Got it covered | TSLN.com

Got it covered

Amy McLean
for Tri-State Livestock News

Horses can be expensive. When considering the costs associated with owning a horse the initial purchase price of a horse maybe one of the least expensive aspects. Major costs associated with owning a horse are generally due to daily up keep (nutrition, farrier work and general vet care) plus the added burden of more vet bills if the horse becomes injured or ill.

Additionally, many owners choose to insure their horse(s). Similar to car insurance, the different policies essentially help cover your equine investment. When considering equine insurance consider which of the six types of policies would best suit your needs: 1) major medical, 2) surgical, 3) loss of use, 4) mortality (full), 5) limited mortality and 6) liability.

Major medical policies will help cover various diagnostic exams like ultrasounds or radiographs performed by veterinarians when trying to find the cause of lameness, for example. A major medical policy including surgery would only cover surgery. When selecting a major medical policy, the horse owner needs to consider how much the policy will cover or pay such as $7,500 vs $10,000 and how much is needed. If the rider will be competing in an event in which lameness may result from the wear and tear on the horse's limbs, a different policy will be needed than for a horse that is somewhat hot natured and may easily be prone to colic.

So, if you are competing on a horse or using a horse on your ranch that's helping you earn your annual income, it may pay to have a policy that includes a higher amount of coverage for both diagnostic and treatment (major medical) plus surgery. There are differences between equine insurance and human insurance, for example, if your horse needed a series of radiographs and then a surgery on its lower leg, you would be expected to pay out of pocket and then wait for re-imbursement from the company, rather than the veterinarian's office contacting the insurance company for payment like human hospitals and clinics do.

The amount of coverage should reflect the overall value of the horse. Then increased coverage might be considered, depending on the likelihood of injury. So, if someone competes heavily or uses his or her horse daily or hauls long distances regularly to shows or rodeos then a policy with a higher amount of major medical might be a good idea. Horses used for competition or daily ranch work probably should consider major medical insurance. Granted, if the horse is used more seasonally for recreational riding and overall is less likely to become injured then this policy may not be necessary or could be purchased at a lower rate with less coverage. Also, if the horse does need surgery or constant medical attention for one season or year, the insurance company the following year may not cover colic surgery or soundness diagnostics again – it depends on the company.

Mortality insurance is usually based on the value of the horse. Horses worth less than $25,000 generally do not need a veterinarian exam or documentation justifying their worth but this could vary depending on the provider. Some people will base the mortality worth on the initial purchase price but horse owners should consider how much the horse has won or how much he may contribute to your livelihood. Consider the purchase price of your horse, or the estimated sale value, but also think about what it would cost to replace him – that is probably the amount you will want to insure him for. Full mortality policies are associated with major medical policies. However, if you choose a policy that does not include major medical then a limited mortality policy is an option. Most people consider purchasing a limited mortality policy to cover a disaster like a vehicle accident while transporting a new horse. Limited mortality only pays the owner the value of the horse and does not cover any expenses associated with trying to treat or prevent the death of the horse.

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Another type of insurance is loss of use for cases where someone depends on the horse's performance to make a living or they own a stallion for breeding purposes. Such a policy could insure or cover the horse if he becomes lame and say can no longer be roped on or if the stallion can no longer reproduce or breed. Keep in mind the policy-holder will have to prove that the horse can no longer be used for its event or purpose and this can often be difficult. Also, some companies may either require a person to euthanize the horse after the claim is processed or they may take possession of the horse and then can do whatever they wish with the horse afterwards. Many people have the misconception the horse will retire or live out its life once collecting on such a policy but generally that's not how it works.

Last but not least personal liability insurance is another option. This type of policy will cover the event in which a horse hurts someone or someone's property. For someone operating a riding stable or dude ranch this may be a good option. Some homeowner's insurance policies will also cover such events and some state laws may protect you and your horse to a degree. Because this insurance, is uniquely related to the horse's behavior or actions versus health it may be best to talk with the insurance agent about the use of the horse and the likeness that he might kick someone or hurt them in some other manner.

No different than when shopping for other kinds of insurance, a person should compare company coverage options, rates, method for determining rates, deductibles and manner of payment, along with the value of the horse. The cost of the insurance will be based on a percentage rate associated with the amount you think your horse is worth along with how much coverage you want. Not surprisingly, generally, the more the horse is worth the more it will cost to insure him. Most premiums also increase as a horse ages past 15 years. Again, talk with the insurance agent about how the horse is used and the potential risks he horse could be exposed to.

Remember, sometimes "it's not what you know, it's who you know." Horse owners might want to rely on experts such as veterinarians and other horse professionals (including other horse owners) to offer suggestions or advice regarding insurance companies and/or particular agents – how well and quickly they pay, how much and what kinds of documentation they require, how easy they are to contact and work with in general. Some horse owners will decide that insurance is not necessary and may not be right for their situation but for someone who depends on his or her horse to make a living, equine insurance may be a wise choice.