Most riders insure their horses — but insuring themselves is another matter.

Eventers Laura Collett and Harry Meade both suffered serious rotational falls last year. Laura spent 6 days in a coma and suffered crush injuries to her lungs and liver. Harry broke and dislocated both of his elbows. Neither of them had personal accident cover.

“It seemed like a lot of money to be pouring down the drain,” Laura told H&H. “I hadn’t even broken a bone until my fall last year.

“Afterwards, I was told that for my injuries alone it would have been at least a £100,000 payout. And that’s not including my time in hospital.

“After hearing that figure I felt a bit sick. It was a real wake-up call.”

British Eventing (BE) membership includes personal accident cover, but only for loss of limbs, eyes or permanent total disablement. BE does not think this is sufficient cover for professionals.

“We would recommend that professional riders obtain a personal accident policy that has a wider list of benefits,” admitted BE finance director Wendy McGowan.

Guy Prest from KBIS British Equestrian Insurance added: “It is vital for professionals to ensure they have an appropriate standalone personal accident policy in place.

“These policies are typically much more comprehensive and can provide ‘all of life’ cover, meaning you are insured for much more than just riding or handling.”

Across the board
It is not just eventers who are riding at the highest level without any cover. Showjumper Tim Stockdale fractured his neck in 3 places in a fall from a young horse in 2011.

Tim was covered at the time as part of a family policy from Combined American Insurance. As a result, he received a payout in the region of £10,000.

But the company no longer offers the policy and Tim has not looked for an alternative.

“Most people who ride don’t have any cover because the premiums just make it ridiculous,” Tim said. “The definition of what we do is that it is a risk. We have to accept this and carry on.

Everyday riders
Insurance providers are concerned that many amateur riders also do not have sufficient cover.

“Insurance does not just affect you if you are a professional rider,” said Suzy Middleton from SEIB. “If you are self-employed and break your arm, for example, you might be just as badly affected.

“Even if you are employed and are entitled to sick pay, you have to take into consideration the additional cost of someone looking after your horse if you can’t.”

Former 2-star eventer and new H&H blogger Suzanna Hext was partially paralysed when a horse she was breaking reared up and fell on top of her in July 2012. Since the accident, Suzanna has had 7 operations, spent 177 days in hospital and is only now starting to consider a phased return to work as a veterinary nurse for B&W Equine Vets.

“Once you have had an accident, you wish you had insurance but I never really thought about it before,” she admitted.

Her left foot and ankle remain paralysed due to nerve damage.

“At the moment, I am trying to get some funding to go to Oaksey House [the Injured Jockeys Fund rehabilitation centre in Lambourn]. It costs about £2,000 a week. If I had had insurance or cover it could have possibly helped towards it,” she added.

Counting the pennies
The price for personal accident insurance varies dramatically, depending on the level at which you compete and the level of cover that you require.

Accident cover with an income protection policy of £1,000 a month starts from around £35 a month for a non-professional. On top of this, fracture cover, which provides a lump sum payment for a broken bone, can be bolted on for roughly an extra £2 a month with some companies.

There are also brokers that specalise in cover for extreme sports and professionals.

Laura Collett has turned to an insurance company in Switzerland to get cover.

“Hopefully, I will never have to use it, but I would rather spend the money than have the risk,” she said.

Harry Meade has decided to take matters into his own hands.

“I have spoken to a broker and I am trying to put together a package that will hopefully offer good cover for riders and at an affordable rate,” said Harry.

“I don’t think we should sit back and complain. It’s a case of getting on your feet and getting on.

“It’s very important and we should, between us, be able to make it happen.”

Fracture cover
What can you expect if you break a bone?
(Approximate payouts by insurance company FriendsLife)

  • Cheekbone £900
  • Jaw £900
  • Collar bone £600
  • Shoulder blade £900
  • Sternum £1,200
  • Arm £1,200
  • Ribs £600
  • Vertebrae £900
  • Pelvis £1,200
  • Skull (open fracture) £2,100
  • Skull (closed fracture) £2,200
  • Wrist £900
  • Hand £900
  • Upper leg £2,100
  • Knee £2,100
  • Lower leg £1,200
  • Ankle £1,200
  • Foot £1,200

This article was first published in Horse & Hound magazine (10 April 2014)

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