The Lowdown On Buying Horse Insurance
 By mosquito   •   13th May 2011   •   5,315 views   •   9 comments
I have mentioned horse insurance in a few other articles, and frankly I’m a fan. I have always insured my horses, and I have always been glad I did. Insurance can take away the worry of unexpected vet bills, or the risk of making an unpleasant decision on the basis of money. If you have spent a lot of money on a valuable animal, it can cover your risk if the horse is injured or can’t compete. It may cover theft, and may pay for advertising if your horse is missing. Some policies will cover tack, or will protect you from lawsuits if your horse damages property or injures someone. Some policies will even pay for you to hire a replacement horse if yours can’t compete.

Horse InsuranceI don’t work for an insurance company and I won’t promote any particular companies here. Choosing to insure or not to insure is a very personal decision – but I’ll give you some pointers as to how it works so you can decide if insuring is right for you. If it is, there are also a few things it’s good to know to choose the right policy for you and your horse.

Policies and premiums

Insurance policies cost a little – or a lot. This is your ‘premium’, and you can usually pay it annually or monthly, although most companies will add a small charge for making monthly payments. The amount of your premium will depend on several factors. The value of your horse, its age, its breed, its medical condition, and what you use it for are the main factors, and there isn’t much you can do to control those. Your premium will also depend on your ‘coverage’ or what the insurance company will pay for. You will usually have some choices about your coverage.

For example, your premium will depend partly on the maximum amount your policy will pay.

Most policies will set a couple of maximum amounts they’ll pay. These might be the maximum amount they’ll pay in total in a year for veterinary care for every claim you make, or the maximum for any particular injury or disease. The more you lower the amount the insurance company may have to pay, the lower your premium will be. However, if you horse needs extensive care, you may find you reach that maximum very quickly and you can still be left with a big bill. When deciding on a policy, talk to your vet about what some common conditions cost, or how much a trip to the equine hospital might run. This will help you judge what you are potentially likely to pay in the event of illness or injury.

Another way to cut down your premiums is the ‘deductible’. This is the amount you pay for any injury or illness first, then the insurance company pays the rest. For example, you get a vet bill of $600 and you have a deductible of $200. You pay the first $200, and your insurance company pays the rest, up to the maximum your policy allows. A low deductible makes for more expensive premiums, but if your cash is tight, and finding a couple hundred bucks to pay your vet before the insurance kicks in could be a problem, then a lower deductible might suit you better.

There are other things an insurance company may take into account when considering your premium. Older horses (those over fifteen) often cost more to insure, as do horses competing in strenuous sports like eventing or barrel racing. Freeze brands – and marking tack and rugs with your horses’ brand – can often lower your premiums.

Choosing what to cover

We've just talked about deductibles and maximums, but there are a few other choices that will affect your premiums. You might prefer not to have coverage for theft, or not to insure your tack as well. Most policies will require the ‘liability’ insurance – that’s the part that protects you if your horse hurts someone or damages property – but it’s not the expensive part of your premium and in my opinion it’s good to have. You might be able to put your trailer or lorry on your policy, but it might be cheaper to insure that with an auto insurer. Some policies offer medical coverage for you for riding accidents, but you might be covered elsewhere. Check all of your other insurance policies so you don’t pay to protect yourself for something already covered. Remember, insurance can be hidden in all kinds of places – Some breed or association memberships include some insurance too!

Pre existing conditions and exclusions

There are some things an insurance company won’t cover, and these are most commonly ‘pre existing conditions’. Chances are, when you first set up your policy, the company will want you to get a general vet check of your horse. If your horse already has an illness, and injury, or a genetic condition, the insurance company may ‘exclude’ that from your policy. That means they won’t cover it and won’t pay any bills associated with it. A pre-existing condition is often a source of frustration with insurance companies, and you can argue your case or shop around to find a company that will cover it.

Your policy will come with a list of ‘exclusions’ which are all the things they won’t cover. Before you finally sign on the dotted line, make sure the company has provided you with a list of exclusions and that you understand them.

Loss of Use

Loss Of Use BrandLoss of use is another option to consider when insuring. This is a payment the insurance company will make when if horse is so badly injured that it can’t be ridden, bred, or otherwise do what you bought it for, but isn’t so badly sick or injured that it needs to be put down. It is usually a percentage of the horse’s value (most commonly 75 to 80%), but some companies will offer 100% of the horse’s value for a loss of use claim. Your vet will need to certify your claim, and usually your horse will need to be freeze branded with an ‘L’. If you ever see this brand on a horse, it shows that the horse has been the subject of a loss of use claim. That means if it’s your horse, and you go to sell it, everyone will know. It’s not a problem for honest horse owners, but if someone is trying to sell you a horse with that brand, be careful.

Who pays when?

The last thing to think about with insurance is how the company will pay. Most insurance companies will expect you to pay the bills first, and then they’ll reimburse you. This can take a long time – I’ve waited for as much as three months for a claim to be paid. If you think you can find the money for your vet bills, but only temporarily, or can borrow the money, then this may work for you as you will normally get the money back eventually. If you can’t risk your claim being turned down, or you really can’t find the money up front, then look for an insurance company that will let your vet bill them directly for anything above your deductible – and make sure your vet will agree to that too!

You've got your insurance, now what?

If you decide to insure, and you find a company and a policy that works for you, then take care of it. Make sure you call your company every time you use your vet, even if you don’t plan to make a claim at that time. A small injury or illness can turn into a bigger problem, and you want to make sure your insurers know that a claim might be coming. Before agreeing to expensive treatments or alternative therapies (things like acupuncture may or may not be covered by your insurance depending on your policy and your vet’s recommendations), call your insurers and check. Keep your horse up to date with vaccinations and worming so you don’t invalidate your policy. Make sure you fill in your claim forms completely when you file a claim, and submit them promptly. Don’t expect your company to be happy to pay out on a bill that’s six months old that they knew nothing about! If in doubt whether to inform your insurers, call them.

Other than that, pay your premiums on time, read any letters they send you that might alert you to policy changes, and then go out and relax and enjoy your horse!
Horse News More In This Category:  General      Horse News More From This Author:  mosquito
Hum....wonder if they have horsey insurance in my area....
  19 days ago  •  3,604 views
VERY informative article! All my animals are insured and while sometimes the copay doesn't make much of a difference in the overall cost of treatment, more often than not, I've always been grateful when something "serious" happened -- only to find, it was covered.
  18 days ago  •  3,635 views
Nice article
To bad I don't have a horse XD
  18 days ago  •  3,601 views
T E M P E S T  
Great article!
  18 days ago  •  3,648 views
Little Bitty Farm  
Another great article! :)
  18 days ago  •  3,848 views
Thanks! I've been considering getting horse and pet insurance in general, so this article has been very informative!! I'll be using it as a reference when I look at plans!
  16 days ago  •  3,622 views
I'm sure there are many people out there that regretted not having insurance when the time came to choose between the money or the horse. I had my yearling colt insured when he was five months old. It's not everyday that you get a colt with his breeding and quality at the price we got him for, so it wasn't a question whether or not he'd be insured.
  15 days ago  •  3,805 views
This is really helpful. Thank You
  Jun 3, 2011  •  3,646 views
All That Jazz  
Oh my gosh, this is so helpful!
  Jan 10, 2012  •  3,647 views
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