Organisers and instructors at Pony Club rallies and competitions are being urged to take extra care over safety, in the face of increasing compensation claims from parents.

Pony Club volunteers and instructors are covered by the organisation’s BEIB insurance policy, but as BEF executive officer and insurance lawyer Helen Huggett, explained at last week’s Pony Club conference: “These issues are coming up again and again. If an accident happens, people look at whether there is any liability.

“Organisers need to consider arenas, entrances, roofs and fencing. Unsafe areas should be clearly marked with signs and fenced off.”

The issue has prompted calls from District Commissioners and other volunteers for Pony Club parents to sign a compulsory disclaimer, acknowledging the risk to their child. The document can then be used to clarify matters in the event of a claim.

However, a disclaimer is of questionable value in an injury or death claim, as organisers cannot by law exclude or limitliability for personal injury or death.

As a result the organisation has appointed a risk management officer to deal with the increasing workload in the fields of insurance and health and safety policy.

However, risk is a vital ingredient in a child’s upbringing, claims consultant chartered psychologist Sam Westmacott, an experienced rider herself, who addressed the Pony Club conference on the subject.

“Children who never face risk end up needy and unconfident,” she explained. “To grow, we have to step outside that which we know and try something new.

The level of risk is crucial – too much too soon can be threatening and frightening. The skill [for riding instructors] is to find the optimal balance for each individual between competence and risk.”

Top of the class

This year’s Pony Club Dengie scholarship winners were:

  • Charles Jewitt, 20, VWH branch, previously Dumfriesshire
  • Kate Sigsworth, 20, York and Ainsty
  • Jo Haywood, 17, North Warwickshire
  • Charlie Pickman, 20, Wylye Valley
  • Megan Harper, 20, Clifton-on-Teme

Read the full story in this week’s Horse & Hound (28 November), or click here to subscribe and enjoy Horse & Hound delivered to your door every week.