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Insuring Your Horse - Commonly Asked Questions

In talking to prospective clients every day, a lot of the same questions come up and I thought I would share some of the more common in this blog.

1.       1. I just bought a horse that is already insured, does his policy just automatically transfer to me?

OR

I just sold my horse and he’s insured. Will his policy just automatically transfer to his new owner?

Most likely, the answer is no. Your insurance policy on a horse you own is only in effect while you have an insurable interest in the horse. Just like if you sold your car, the insurance on the car would not automatically transfer to the new owner, the same is true of a horse. So if you’re in the process of purchasing a new horse and want to make sure there is no lapse in coverage between the current owner’s policy and you, it’s a good idea to get all the paperwork for your new policy in order prior to the purchase so you can make coverage effective the day of the sale.

2.       My horse isn’t registered – can I still insure him?  What type of identification can I use?

If your horse isn’t registered, you can use a microchip number if one is available. If not, then photos can be used as identification. Typically a front and side view is all that’s necessary, and if you need a few days to get those to us, that’s fine, we can still see about getting coverage started pending receipt of the photos. And with just about everyone having a Smart Phone these days (and let's face it, we all love taking photos of our horses), emailing photos to us should hopefully be easy for you.

3.      Do you need a copy of the Bill of Sale to get coverage started on my new horse?

No. We do not need a copy of the bill of sale for our records, but you definitely want to keep that document on file, because in the event of a Mortality claim, the claims adjuster will ask you for proof of the sale and purchase price.  They may also ask for proof of the purchase, such as a cancelled check, or wire transfer.

4.       Can I just call and insure my horse over the phone?

This depends on the agency and/or insurance company. At Broadstone, we do require an application to be completed by the horse owner (or lessee if the horse is being leased). The application asks for very important information with regard to the horse and the coverages that you want, and we feel it is best that we have that information in writing from you so there are no misunderstandings.

That said, we make the paperwork as easy as possible. The application can be completed and signed as a fillable PDF and then emailed to us. Or completed by hand and scanned/emailed, faxed, or even sent as a picture from your smart phone – as long as we can read the application (and all the questions are answered) and it is signed/dated by you, we should be able to work with it.

In some instances (though not many) we may also need a current vet certificate or copy of the pre-purchase exam. See the next question for details. And if the horse is being leased, we will also need a copy of the Lease Agreement.

5.       Do I have to pay a vet to examine the horse before I can get him insured?

In most cases, for sound and healthy horeses, you do not.  That said, you will definitely need a current vet certificate (or copy of the pre-purchase exam for a recent purchase) for horses to be insured for over a certain value (typically $50,000- $100,000; or ages under 6 months or over 15 or 16 (depending on the company). Something from the vet may also be necessary if the horse has had a recent injury or illness that the underwriter would like addressed. In addition, with one company that Broadstone works with, if you have not known the horse for at least 30 days, a vet certificate will also be required.

6.       If I have a claim, my horse won’t be insurable any more, right?

In the great majority of cases, a claim does not make a horse uninsurable. Typically when the policy is due to renew, the underwriter will review the details of the claim and determine if they will offer renewal (which they usually will), and if so, if any exclusions will apply at renewal. Horse insurance policies are 12-month term policies, and are underwritten every year.  So issues that occur during the policy period can be considered pre-existing, and therefore excluded, on the next year’s policy.  This can be confusing, as it is unlike human health insurance policies, so you will want to talk to your agent to make sure you understand the renewal process and any exclusions.

7.       OK, then if my horse has a minor leg injury, the whole leg is going to be excluded forever, right?

In most cases, this would not be the case. Providing the injury has been diagnosed and the underwriters have sufficient information to work with, they will typically exclude for the injury that has occurred, such as deep digital flexor tendon - right front, not the whole right front leg. Exclusions vary depending on the situation, but the underwriters do try to be as specific as is reasonably possible.

8.       I had a friend who walked into her barn one morning, and found her horse lying dead in the pasture. She said that the insurance company required a necropsy.  Is a necropsy always required?  If so, do I have to pay for it?

If you are unfortunate enough to be in a situation, you first want to give the insurance company’s claims office a call. They can then advise you on how to follow the provisions of the policy to ensure the best result. If the horse was previously healthy and the death is unexpected, then a necropsy will definitely be required, and those costs are not covered by your policy, so you would pay out of pocket.  If the horse had been ill/injured and under a vet’s care, there is the possibility that a necropsy may not be necessary, if the cause of death is definitive, but that will be determined by the insurance company depending on the specifics of the case.

