Jo Winfield, FBHS and BHS director of education, advises that when trying an unfamiliar horse or pony, it is vital to apply common sense.

“Always ask relevant questions before getting on a horse, and don’t get on without seeing it ridden first,” she says. “Also, it is in the vendor’s interests to tell someone if they think the horse isn’t suitable for them, rather than risk someone damaging it.”

However, accidents can happen. Insurance cover falls into three main areas: personal accident, third-party liability and cover for the horse.

Trying a horse

Equine lawyer Jacqui Fulton feels it is unlikely, although not impossible, that a seller would pursue a potential buyer were the horse injured while being tried in their presence.

“If you were trying a horse with the seller watching, and they were happy with everything that’s going on, it is very unlikely that a court would find that the rider was negligent,” she says.

“Regarding third-party liability, the law says it’s the keeper or owner that’s responsible — it could be the person trying the horse or the owner. Ensure that one of you has third-party liability, but you shouldn’t need to take it out if the owner has a policy.”

If trying a pony under normal circumstances — not at home on a trial, for example — then it is worth checking with the vendor if they already have the pony insured.

You should consider a rider-only policy if personal accident cover is your main concern, as the vendor’s insurance will not usually provide cover.

“A personal accident insurance policy will cover the insured person for injuries that are defined in the policy. If the person’s son is under 16, they’re likely to be covered for capital benefits only — that is, death, loss of eyesight, loss of limb or permanent total disability,” says KBIS Insurance director Daniel Parry.

“A rider plan provides cover against death or injury as a result of an accident. It also covers you for third-party liability if the horse you’re riding causes injury to another person or damage to their property, and for emergency vets’ fees cover in case of injury to the horse,” adds Charlotte Collyer, senior marketing executive at Petplan.

Taking the horse on trial

If you are taking the horse or pony for a trial period, third-party liability is the minimum cover that should be considered.

“A more comprehensive approach would be to insure the horse for mortality/theft, vet fees, public liability and personal accidents,” advises Daniel. “These risks could be covered by the existing owner’s insurance, or by purchasing a new policy. In most cases when a horse or pony is on trial, it’s easier to maintain an existing insurance policy than to start a new one.

“Bear in mind that most new policies include some form of limited cover period, which means that not all types of claims will be covered.”

If an existing policy is not in place the potential buyer will need to take out a new full policy that they can cancel if they decide not to purchase the horse.

“If the horse is already insured, find out if the insurance company will transfer the policy into your name without a vetting. Petplan offer ‘like for like’ policies if the horse is already insured with us, providing the same cover if the horse’s value and activities are the same,” says Charlotte.

“Although a trial period is likely to be short, it is still advisable to draw up a loan agreement stating who is responsible for what while the horse is in your care,” adds Victoria Walton, Equine Specialist at NFU Mutual.


Policy options

Cover as part of existing memberships

Memberships such as BHS gold membership offer public liability up to £20million and personal accident up to £10,000.

Cost: inclusive with membership (£49 juniors, £66 adults)

Rider policy

Can cover for: varying levels of personal accident cover, emergency vets’ fees for the horse being ridden (usually £1,500-2,000), hospital benefit, tuition fees for children, third-party liability and custodial liability.

Cost: around £50 for under-18s, £70-100 for adults.

Horse insurance

Can cover for: the most basic policies cover for public liability, theft and mortality, and levels of cover can be increased to include vets’ fees (usually between £3,000-5,000), loss of use and tack and equipment.

Cost: varies widely according to level of cover and value of animal.


4 pitfalls to be aware of

If you are taking out a policy to cover a horse or pony while on trial, be aware that:

  1. Many policies will not cover you for illness within the first 14 days — for example, colic.
  2. For horses over a certain value, a five-stage vetting is often required before full cover can be granted. Check with your insurer how this might affect you if you are insuring for a trial period.
  3. Be sure to advise the insurer about what you will be doing with the horse during the trial to make sure the correct level of cover applies
  4. Check if any penalities apply for cancelling a policy. Some insurers allow you to cancel a policy at any point within the 12-month contract, and many will allow a full refund if cancelled
    within the first 14 days assuming no claims have been made.

Ref: H&H 29 January, 2015