Equine insurance is not only for the pros. Your pleasure horse is an expensive investment, and you should consider the importance of protecting that investment – and potentially protecting the life of your horse – with a combination of medical, surgical, mortality and liability insurance.
If you have a small farm or ranch, even if it’s not a commercial enterprise, you also need to safeguard those assets. Let’s look at the components of a comprehensive equine insurance portfolio.
While the name of this coverage suggests it pays only upon the death of your horse, that is not the case. A full mortality or all-risks mortality policy insures you against loss from theft also, and it is often required as the underlying coverage to which major medical and surgery can be added.
With a full mortality policy, you can add loss-of-use insurance, which reimburses you if the horse becomes permanently disabled but does not need to be put down. This addition to your policy can provide funds to help you purchase another horse, though it typically doesn’t pay the full value of your horse agreed upon in the policy.
If you breed your stallion, you might also consider adding infertility coverage. This protects your investment against impotence or some other incapacity to breed due to a covered accident or sickness.
Many of these add-ons to full mortality require a veterinarian’s examination and sign-off regarding the horse’s wellness before placement of insurance and to validate a claim.
If your horse doesn’t qualify for full mortality, or you prefer a less expensive option, you may be able to get limited mortality coverage. Limited mortality coverage usually cannot be endorsed (or added to) the way a full mortality policy can, but it does insure against the death of your horse due to a long list of hazards, such as lightning, wild animal attacks and building collapse, to name a few.
Colic is one of the most feared events in a horse owner’s life, as it can lead to extreme pain for the horse and is frequently fatal. The good news is that colic can often be corrected by surgery, but such a procedure is expensive. Emergency colic surgery may be covered by a full mortality policy, or it may be offered as an optional coverage.
Know that there are sublimits written into most policies. These are maximum thresholds of payout for different occurrences, such as the cost of diagnostics and lameness treatment. Even colic or other surgeries typically have a limit of payout, though some insurers offer an optional upgrade in that limit for additional premium.
Although many states have equine liability indemnity enshrined in the law, you shouldn’t count on those to protect you against the costs of damage or injury your horse may cause. An equine liability policy for private horse owners (noncommercial use) will help you if your horse injures someone or damages their property. It is usually applicable both on your premises and off, though there likely will be territorial restrictions. If you show or travel outside those geographic zones, talk to your insurance adviser about extending coverage for those purposes.
If you show your horse, use it for pony parties, parades or carriage pulling, or lend it to others, equine liability insurance is an important protection. If you have a helper come to clean your barn or exercise your horse, you have exposure to injury claims. Even if there is no liability proven, you might have to defend yourself in a lawsuit. Your liability policy would help with those costs.
If you decide to pick up some extra money by teaching lessons or giving rides, your personal liability insurance probably won’t have the right coverage. You should consider liability insurance for instructors. This is true even if you don’t have employees or run a commercial barn.
Some horse owners generously stable the horses of others or trailer other horses to shows or trail rides. Doing so puts you at risk of a liability claim if someone else’s horse gets injured while in your care, custody or control. “Care, custody or control” is a specific type of coverage that protects you in transit and wherever you are responsible for the care of another person’s horse. Ask your insurance adviser about adding this to your individual equine liability policy.
Other property concerns
Your tack, your stable, your paddock fence – these are all expensive types of property that may be best insured under a specialty policy. Homeowners insurance might cover some of your horse-related property if your policy is written to include other structures on your premises, but ask your insurance professional about the levels of coverage.
There are policies on the market for large home properties that have a barn and/or paddock, grain silo, horse fencing, jumps, tractors, etc. Many policies limit coverage for barns and other outbuildings to a small percentage (typically 10%) of the principal residence on the property. If you live in a mobile home or a small cottage on a large property with a nice barn, you will need to talk to your insurance adviser about more appropriate coverage for your horse-related structures and contents.
Your trailer must be insured separately under your auto insurance policy and should include collision as well as noncollision (or comprehensive) coverage. If a tree falls on the trailer while it’s parked or a windstorm blows it over, help with repairs will be available under that comprehensive clause. Make sure your agent knows you will trailer horses so that your personal auto insurance liability limits reflect that.
With a combination of good homeowners insurance, solid personal auto coverage, and equine insurance that takes into account both the relative value of your home and your horse-related property, you should have adequate protection in the event of an unfortunate incident.
The more detail you can give your insurance professional about your horse and your equine-related activities, the better your coverage will fit. Working with an adviser who is familiar with equine insurance is the best way to prevent gaps.