A recent Law Lords ruling that horseowners are liable for any damages caused by their animals has sent shockwaves through the insurance industry.

South Essex Insurance Brokers (SEIB) has already raised some premiums by up to 20% and managing director Barry Fehler suggests that the court’s decision could have implications for anyone leading or riding a horse which causes an accident, as well as horses escaping from their field.

He also believes that insurers may wish to exclude liability cover for horse-related accidents from household policies, so owners may not be covered if they have horses on their home insurance.

Simon Mackaness of British Equestrian Insurance Brokers (BEIB) has asked Richard Lissack QC to look at the issues raised by the ruling and how they may impact on his clients, which include many of equestrian sport’s governing bodies and the British Horse Society.

“We are awaiting his findings before making any changes to our policies,” he commented, “and we hope to host a seminar on liability for equestrian bodies later this year. In the meantime, we can offer advice on limiting liability, but the horse world should be under no illusions – this will lead to an increase in premiums across the board.”

Jeremy Lawton, managing director of Shearwater Insurance, said: “There is considerable pressure when deciding rates. An important aspect is helping owners reduce the risks of a claim being made against them – it is essential to take every precaution, down to regular checks to ensure that gates and fences keep horses in.”

A spokesman for PetPlan however, says that it sets premiums on the basis of its own claims experience, and has no plans for increases in reaction to the court ruling.

This is also the position being adopted by NFU Mutual, although a spokesman said: “This case has implications for all livestock owners in the longer term – they must be aware of the need to minimise the risk of their animals getting out and causing an accident.”

Click here to read our original report of the incident which led to the ruling.

  • Got a news story? Click here to email the HHO newsdesk.

    Read the full story in this week’s Horse & Hound (8 May), or click here to subscribe and enjoy Horse & Hound delivered to your door every week.