If you find yourself in this situation—do not dispose of the horse’s body without contacting the insurance company and determining if a necropsy is required, otherwise you will void coverage under your policy. Claims adjusters are available around the clock, including nights and weekends, and will do their best to help you through a heartbreaking situation.

9.       My horse was a little girthy and grumpy. The vet thought it might be gastric ulcers, so we just gave him a course of medication without actually doing any diagnostics. Would that be covered under my Major Medical/Surgical coverage?

Most likely, this would not be covered. It is very likely that the insurance company will require a definitive diagnosis of gastric ulcers by an endoscopic exam before they cover the costs of the medication to treat the ulcers. If your vet suspects that your horse has ulcers and wants to treat without an endoscopic exam, before starting treatment you should contact your insurance company and consult with an adjuster to determine what the company will require in order for coverage to respond.

10.   I don’t know what limit of Major Medical/Surgical coverage I should get. Any advice?

This question comes up quite often, and the answer varies based on what limits are even available (some companies will not offer a Major Medical/Surgical limit higher than the horse’s insured value on the Mortality policy), your budget, your comfort level, and past history. Some people want the peace of mind to know that a worst case scenario will be covered as much as possible, and therefore will purchase the highest limit of coverage possible. Other people would rather save some money and purchase a lower limit, hedging their bets that hopefully they won’t need the coverage, or if they do, it won’t be for a catastrophic scenario. And that even if that worst case scenario happens, they feel comfortable that they have the funds (or credit card balance) to handle expenses not covered by insurance. And for those horseowners who have experienced an unfortunate run of luck with a previous horse, their past history often informs their decisions and they will want a high limit. In my experience, the $7,500 and $10,000 limits are most popular, but those may not be suitable for you, especially if you’re concerned about a worst case scenario.

11.   I just bought my horse, but I think I may want to save some money on the premium and insure him for less than the purchase price. What do most people do in that situation?

Generally most people insure a new horse for its purchase price, but certainly not always. Just keep in mind that the process of introducing a horse to a new location, new feed, new barn mates, turnout, etc., can be a little tricky. Most likely no damage will be done in those first days and weeks, but change can be difficult for some horses. Like with Major Medical/Surgical limits, how much you insure your horse for is a very personal decision, and will be based on your budget, your comfort level, and past history. Also, take into consideration that if heaven forbid your horse dies, and you have insured for considerably less than his purchase price, are you able to afford to absorb that financial loss?  

12.   I’ve had a bad experience in the past with a horse that had colic surgery. There were serious complications and he died. I would not put another horse through that. So if I insure my horse and he colics, and I choose to put him down instead of surgery (or because I don’t allow surgery, he dies as a result), would my Mortality policy still cover.

Probably not. When you purchase an insurance policy, you have made an agreement with an insurance company, and one of you responsibilities is to provide the horse with the care necessary to save its life. If the veterinarians recommend surgery (or other treatments) in order to save the horse, and you choose not to pursue those treatments resulting in the horse's death or you choose to euthanize the horse, most likely the policy will not respond. Now, if your vet recommends euthanasia, this would be a different set of circumstances, as the policy does cover for humane destruction, providing it meets the requirements. If you find yourself in this situation, make sure to contact the insurance company’s claims office and work with an adjuster to determine how the policy will respond.

To get more information on insuring your horse, go to the Broadstone FAQs and Protect Your Horse pages. To see about getting a free quote, go to the Broadstone Quote page.

**These blogs are for basic information purposes only, and do not constitute advice from Broadstone Equine Insurance Agency. Contact our office directly at 888-687-8555 or info@BroadstoneEquine.com to speak with an agent for complete and current information regarding all coverages.

Horse Insurance 101

Let's face it, insurance falls way to the bottom of the list of topics any horse owner wants to talk about.  Discussing worst case scenarios doesn't exactly make for enjoyable barn aisle or ringside small talk.  Unfortunately, as in many areas of life, what you don't know can hurt you.

So without being too morbid, but in the interest of helping you protect your investments--following is some information that might help you consider putting "Get Horse Insurance" on your to-do list.  

The Basics
The basic idea behind insurance is that you are paying a fee to an insurance company in order to transfer your risk of a possible loss to them, and the fee you are paying is significantly less than the amount the company has agreed to pay you in the event such a loss happens.  So, if you cannot afford to replace your horse in the event of a loss, or even more important for many of us, if you cannot afford the costs of veterinary care in the event your horse suffers a serious illness or injury, insurance can be a cost effective way to mitigate your risk.

For many of us, our horses are best friends and family, and we absolutely do not want to be in a situation where financial considerations dictate the quality of care that we're able to provide.  Or, even if you have the funds on hand to absorb these losses, you may still choose to invest a much smaller amount each year on insurance premiums so that you are not forced to tap into your savings if the unexpected happens.

