THE point-to-point calendar has been disrupted again this weekend by insurance-related issues and uncertainty over the requirements being made of hunt clubs to ensure they are protected from liability.

Sunday’s Loughrea fixture has been cancelled by the Galway Blazers. The hunt ran into difficulties securing the services of a solicitor who would be present at the races to witness riders signing a waiver to acknowledge the risks involved.

Although the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board assured the hunt that their insurance cover met their requirements to hold the fixture, the Blazers were not satisfied to race – or to hunt – until they received further clarification from their insurers.

The Blazers are covered by the same group insurance policy for hunting as all other active hunts in the Republic, and this policy also provides cover for the point-to-points organised by many of these hunts. Hunts in Northern Ireland are covered by a different policy while point-to-points organised by hunts in the Cork & Waterford Association have a separate scheme.


The Irish National Hunt Steeplechase Committee [INHSC], which is responsible for the governance and administration of point-to-points, has expressed disappointment over the late cancellation of the Loughrea meeting and pointed out that several point-to-points since February have taken place under this policy. The INHSC says it is not aware of similar problems with any other hunt due to stage upcoming fixtures.

A spokesperson for Tinahely point-to-point said they have a solicitor in place for their October 16th meeting.

Michael MacDonagh, chairman of the Co Galway Hunt, said: “The insurance company has asked for waivers to be signed in the presence of a solicitor and that was one obstacle too many for us. The implication is that there will be a onus on the solicitor in the event of an accident and that is a risk that some solicitors are reluctant to take. We eventually found a solicitor who would be present but the cost was too high.

“We had a long meeting on Wednesday night where our own members and masters presented their own independent legal opinion. It became very complicated with too many unanswered questions. Our opening hunt is coming up and we want to know if we are going to be required to have a solicitor present every day we go out. What is the difference between a waiver signed by members and one signed in front of a solicitor? It is making it impossible.”

Teething problems

Yesterday a senior figure in the insurance business with knowledge of the policy told The Irish Field: “There are some teething problems but there are workarounds. The insurance policy is fairly robust and I don’t expect any more disruption to the point-to-point season.”

On the subject of riders signing waivers, the source said: “Conversations are being had about doing this in one fell swoop for all riders, so it is done for the season. That sounds like a workable plan and you could say that is the direction of travel things are going in.”

Meanwhile, Eamonn Egan of Lloyds Ireland believes the insurance picture will improve if the Government delivers on its promise to pass new legislation before the end of the year.

Following informal conversations with the Taoiseach Micheál Martin and the Minister for Justice Helen McEntee, Egan said: “Both the Taoiseach and the Minister have promised me that there will be no further delays to the introduction of legislation amendments on duty of care, occupier’s liability and voluntary assumption of risk, and they will all be in place by December.”

Egan believes that the legal waivers being signed by point-to-point riders, and by those going hunting, give significant protection to land owners and event organisers in the event of an injury that could give rise to an insurance claim.

He said: “Some solicitors may tell you that the waivers are worthless but I don’t accept that. They don’t like waivers because it makes their job much harder. It is only Lawyers that I have heard say, “they are not worth the paper they are written on”. What contract has no validity?

“It stands to reason that if a person is seeking compensation for an injury sustained while partaking in an exciting and thrilling activity that has an element of danger included, their claim will be seriously undermined if the defendant can produce a signed statement/contract which shows the injured party knew and accepted the dangers beforehand. It’s only if someone else had been negligent or was at fault for the injury that a claim should be successful.”