Many landowners are worried that allowing riders to come onto their land will result in liability under Section 16 of the Health and Safety in Employment Act if anyone is injured accidentally.  The recent amendment actually makes things easier for the landowner now.

The amendment makes it clear that they cannot be held liable as long as they warn authorised visitors of any significant hazards arising from work on the farm which they know about.   They are not liable if anyone coming onto the land without permission suffers harm.


1:: A DUTY TO WARN authorised visitors of any significant hazards.

The visitors must have permission, and must have given verbal notice of their visit.

A "significant hazard" is one that arises from some work activity on the farm and would not normally be expected by the visitor.

        Examples:  trees being felled, blasting, earthmoving machinery operating,          pest control operators working.

Ordinary hazards (which would not be unexpected) might be:  farm vehicles, farm animals, barbed wire fences.

Natural hazards are excluded:  the landowner is not liable for warning of natural hazards such as bluffs, landslides, rivers, swamps, wasp nests, etc. (though hopefully they would warn you of those they knew of).

A verbal warning is sufficient.  It must be given at the time that permission is given, or (if permission is for on-going visits) at the time the visitor gives verbal notice of each visit. 

2: A FULL DUTY to paying visitors

The full duty to paying visitors means taking all practical steps to ensure they are not harmed by any hazard arising on the farm.  This might mean restricting access to certain parts of the farm, or setting weight limits on bridges, etc.  It would also mean not allowing people near working machinery..

The paying visitors might be horse trekking,  CTR or endurance riders, or cross-country riders, or a club rally, club camp, etc.  Note that in the case of jumps, so long as they are made and maintained to an acceptable standard, the land owner is not liable for injury caused by falls.

The land owner is only responsible for hazards within their control.
This is a new section to cover issues such as OSH, ACC, insurance, etc
If you have a general question (likely to be of interest to other members, and relating to riding/horses/land) please email the web editor and we will do our best to get an expert opinion and add it to the FAQs. 
Please note though that we can't give advice on personal legal issues.

OSH & landowners - OSH & clubs - More OSH info. - ACC & riders - Leasing - NZRC insurance - Events Organisers - FAQs
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If your club holds its rallies and events on public land which is also available for other users, then the owner of the land (council or whatever) is responsible for hazards like poor fencing, illegal rubbish dumping, and  machinery like mowers in operation, and would be liable in the case of an accident causing serious harm.   The land owner would cover their "duty to warn" by putting up a notice to the effect that your club held rallies there and that people should not approach the horses.

If your club owns or leases land for club activities the "duty to warn" falls on the club.  This would be covered by a notice, and perhaps also telling club members to warn visitors (particularly unaccompanied children!) and to take care when non-members are around their horses.  In the case of someone getting kicked badly, OSH would probably not want to take this up if you have a warning notice, but if negligence was involved the owner of the horse could be subject to a civil claim (by the injured person) for exemplary damages.


Paid instructors count as employees! - or at least as contractors.  So OSH may be involved if an instructor has an accident.  Whoever pays the instructor (the club or the individual rider) is the employer, and has full duty to take all practical steps to ensure that the instructor suffers no serious injury.  However, you are only responsible for hazards within your control.  As we all know, some accidents with horses are impossible to predict.  For example, if your horse got a fright from someone starting up a loud motor mower behind a fence - if the horse shied or bolted and knocked over your instructor, you would not be liable.   However, if you know the horse bucks, or puts in sudden stops in front of a jump, you could be liable if you don't warn your instructor when they ride your horse.   If you know your horse kicks or bites, you must also warn your instructor.  

In the case of club subsidised lessons, the instructor should be warned of any horse that could cause problems, and also of any faulty equipment, hazardous ground, etc.

Generally speaking, OSH's position on accidents in club situations is that they don't want to get involved, treating them as recreational accidents if possible.  However, if there is an accident causing serious injury to anyone on club grounds it must be reported to OSH
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This page was last updated on: July 13, 2013
More information direct from OSH

You can check out OSH publications from this link.  Once you have the page, click on "Agriculture", from there about the ninth heading is "Farming Bulletins, Series.  The above information was taken mainly from Bulletin No.10.  You can download the publications, or just read them online, or order hard copies.
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Accident Compensation can be claimed for medical treatment of any injury caused by an accident.  This is a "no fault" compensation - that means it does not matter whether you were taking every possible care, or if you were taking a really stupid risk. 