The Experts

Deciding what coverage to purchase is quite important.  While the basics are similar, the actual coverages vary depending on which insurance company provides it.  The number of insurance companies in the U.S. that offer horse insurance policies barely reaches into the double digits, though the number of agencies (the organizations that you will usually work with to see about getting coverage) is far higher.  Therefore the insurance agency you work with is very important.

It can be helpful if they have access to more than one company's programs so they have options to find a policy that fits you best, from both a cost and coverage standpoint.  Look for someone who is willing to answer your questions promptly and clearly, responds to emails and voice mails in a timely manner, and will provide you with a binder as proof of coverage until the actual insurance policy is mailed to you.  And most important--find an agent who is also an experienced horse person.  They need to know combined driving from combined training, and OCD from EPM. You want someone who understands your passion.  

Full Mortality Insurance

When it comes to horse insurance, there are several options. For the purposes of this blog, I will concentrate on the two most common:  Full Mortality and Major Medical/Surgical.  The equine Full Mortality policy is the equivalent of life insurance for your horse. It provides coverage in the event the insured horse dies during the policy period from a covered accident, injury, illness, or disease, and includes coverage for humane destruction, and usually has limited coverage for theft.

Depending on the insurance company, Full Mortality coverage is available for horses ranging in age from 24 hours up to 20 years old. Premiums are based on the horse's age, breed, use, level, and insured value.   The rates for Full Mortality coverage for the average pleasure or competition horse--uses that would include English/Western Show, Dressage, Hunter/Jumper, Cutting, Reining, Roping, Barrels--age 1-15 years, generally range from 2.9%-3.6% of the horse's insured value. So the Mortality premium for a horse in that age range insured at a value of $10,000 would average between $290 - $360 a year. Rates for some uses, such as eventing, fox hunting, and endurance, are usually slightly higher, from 3.7% - 4.5%, so still reasonable.   

Typically the Full Mortality policy also includes a free Emergency Colic Surgery endorsement (for horses without a colic history) of up to $2,500-$5,000, depending on the horse's insured value and the insurance company offering the coverage.  Full Mortality coverage is very comprehensive, but exact coverage terms vary by company. Common exclusions (reasons that could cause a claim to be denied) include, but are not limited to: pre-existing conditions, purposely harming the horse, not utilizing the services of a licensed veterinarian, late reporting of a loss, and some pretty farfetched possibilities such as war, destruction of the horse due to government order, and nuclear radiation.

In addition, you must contact the insurance company immediately in the event of a loss, and follow their instructions with regard to the submission of paperwork and the possibility of the need for a necropsy, the cost of which would not be reimbursed.

Major Medical/Surgical
This is the most popular coverage that horseowners add by endorsement to their Full Mortality policy, and is not available on a standalone basis. It helps reimburse for covered veterinary expenses (medical and/or surgical) in the event the horse suffers a covered accident, injury, illness, or disease during the policy period.  For as little as an additional $200 annual premium (depending on the insurance company), the endorsement can provide for an annual aggregate limit of $5,000 for the policy period, with deductibles as low as $300 per claim.  Higher annual limits of $7,500, $10,000, $12,500 and $15,000 are also available with many companies, with varying deductibles, and annual premiums ranging from $300 to $675 or higher. 

Major Medical/Surgical does not provide for routine health maintenance or preventative care such vaccinations, deworming, dental or farrier care. Other common exclusions (though this is not an exhaustive list) include: pre-existing conditions, elective or cosmetic surgery, performance enhancing treatments, joint injections, integrative therapies (such as chiropractic, massage and acupuncture), the veterinarian's call charge, or transportation costs.   

So if your horse colics, founders, runs through a fence, gets kicked, develops a lameness, or suffers many of the other countless injuries or illnesses that can keep you up at night, Major Medical/Surgical should help reimburse for covered expenses after the deductible is met.  The actual coverage details vary depending on the insurance company, so it's a good idea to educate yourself about exclusions, co-pays or co-insurance (especially for diagnostic tests, and treatments such as shock wave and regenerative therapies), treatment time limits, and extension periods.

Think your horse wouldn't be a candidate for Major Medical/Surgical because he is used for just pleasure and/or you only paid a couple hundred or a couple thousand dollars for him? While some companies will not offer the coverage on lower valued horses, there are a few that do not have restrictions on the amount of Major Medical/Surgical coverage they will offer, regardless of the horse's insured value on the Full Mortality policy, and Broadstone is happy to represent one of those companies.

