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27.11.13

Equine Law and Compulsory Safety Headgear in the Showing World

There has been much talk surrounding the International Equestrian Federation's (FEI) rule concerning compulsory safety headgear for all mounted competitors.

While the decision is being reconsidered, event organisers are keen to ascertain the position from an equine law perspective, in circumstances where the rule stands but a disclaimer is signed by each competitor. We have been asked to advise in respect of the consequences that event organisers might face were a rider to sustain a head injury as a result of being permitted to compete in the traditional top hat. 

People often ask us to guarantee that no-one will bring a claim if x and y, occurs. We cannot. If someone wears a top hat and suffers a head injury, they may well bring a claim, irrespective of signing a disclaimer.

The question is whether any such claim for injury is likely to succeed. The answer is that it isn’t very likely to succeed. These are experienced riders who would have made a decision to wear the top hat and signed a disclaimer, whether they are a judge or a competitor. Whilst a disclaimer will not protect an event organiser in the event of personal injury as a result of negligence, the riders and judges would have been aware of the risk and voluntarily accepted the same.

The problem however is likely to be with the public liability insurers. Presumably, they will insist, as a condition of providing insurance, that the organisers refuse to allow judges and competitors to participate unless they wear safety headgear. It would be a bold organiser which risked its insurance cover by failing to comply.


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