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Insurance question - private farm, clinic/lessons


I have a small private barn - no boarders, no business with anything horse related, just my horses. I currently have an instructor come to me weekly, who has her own insurance, but am also planning to have another outside instructor come 1x/2x monthly in the future. Other people in the area (2-3) are planning to come take lessons on my farm with this person.

I currently have standard homeowner’s insurance and a $1 million umbrella policy. I’m in the USA (perhaps obvious due to the nature of the question).

Do I need any other insurance to protect myself and farm? I don’t have a waiver to sign since I haven’t had outside riders at this point. Do they carry any actual legal protection? I’ve been told they’re basically worth the paper they’re printed on, but I am not a lawyer and the lawyers I know don’t do this type of law. What about “equine liability” signs?

It’s hard locally as people have a sort of, “that doesn’t happen here” attitude about lawsuits, but all it takes is once! I reached out to my insurance agent, but was hoping the equine group here may have additional info. Most other threads seem to be in regards to businesses, so I wasn’t sure in this case.

Thank you!

Regarding the signs - in my state, but I don’t know about others, you do not get the protection of laws limiting liability around equine activities if you do not have the signs posted in the manner required by the law: "This act shall provide immunity only where signing is conspicuously posted on the premises on a sign at least three feet by two feet, in two or more locations, which states the following…"

There are always exceptions to waivers and not all damages/claims can be waived. But many can be waived in these documents and they provide at least some hurdle or roadblock. Think of it this way - using even a generic form equestrian waiver provides more than zero protection so in light of the cost of printing it then I don’t see a single good reason not to do it.

A waiver can also provide documentation that you warned someone of risks, or you advised that helmets were a requirement on your property, etc.

I work in the negligence/liability sphere of law and I didn’t let people on my horse when I owned, and I don’t let people on my lease horse now, without a waiver (note in anticipation of comments: I also do not allow others on lease horse without owner’s permission and waiver in her benefit being signed).

Signs and waivers are not PERFECT defenses, but neither are seatbelts or helmets. They however do provide more than zero protection with almost zero cost/downside. In my opinion.


That’s very helpful, thank you!

I’ll look up the law in my state regarding signage (VA).

Also note: they would not be on my horses, but trailering in their own. I am curious though, do you have any links to template waivers for someone riding your horse? Or would it be covered under a general one?

Thanks again!

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Even if their own horses you potentially have property-related risks. You would want folks to acknowledge that you are not warrantying the premises as safe, that they have had the opportunity to inspect the premises for safety risks (think of poor footing), that you are not responsible for inherent nature effects that can scare horses (thunder, insects, wild animals, etc.) or the presence of other people on the property and their behavior, etc.

These are different risks from when you are personally offering a mount to someone and therefore potentially being deemed to be responsible for evaluating that mount as safe for the rider.

I don’t have a link to a template I can share - I use my lease horse owners’ template and just put my name down alongside horse owner’s, property owner’s, etc.

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There’s likely several liability release forms available online, especially from places like parks and large barns w/ XC courses that allow haul-ins.


Like another poster, I worked for many years (30+) handling liability claims. I also own my own farm and have no boarders. I have had an instructor come out and give lessons to me on my horses. When another one of her students wanted to set up a clinic with a few people trailering their horses in, I was willing to host. That went away when the “organizer” proposed a waiver/release that had me agreeing to indemnify her (the organizer) for claims by any other participant (her friends). No protection/waiver for me as the property owner.

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Have you checked your cityand county tegulations about needing a business license yet? If you are required to have one and you don’t you have left your insurance company a major off ramp to use to deny liability claims.


be aware the following 17 states the courts consistently reject waivers signed by a parent on behalf of a minor child : Alabama, Arkansas, Hawaii, Iowa, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Montana, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington and West Virginia.


You might want to check Code of Virginia, Title 3.2, Chapter 62 (last I heard).

Also prudent to consult an attorney who is current on the law and recent cases. Perhaps you can find someone who advises one of the local show organizations.

Good luck. I am not a lawyer; have organized clinics. YMMV.

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Thank you - no minors. Good to know in case it ever comes up though!

It isn’t a business; I’m not charging anything specifically to avoid any legal issues with business vs private. All money will be paid directly to the instructor.
I would have to register in my county should it be a business, however.

Excellent advice has been given above. Personally, in your shoes, I would follow up diligently on all of it, which it sounds as if you are doing.

Horse accidents have the potential to a) cause permanent, lifetime damage to a person, even death, b) enrage individuals who have the deep pockets to vent their anger and grief, and c) easily confuse courts who know nothing about horses.

Yep, the written law and the policy coverage is not enough research. The advice above to have a conversation with a knowledgeable attorney, and some other things, could be the best money you ever spend.

An aggrieved injured party can insist through legal channels that there was gross negligence, which is specifically not covered by the liability exemption laws. There are ways an insurance company can waive coverage due to “should have known”. Etc. ways to end up in legal trouble in spite of the state liability laws.

So, don’t just look into what insurance you need. Look into what rules, policies and guidelines you need to help you stay out of legal trouble should something untoward happen on your property.

Horse people can be a bit blind to the actual level of risk that comes with horses. Particularly involving newer riders and younger riders, who don’t yet have the knowledge and good habits they may need. Don’t let that be the case with yourself or your instructors.