There is a new acronym in the Irish equestrian world - NHSPFS. It stands for National Hunt Steeplechase, Point-to-Point and Field Sports Insurance Programme.
It aims to have our traditional hunting up and running again and also to fully indemnify the farmers whose lands are crossed.
I spoke with dedicated Cork hunting man John O’Sullivan, who is chair of the Irish Master of Harriers Association’s insurance committee and who worked on bringing this new programme into being.
“What we were pushing for was to totally indemnify the farmer,” he said.
“If there was a claim against the farmer, it would be immediately brought to our attention and the insurance fund would take it from there.”
John went on to note another aspect of this insurance crisis which descended on the hunting world. Brexit and other factors pushed up to 20 underwriters and brokers dealing with equine insurance out of the Irish market.
“The Irish horse industry was going to take a colossal knock if we did not get hunting back up and running,” he sad.
This makes a lot of sense because many of our sport horse breeding products that do not reach the premier standard of competition come into the hunting field and from there become valuable mounts for the leisure, amateur and riding club areas of the sport.
But another angle of this insurance dilemma involves the survival of point-to-point fixtures around the country. As the crisis deepened nearly 50% of all point-to-points had no cover and just could not run. Once again, John refers to the effect this would have on that sector: “Sales of four- and five-year-old winners amounts to about €20m annually. There could be a €10m hit in one year if there was no cover.”
The NHSPFS programme that has been organised creates public liability cover of €10m. A number of underwriters have been found for the upper layers of claims but the very foundation of it is based on a steadily growing ‘rainy day’ fund contributed to by the hunts themselves and their individual members.
Each hunt premium is based on the extent of their activity. Individual members must take out their own personal public liability of up to €2.6m at a cost of €130 per horse. They are also advised to have their own personal accident insurance that will cover them not only on the hunting field but in their own yard as well.
Will it all work? John said: “I think people will take the hit and will want to keep on hunting – there’s no alternative.”