by Susan Strawser
Insuring your horse is not only protecting your investment when you purchased the horse, it is also protecting your finances if there is an accident or sickness.
Mortality insurance provides coverage on the life of the horse (includes theft and some colic surgery). The premium is based on the insured value of the horse, breed, use and age.
Companies have different medical options available and the most popular is major medical that covers required treatments and surgeries. You can also purchase surgical-only or colic-only endorsements.
Because companies offer different coverages at different prices, it is important to shop around with equine agencies.
Another policy to consider is liability coverage. If your horse hurts someone or damages their property do you have protection under your homeowners policy? If you don’t, you can purchase a Private Horse Owners Liability policy at a low cost. These policies can have several horses listed on them.
If you board your horse at another facility, you still have a liability exposure. Your horse could kick another horse or get out on the road. You will be named in the claim as owner of the horse. The injured party will need to prove you were negligent so you will need to defend yourself. How much time will it take and what is your attorney’s hourly fee? For less than $250 a year, you can be covered for up to four horses (more can be added at an additional cost).
Do you offer boarding at your place? Are you giving lessons or training (either at your place or at someone else’s farm)? If so you have a different exposure that needs a specialized policy. You should contact an equine agency to discuss a Commercial Liability policy. This policy can be tailored to your specific needs. It can include coverage for boarding, lessons, training, show, clinics, day camps.
Are you using a release form that is specific to your State’s law? Some states require release forms with specific wording and some require you to post warning signs. These statutes are valuable in protecting you but you have to follow them. If you work with minors, do you know who needs to sign the release forms? It is important to talk to an attorney to be sure you know your State’s requirements.
Have you thought about forming a Limited Liability Corporation to further protect yourself in the event of a claim against you? You should discuss this with your attorney and tax-preparer so you know what the requirements and costs that are involved.
Do you have employees? Some barns allow clients to clean stalls in exchange for lower board or reduced lesson rates. Liability policies will exclude an employee from coverage if they are hurt in the course of their employment. And just because money doesn’t change hands doesn’t mean they are not an employee.
What about those of you who are dealing with the general public who are sometimes non-horse people? Do you give pony rides, do pony birthday parties, rent your horses by the hour for trail riding? These are areas that require specialized policies. You can find a few agencies/companies that are writing this type of insurance.
How about your homeowner’s policy? Does it exclude coverage on any building used in a business? If you don’t have an equine-specific policy, you could be lacking in very important coverage—including fire/storm damage to your barn.
Are your barns insured to the proper value? Some homeowner’s policies are insuring the barns at a percentage of the house value but most horse barns need to be valued higher than that. An equine-specific insurance agent will help you determine the replacement cost of your house and buildings.
There are many companies offering equine-specific policies for your home and buildings. They may be more expensive than your current policy but you’ll have the peace of mind knowing that if there is damage or an injury, you have the right coverage.
The last piece of advice—run your equine operation as a business. As much as you love your horses and enjoy working with other horses and people, you are running a business. If someone gets hurt (even a good friend), they could make a claim against you. Everyone who will be around the horses should be treated the same and sign release forms—whether they are relatives, friends, boarders or students. You should have rules written out and posted—and be sure to enforce them with everyone.
As a horse owner or a horse business person, you have a lot of responsibility. Equine insurance agencies are here to help you get the right coverage at the right price so you have peace of mind.
For peace of mind, give Susan Strawers, owner of Fry’s Equine Insurance a call at 800/842-9021 or send her an email at Susan@FrysEquineInsurance.com. She will take the time to listen to you and help you purchase the policy that is right for you. www.FrysEquineInsurance.com.