Horse riding is a fairly high risk sport. Of all sports in NZ riding has about the 6th highest number of accidents per 100,000 people - but many more people play rugby, etc. than ride horses. 

The number of reported injuries have averaged around 600 per year over the past six years, but the rate is going down - there were 770 in 1994 and only 362 in 1999.

Fortunately fatal injuries are rare - there were an average of less than three deaths per year over the last six years.

Top injury sites (in 1999) were:  Face (81), Shoulder (34), Arm (28) and Head (24).

In work situations (on farms, studs, training stables, etc) the number of accidents involving horses is higher.  This would include vets, farriers, and others handling horses, racing, mustering,  etc. rather than recreational riding.

For a horse owner leasing is often a good option if you are not able to ride your horse for a while - travel, new baby, university, work commitments - but you don't want to sell your horse.

Conversely, if you don't have a horse, leasing one may be a good way to get more confidence and experience until you are ready to take on a horse of your own.  You may be lucky enough to lease a "schoolmaster"  until you feel ready to make the financial and time commitment to a more advanced and challenging horse.   It has been known for a rider to lease a horse for the boyfriend/husband in the hope of getting him keen on riding - if it doesn't work out, the horse will go back to the owner, if it does work out he can buy one himself.

However, whether you are the owner or the potential lessee, you may well be put off the idea by stories of horses being sold  while on lease, or totally unsuitable horses being leased, interfering owners, neglectful lessees, etc.  To a large extent you can avoid most of the pitfalls by having a comprehensive lease document.  It sets out clearly who is responsible for what so that both parties know what is expected of them.

There should be two original copies of the Lease, both signed by both parties and by witnesses, one copy to be retained by the owner and one by the lessee.

The sample lease document here is based on one from an English horse magazine some years back, with input from a New Zealand solicitor.

Click here to                                      Click on the page icon >>> 
view the Lease                  for a downloadable version (MS Word)
                                           The document will load onto your
                                            computer in a MS Word window,
                                            so you can then save it to wherever you want.                                            
                                           Just subtitute your names & details
                                           for the sample ones.

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Astrid Anderson Case

SPARC Media Release
Monday 11 August

SPARC Speaks Out to Defend Sport and Recreation Events

Nicholas Hill, CEO of SPARC has spoken out after Astrid Anderson was found guilty in the district court last week.  Anderson was found guilty of criminal nuisance after a cyclist died in a head on crash in 2001.

Hill states "that while the accident was a tragedy, I do not believe there is a general problem with risk management of sport and recreation events in New Zealand".

"Nevertheless, this case does raise concerns for the future of sport and recreation events in New Zealand.  It has brought the issue to the fore and will have created a certain amount of anxiety and uncertainty in the volunteer sector."

SPARC will be looking at the issues that have been raised with regards to Le Race.  Hill says "we need to establish what can be learned, and clarify the extent to which the issues are specific to Le Race rather than generic".

"The key issue for organisers of events is balancing the safety of participants and spectators against the viability of running events. There are a number of steps that sport and recreation organisations can employ to reduce any potential liability. The focus needs to be on identifying and minimising or eliminating any potential risks to spectators, participants, and property," said Hill.

To assist organisations planning events, SPARC recently prepared some preliminary guidelines.  These guidelines outline the legal obligations and liabilities of sport and recreation clubs and organisations in New Zealand, and possible ways to minimise liability.

SPARC will be reviewing these guidelines in light of the Astrid Anderson decision, and will consult with a number of parties to establish whether any further measures are called for. 


For further comment:
Nicholas Hill, CEO, SPARC, 04 496 3991 or 021 389 291

The Legal Obligations and Liabilities of Sport and Recreation Clubs and Organisations Guidelines are available on the SPARC website at

Keith Scarlett
Executive Officer
Ph/Fax 064 6 873 5464

SPARC is Sport and Recreation New Zealand.  It is a merger of three organisations, the Hillary Commission, Sports Foundation and Office of Tourism and Sport (policy arm). 

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