May 2006
Horses, Horses, Horses!

Spring is a beautiful time of the year.....May flowers have been produced by the April showers, the sun is shining more, the days are bright and breezy, and most people’s thoughts are turning to the outdoors, with some contemplating a big purchase associated with the outdoors.....buying a horse.

Many people buy their first horse in the springtime. They may buy a colt or filly to be a family raised and trained "buddy" for their children; they may buy a well-trained mature animal to learn how to ride and show, or.....actually the possibilities are limitless as to the reasons why someone would be purchasing their first horse. Then there are the seasoned horse owners who are trading, buying, selling or bringing in a new brood of animals to raise, train, ride or show. The possibilities are limitless for the seasoned individuals as well.

One thing about purchasing a horse though, it is usually a sizeable investment whether it is the first or the one hundredth. An investment that may or may not need insurance coverage to protect it. It is a quandary sometimes to decide what is the best route to take to protect your financial investment in your horse, especially for the "newbies" of horse ownership. Of course, there is a specialty line of insurance just for horses.....Equine Insurance.

I know about this type of insurance because I sold it for several years. My friend Joyce has asked me to write concerning Equine Insurance because so many potential horse owners, and even seasoned veterans of the horse industry, do not realize that it exists or is even an option for them to purchase for their protection and the protection of their animals. Since I am no longer an active licensed agent, this article is in no way a solicitation by me. The information given is strictly my opinion based on my past experience, and as we know "everyone has an opinion."  So, glean what good you can from the knowledge offered and cull what you consider to be less useful. As with any type of financial endeavor, always, always, always research for yourself all aspects of the potential positive benefits and the potential "pit-falls" that may be involved with buying insurance on or for your animal.

There are quite a few Equine Insurance Agencies in existence and you can usually find them advertised in the back of horse magazines such as Equus or Horse Illustrated. These agencies will be listed along with all the other ads for hay, stalls, barns, and so forth. Most of them are good, decent businesses, but if you have a friend who is a trainer or a breeder, it would be wise to ask them whom they have done business with and whom they would recommend. Nonetheless, you still have to call the agency to get a quote, and it would be wise to call several agencies and compare the quotes given just as when you are shopping for car insurance.

The most commonly purchased type of horse insurance is Mortality Insurance. It is exactly what it sounds like.....it covers the value of the animal should the horse die due to accident, illness, or disease. Most mortality policies include emergency colic surgery coverage due to the fact that colic is such an insidious killer of horses, but it is not always included so you would want to ask about that specifically. Emergency colic surgery coverage can usually be bought separately also depending on what company you use.

The quote that you get will be based on the horse’s value (either the purchase price or the appraised value), age, sex, breed, use and, of course, health. Just as with any type of life or health insurance, the horse’s health must be good to even be considered for coverage.

Once you decide to go with a particular company’s quote, the agency will require that the animal be vet checked and officially certified to be a healthy horse by a reputable veterinarian. You foot the bill on this.  Also, if you want to have the horse insured for more than the purchase price, then you must have a reputable local expert do a certified appraisal on the animal.

These things are unfortunately necessary because there are unscrupulous individuals who have and would still insure an animal for more than it is worth and then kill the animal to profit by the insurance payment. Not only is this unethical, it is illegal, and the insurance companies do pursue and prosecute those caught in this act. This is also the reason that the insurance company would require a post mortem exam to be done by a reputable veterinarian if a horse dies while covered by Mortality Insurance. You would foot the bill for this also, but as long as the animal has truly died of accident, illness, or disease, and there is no evidence of "foul play," then the insurance pay out is usually more than enough to cover the cost.

As far as what makes it worthwhile to purchase equine insurance, well there are again many factors. Some agencies will not insure an animal worth less than five thousand dollars, but there are some that will insure a young horse or a prized pony worth at least one thousand dollars. Honestly, if the horse is not worth at least one thousand dollars, then you are probably wasting your money purchasing insurance on that particular animal.

What about insuring really young horses like foals when it is harder to determine their worth since they are unproven and the stud fees are many times substantial? A general rule of thumb for evaluating a foal’s worth is to multiply the amount of the stud fee by three. With some breeds it can be five times the stud fee, but the more common evaluation is three times. Of course, if the foal grows into a champion show horse or racehorse, the amount of the insurance coverage can be increased to fit the current value of the animal. If your horse is valued at ten thousand dollars or more, it is a pretty safe bet that equine insurance coverage would be a good use of your money. Obviously show horses and racehorses that are valued in the hundreds of thousands or even multi-millions are insured by their owners, who stand to lose a lot if an animal dies or is injured.

There are also several types of equine insurance other than Mortality. The two most common are Medical coverage and Loss of Use coverage. If you have a very valuable horse or a horse you just love a lot, then the medical coverage may be a very good thing for you. It is kind of like human medical insurance as it will pay for vet bills and medicine after a deductible is met. Loss of Use is far more vague in the way it pays out, and honestly, unless you have some kind of star athlete whose performance can be proven beyond a shadow of a doubt to have been destroyed by some terrible accident, you are better off not getting it. Also, if even a hint of "foul play" is detected, it will not pay out, as indeed it should not in that case. Loss of Use is very difficult to prove and can be expensive coverage.  Of course, if you want to spend your money buying horse insurance, the sky is the limit on how much coverage you can get as long as you can prove your horse or horses are worth that much.

You may be saying all this information is fine for someone with expensive horses, but we just have stock horses running on the family farm or your children’s ponies running in the pasture. What kind of protection can we get for our animals?  Usually, your local insurance agent can make sure your horses are listed with the livestock portion of your farm owner’s policy if you talk with them about it. In this case you would not be able to put the kind of value on them that you would with specialty equine insurance, and there are restrictions that apply, but it may be better than no coverage. This is something you would absolutely have to talk about with your local agent who carries your farm insurance, for all policies and companies are different and have different rules and regulations about what they will and will not cover.

I truly hope this information will be helpful to someone, whether you are buying your first horse, a seasoned horse enthusiast or professional who is thinking about purchasing equine insurance on your animal. It can be well worth it, but you have to weigh the value of it and make the decision for yourself. No one can do that for you. It is your decision about your investment, but it is well worth "investing" some time into researching the wisdom of the options that are available.

Once again I would really like to know what horse people want and need to know about their animals.  Please feel free to send suggestions, questions, and comments to the mailing address: Cooperative Farming News, P. O. Box 2227, Decatur, AL 35609-2227, or fax: 256-560-2605, or email  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Janet Bryant is a freelance writer from Oneonta.