The Quick Answer
You most likely need commercial (general) liability insurance coverage for yourself, anyone who works or volunteers with or for you, and the owners of any premises or horses involved in the work. If you are a mental health professional you also need professional liability insurance coverage and I would recommend this for other professionals too where it is available. Options for insurance providers include BFL Canada through your Pro-EFW membership and certification, Capri Insurance, or group insurance through your professional regulatory body. This is in addition to any property, farm or non Equine Facilitated Wellness (EFW) equine related insurance. To help protect yourself you should also have all clients sign a waiver which includes an acknowledgement of risk and describes the nature of the services you are providing. If you provide online services (e.g. by zoom) or even communicate with clients using technology (including text), your insurance should extend to include this aspect of your work. If your clients ride (or even just sit on) horses at any stage during EFW sessions I highly recommend that you check this is included within your coverage – some policies do not extend to mounted work.
Please note I am NOT an insurance or legal expert so this is an area where you should check the requirements specific to your province, client base, approach, credentials and work situation with an expert in the insurance field.
The Longer Answer
Types of Coverage
Commercial (General) Liability Insurance
Generally speaking, this is the policy that covers you if a someone sues you for physical harm they suffer while on your property/ in a session with you. Everyone practicing EFW (including volunteers, contractors, employees and property/ horse owners) needs this coverage. You will also need coverage to protect you from liability arising from the actions of those you work with (e.g. your employees) and this may require a separate policy. If you are working out of someone else’s premises/ with someone else’s horses you may be covered under their policy or they may need to be covered under yours. Either way, you need to check that every policy applies to the nature and scope of the work you are doing, with consideration for your client base and the species of animals you are incorporating into the work. Most policies for riding instruction or horse training do NOT extend to EFW work. I recommend talking with your insurance company and/ or broker and describing clearly who is doing what, with whom!
Professional Liability Insurance (also known as Errors and Omissions Insurance)
This applies to the mental health professionals and may also be available to other professionals (e.g. teachers or life coaches) depending on their context, credentials and work environment. Generally speaking, this is the policy that protects you in the case of a claim that a professional service you provided caused your client to suffer harm due to mistakes on your part or because you failed to perform some service/ aspect of the service. Your professional body will usually have an insurance company that they recommend and which will offer you group policy rates for this insurance. These rates can be significantly lower that what you will find anywhere else! You will need to check with both your professional body and your insurance company to confirm that this policy will extend to include your activities within the equine and animal assisted field. This is usually a process of having your professional body confirm that EFW/ AAT (however you define this aspect of your work) falls within your scope of practice as a … (whatever it is you are certified as). Every professional usually has to carry their own professional liability insurance and if you have employees/ contractors working with/ for you then you likely also need business professional liability insurance.
If you are teaching riding lessons, training horses, transporting horses, boarding horses or if your practice includes equine clinics or any other equine related work this will likely NOT fall under your EFW scope of practice and will thus require a separate equine commercial liability insurance policy.
You should also consider your need for property insurance (for damage to your property), health or life insurance for your horses, and insurance for your equipment and tack. If you have employees there are additional considerations that are outside the scope of this article such as workers compensation.
Where to get Insurance
If you are a member of a professional regulatory body such as the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association, the Alberta College of Social Workers or the College of Alberta Psychologists I recommend trying to get both commercial and professional liability insurance through this membership with their recommended insurance company, as you are likely to have access to group rates which could save you a significant amount of money. For this to apply to your EFW and/ or AAT work you probably need your professional regulatory body to state that EFW and/ or AAT (however you describe this aspect of work) falls within your scope of practice as whatever it is they certify you as (e.g. counsellor, social worker, psychologist etc.) and to provide this statement to the insurance company. I recommend getting it confirmed in writing each year from your insurance company or broker that your insurance policy includes coverage for this aspect of your practice.
If you live in Alberta I highly recommend that anyone who owns or interacts with horses join the Alberta Equestrian Federation (AEF). Their reasonably priced annual membership comes with a group insurance policy which covers you for a wide range of risks including liability coverage if a horse was to get onto a road and caused an accident, some transportation coverage, and emergency boarding coverage. They also have several optional ‘add ons’ that I believe are worthwhile for most horse owners.
Please note I am NOT an insurance or legal expert or professional, so this is definitely an area where you should check the requirements specific to your province, client base, approach, credentials and work situation with an expert in the insurance field.
Note: If you are unsure of any of the terminology or acronyms we used above please refer to our earlier blog post where we defined and reviewed these terms for you.
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Next Question in the Series: How and where can I gain Work Experience in the EFW/ AAT field?
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