In equestrian sport, it’s critical to ensure the safety of both participants and professionals. Waivers are an important step coaches and trainers must take to safeguard against unforeseen events and potential liability.

Waivers are documents that serve as a contractual agreement between a coach and their clients, outlining the terms and conditions of participation in horse-related activities. Every equestrian coach should have a waiver in their legal name. The waiver not only protects the coach but also sets clear expectations for participants regarding inherent risks.

Coach Spotlight: Hold Your Horses and Sign a Waiver!

Here are some things to remember when developing a waiver to use in your coaching:

1. Consult a lawyer. Crafting an effective waiver requires legal expertise. Coaches should seek legal counsel when developing their waiver document. Although there are numerous examples available online, they may not provide adequate protection in the event of a loss. An attorney with knowledge of equine-related laws can help ensure that the waiver is comprehensive and legally sound.

2. Get signatures. A waiver must be signed by all participants. If the participant is a minor, a parent or legal guardian can sign on their behalf. As soon as a participant reaches the age of majority, however, they must sign their own waiver. This ensures that all parties involved acknowledge and accept their responsibilities and risks.

3. Ensure participant understanding. When you provide participants with the waiver, it’s crucial that you ensure they understand what they are signing. Coaches must take the time to ensure that all participants thoroughly understand the risks associated with all equestrian activities. This may involve a comprehensive explanation of potential dangers and safety measures and allowing participants an opportunity to ask questions or seek clarification.

4. Keep a copy. Coaches must keep a copy of all signed waivers. These documents are vital in the event of a claim, as they serve as proof of participants’ consent to the terms and conditions outlined in the waiver.

5. Review and update regularly. Waivers should be reviewed periodically to ensure all the information contained in them is still accurate and are in accordance with your insurance policies. Even a small change could have big impacts on your waiver, requiring you to adjust sections or rewrite the entire document.

6. Consider using a waiver application or software. There are advantages of using a waiver application or online waiver software. These include being able to sort, retrieve, and manage your waivers; helps reduce the risk of errors or omissions; allows you to store them safely with encryption; and can provide an automatic copy to your clients for their files so everyone has the same understanding.

When unlocking the benefits associated with using digital waivers, there are a few important considerations:

  • Because the participant or parent/guardian is able to ‘sign’ the waiver at another location, be sure to have a conversation regarding the risks posed by equestrian activities prior to them participating;
  • Ensure there are checkboxes and/or flagged questions throughout the waiver that forces the user to read each section and agree to it separately as well as to verify their identity;
  • Include language that confirms the participant or parent/guardian is consciously signing the waiver by utilizing a digital signature option; and
  • Once they have read the full waiver, confirm if they have any questions or need clarification.

For more information about electronic versus paper waivers, see this post from Sport Law.

In the event of a claim, you will be asked to provide a waiver to your insurer. While it can’t prevent a lawsuit, waivers can also be a powerful tool in helping your legal team mount a robust defense if one does take place. The existence of a signed waiver demonstrates that participants were aware of the risks involved, which helps reduce potential liability.

In all coaching and especially in equestrian sport that has inherent risk, waivers are more than just best practice – they are a necessity. By having a legally sound waiver, coaches can create a safer environment for their clients while protecting their business.

The experts at Henry Equestrian know the equine industry and are available to help coaches reduce risk and protect what matters most. Call them at 1.800.565.4321, or request your insurance quote online today.

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