A group of representatives from Equestrian industry bodies met last Friday to discuss how the pressure on equestrian proprietors due to increased insurance premiums might be eased.

Representatives from the British Horse Society (BHS), the Association of British Riding Schools (ABRS), the Association of British Insurers (ABI) and the British Equestrian Trade Association (BETA) have recognised that the industry is currently blighted by high insurance premiums (as reported by HHO), and that in spite of cyclical trends in insurance markets generally, the increasingly litigious nature of society is taking it’s toll.

There has been significant inflation in the size of claims for personal injury, due to a number of factors, including for instance the introduction of “no win, no fee” arrangements.

But while the group was extremely sympathetic to proprietors, acknowledging that hugely inflated claims and the compensation system generally need to be addressed by society as a whole, the industry did come under fire for its lack of “high awareness of general commercial pressures”, as well as for failing to show “adequate appreciation of the risk of claims”.

It is in these respects, concluded the group, that valuable progress could be made. “Whilst riding schools will continue to face claims in the immediate future, it is clear that a more informed approach to risk management has the potential to reduce the upward pressure on premiums,” explained Graham Cory, BHS Chief Executive.

However, John Archibald, Chief Executive of Redwings Horse Sanctuary, who recently forked out a large fine for breaching Health and Safety Guidelines, is less convinced that the pressure can be eased. Earlier this week he said that in his view, “the impact of increasing litigation has already had an effect on insurance premiums for everything to do with horses, and that isn’t going to change.”

Although the attitude in the equestrian sector is less than upbeat – a number of businesses have gone under due to increasing costs this year, not least the famous Suzanne’s Riding School in Harrow – the working group, divided into two sub groups, is expected to be able to publish concrete proposals by January 2005.

The two strands they will look at are:

  • Improving education and providing tailored training for proprietors.
  • Helping proprietors to recognise, manage and reduce risk, including keeping comprehensive records to assist in prompt investigation of claims.