Thousands of racehorse owners have been warned that they risk crippling insurance claims unless they take out a third-party liability policy.

The body that represents 7,200 of the country’s 16,000 owners — the Racehorse Owners’ Association (ROA) — has decided to include third-party liability insurance in its annual membership from 1 January this year after an incident highlighted the need for cover.

In a case coming to court this year, racehorse trainer Ian Semple and the majority owner of his horse Saameq, David Irvine, are being sued for negligence after the horse kicked Chris Kinane, assistant to Midlands trainer Ian Williams, in the head at Wolverhampton Racecourse in April 2005. Mr Irvine is uninsured.

Mr Kinane’s injuries are so severe that he will require constant care for the rest of his life. Mr Semple has since given up training.

The case is seen as a test of the liability of the UK’s registered racehorse owners, who are not required to have third-party insurance, although since March last year all trainers must be insured.

The ROA has increased its membership premium from £165 to £195 to cover the insurance cost, but says it is a necessary move.

ROA chief executive Michael Harris said: “Chris Kinane’s tragic accident has left many racehorse owners concerned about the risk of a multi-million pound claim being brought against them.

“Owners may also be exposed to a claim when their horse is resting away from the training yard or is being kept at home.”

But a spokesman for the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) said it is not able to force owners to become insured, because it does not license owners, just trainers and jockeys.

Under the Animals Act 1971, all horse owners are liable for the actions of their horses no matter how much reasonable care is taken to avoid an accident. H&H covered seven high-profile compensation cases last year.

Rupert Arnold, chief executive of the National Trainers Federation, said the Act is proving of great concern to trainers and owners.

“There is a lobby to try to change the law to protect responsible people so they are not strictly liable for personal injuries,” he said.

  • For details on the ROA insurance scheme: www.racehorseowners.net

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (24 January, ’08)