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Equus Legal - Liability


You can find details on various equine related legal aspects you might need to consider in the free pages within this section. The information set out below is for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.
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Those involved with horses will know from personal experience, word of mouth or from equine magazines that serious accidents sadly can and do on occasion happen.

Who is responsible?

The law relating to liability for accidents caused by animals is complex. Keepers of animals, including horses, tend to believe that any accident caused by their livestock is a pure accident for which they cannot be responsible. The Courts may well reach an entirely different conclusion.

Horse owners need to be aware of their responsibilities and the risks that they accept by owning or keeping a horse. The liability is statutory and a Court will not have to consider whether there was any fault on the part of that owner or keeper.

There is also the prospect of a finding of negligence against the owner or keeper of a horse. That can arise from the way in which the horse is handled or kept.

You will be liable to compensate those injured if you are found to be at fault and negligent in your conduct. This can be owing to your failure to act or by your negligent actions.

Where you employ somebody to handle horses which you own or keep then there is a further level of liability that exists as between employer and employee. An employer has a duty to ensure there is a safe system of work operated and that the employee has adequate supervision, training and instruction. Risk assessment is an important obligation of the employer.

All the matters outlined above need to be carefully considered by those involved with horses whether their interest is purely pleasure or for business.


Some recent examples of circumstances where liability has been accepted by the horse owner and their insurers include where:-

  • Horses escape onto the highway causing a collision with vehicles.

  • Groom preparing a horse for show was kicked requiring abdominal surgery.

  • Injuries to a rider of a friend’s horse on the first occasion when it bolted on the highway.

  • Professional groom run down in the field by a loose horse.

  • A stable lad killed when kicked in the head whilst adjusting the rugs on a horse in a field.

Check your insurance cover

It is easy to imagine circumstances where things can go wrong even applying a high level of skill and care. It is vital that all those owning or keeping horses carry adequate insurance to protect themselves against the risks associated with the ownership of their animals. Public Liability Insurance cover and Employer’s Liability Insurance Cover where relevant, must be obtained. Individual Horse Insurance Policies usually include Public Liability Cover. If your horses are not individually insured then obtaining such cover via a trade or association membership is crucial.

Responsible horse owners should review their Insurance Cover with their Brokers and ensure that they have adequate comprehensive cover in place at all times.

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