: If you run your yard single handily, or with the assistance of only part time or casual staff, you need to consider what would happen if you were injured or out of action. Personal Accident Insurance (sometimes called Personal Injury Insurance) will pay out compensation in the event of death, disability of injury. Personal accident cover can also cover the costs of covering your work and ensuring the yard can run in your absence, as well as often a compensatory amount to cover other costs such as loss of earnings or other costs accrued while you are injured.
Such a policy would not be specific to working on the yard; but would be a full-time cover offering you accident or injury cover in your day to day life. Often these insurances are easily affordable and are well worth it, especially if you are hands on with the yard and an injury caused you to be out of action for some time.
Saddlery, Tack and Equipment: Saddlery, rugs and equipment can be some of the most valuable items on a yard yet are also one of the highest at risk from theft. If you’ve a yard of 20 horses, that’s a lot of saddles and a high value of items stored on your premises. Whilst any sensible horse owner should have their tack insured, potentially a yard owner can be deemed liable for losses from theft or damage and as such an insurance covering such thefts should be considered.
Most yards will have a ‘secure’ tack room but do these meet the ‘secure’ requirements of your insurer. Its worth checking as many insurers will stipulate specific characteristics that deem your tack room or yard ‘secure’ – such as certain types of locks and restrictions on windows and access points – and may not pay out if they feel these criteria have not been met or adhered to therefore making your policy invalid. This should certainly be checked as your clients insurance policies will likely have the same or similar stipulations and its in such circumstances like these that if they criteria were not met and a clients insurance refused a claim on inadequate security, they may seek damages from your yard policy.
Horse Insurance: Not all horses are insured, and that’s a fact. This is the owner’s prerogative. However, it is strongly advised to insist any equines on your yard are covered with a minimum of third-party liability. If this is something you choose to enforce, you should request, and take a copy of, the horses insurance policy and ensure you request the renewal upon expiry. In such an event of damage or injury caused by the horse this can be claimed on the horse owner’s policy. It would also be worth recommending clients have their tack and equipment covered on their policy as well to ensure these are covered in the event of theft whilst on your premises. Whether they choose to have any more insurance than this for the horse, such as cover for veterinary fees, is of course up to the owner.
Legal Expenses and Legal Insurance: Many insurance policies now include this as standard, but do you know what it means? Legal expenses offer financial protection against the cost of legal fees and uninsured losses that arise from a claim. and with some insurers will even include a free legal helpline.
Some insurers also offer additional services as part of their legal cover. Some now help with the legal cost of debt recovery in the event a client leaves owing you money. However, for a claim on this you need to be able to meet the policy criteria and be able to clearly prove what’s owed by way of livery contracts, invoices and full details of the person who owes it, such as full name and address to enable a claim to be undertaken.
Service Providers: It’s important to ensure that those offering services on your yard for payment are adequately insured. Freelance grooms, Instructors, Saddle Fitters, Physical Therapists... in fact anyone offering paid services whilst on the premises should all have their own commercial insurance policy that covers them for their trade. As the owner or manager of the yard, you are well within your right to request to see a copy of this before they can undertake their service on your yard.
There is often a claim that those holding BHS Gold Membership are ‘insured’ to teach, ride or groom for payment. This is incorrect. The BHS insurance included with the Gold membership is effectively a private insurance policy. It will not pay out on any basis in the event of damage, injury or liability in the course of paid activities. It is therefore important to ensure anyone undertaking paid services on your yard has the correct insurances as detailed above.
Transport: All vehicles on the road should be MOT’d, taxed and Insured. It’s an offence if not. Its also recommended, and quite common these days, to add a breakdown policy to help get you out of any sticky situations and dealing with any horses on board in the event of a breakdown.
With horse transportation you also need to be careful of what’s considered ‘personal’ use, and what would be considered use of the vehicle under the course of business. If you accept payments from clients for transporting their animals, you need adequate insurance for this, the same as if you hire out your lorry or trailer for payment.
As a second point, many yards offer parking for lorries and trailers on their yards for a fee. In the eyes of the law, in some occasions this can be deemed commercial services and as such the business should be insured additionally to cover the damage or loss to any vehicles left at the yard. Something certainly worth looking into.
If you’ve a tractor for land maintenance, a roller, topper, grader for the school, quad, trailer or so on and so forth the costs of these all add up, even if in your eyes they are old and not worth a lot! The main point is that the damage or theft of any of these could be detrimental to the business, and sourcing replacements promptly could be costly. Its important to consider including on your policy any large machinery, farm vehicles or equipment that would be used as part of the business.
There is one important clause in most insurance policies, regardless of the cover:
“The Insured shall use due diligence and concur in doing all things reasonably practicable to:- prevent accidents and to maintain all buildings, furnishings and Insured Property in proper repair. To employ only competent Employees and to act in accordance with all statutory obligations and regulations. The Insured shall forthwith make good or remedy any defect or danger, which becomes apparent or take such additional precautions as the circumstances may require". This can be the key to a positive or negative outcome for a claim. All yard owners should take responsibility for all aspects of the business, act quickly if things are amiss, and be sensible and responsible in the course of running the business. However good insurance you have, failure to meet these basic requirements can result in a claim failing.
It’s worth investing serious time into deciding your priorities, shopping around and talking through your needs with various equestrian specialist insurers. Quick and cheap cover is a false economy. In the event of a claim and your insurers not paying out for one reason or another then you’ll certainly find yourself out of pocket. It certainly worth trying to research policy documents as well before committing to an insurer. Many insurers will have exclusions that apply to their policies and will also stipulate criteria under ‘reasonable precautions’ which will be a level of due diligence and responsibility you are expected to adhere to and maintain for the course of the policy. Failure to do so could invalidate the policy and result in failure for any claims.
Knowing your business, you should be able to prioritise your insurance requirements. Given above is just a brief guide, and we’d encourage you to ensure you do the necessary research into each policy you may require, their inclusions and restrictions before committing to a policy.
Cheryl Johns runs LiveryList, the UK’s #1 Livery Yard Directory. The site offers an extensive Equine Guides section which provides horse and yard owners with an array of information and helpful templated documents from a range of Equestrian specialists across the UK.