For more information on Full Mortality and Major Medical/Surgical coverages, go to the Broadstone Protect Your Horse, FAQs, and Get a Quote pages. 

Caveat Emptor
A few "let the buyer beware" items for consideration.  Horse insurance is very different from human health insurance.  For example, pre-existing conditions are not covered, even if the horse was insured when it first contracted the disease or condition.  So, if for example your horse develops a lameness or requires colic surgery while he's insured, expect to see an exclusion for that health issue on the next year's policy when you renew. This is because the policies are reviewed and underwritten each year, therefore the condition would be considered pre-existing and therefore excluded on the new policy.

That being said, there are typically extension periods built into the policy for issues that continue beyond the policy's expiration.  Also, as mentioned earlier, it is very important that you contact the insurance company as soon as a health issue presents itself. The policy requires it, and you could jeopardize your coverage if you fail to promptly report the issue. It is also in your best interest to do so because the claims adjuster can explain your coverage in detail so you can work with your vet and make a plan with that information in mind.

Something to Think About
There is no doubt that pondering all the worst case scenarios of horse ownership is uncomfortable at best, nightmare inducing at worst, which is another reason to consider insurance. Knowing that you're covered in case of the unthinkable buys you more than financial security. It also gives your peace of mind.

**These blogs are for basic information purposes only, and do not constitute advice from Broadstone Equine Insurance Agency. Contact our office directly at 888-687-8555 or info@BroadstoneEquine.com to speak with an agent for complete and current information regarding all coverages.

 

Five Tips to Help Ensure a Smooth Claims Process

Occasionally when a potential new client calls to find out about insuring their horse, they are already a bit hesitant because they’ve heard horror stories of claims not being covered, and they want to know, in the words of a recent potential client who was considering insuring her horse and asked me, “Is this whole horse insurance thing is just a scam.”

My answer is, in a word, “No.” And I say that after nearly two decades in the industry, with literally thousands of claims paid.  I would not be involved in an industry that did not take care of my clients, and their horses, nor would I be in business with companies that don’t keep their word as to the contracts they make with their customers.

That being said, of course not every claim is paid, or paid to the extent that the client would like. And in my experience, in these instances it is not a case of an insurance company following the philosophy of “deny, deny, deny” that I think a lot of us have experienced at some point  in human health insurance.  Instead, since I often get involved in these situations to see if there’s anything I can do to assist my client, generally either the denial is justified due to issues of pre-existing conditions, or there have been missteps by the policy holder in not following the policy requirements when it comes to the reporting and handling of the claims process.

In saying that, I am not trying to blame the victim. Genuine mistakes can be made during the claims process, and it has also been my experience that when that happens, the insurance companies are usually reasonable in their responses. I would not expect that they would deny a Major Medical claim because you didn’t report the injury the very moment it happened, or because you forgot to sign a required form when you sent them your documents. But they still must ensure the policy terms are met.

So, in the interest of making the claims process as smooth as possible, here are some tips:

1)      Be thorough when completing the initial insurance paperwork when you first insure your horse

When first insuring your horse, you’ll be asked to complete an application. Answer the questions honestly, and completely. If your horse has suffered any illnesses, injuries, accidents, diseases, or other health issues, make sure you indicate those on the application. And no sugar coating.   A bowed tendon with a core lesion is not a slight strain.  Any sort of “belly ache” is actually colic. Try to avoid a semantic debate as to what constitutes “colic”. Was the horse uncomfortable, not eating, in abdominal distress?   It was colic, even if it resolved itself in a few hours with some handwalking and Banamine, so give that information on the application.

The more honest you are during the application process, the less problems you will encounter later.  Yes, some issues will be considered pre-existing and therefore excluded, but the underwriters are reasonable when assessing the information you provide.  Going back to the subject of colic, if your previously colic-free horse had a mild, isolated, medical colic 6 months ago that was treated at the barn without incident, it is very doubtful that a colic exclusion would apply to your new policy (though it is possible that the free Emergency Colic Surgery endorsement that is typically attached to the Mortality policy would be considered void because for that free coverage to apply, for many companies, the horse must have been colic-free for at least the prior 12 months). 

Back to the mild, isolated colic 6 months ago -- if you do not report that colic episode on your application, and then while your horse is insured, he colics again, you could be jeopardizing your coverage due to the non-reporting of a prior health issue.

And yes, some conditions will always be excluded, such as colic if the episode was recent, if there have been multiple episodes, or a surgery that required a resection. Also exclusions can be expected for anything degenerative, chronic,  incurable, or likely to reoccur, such as (this is not an exhaustive list): arthritis, navicular, chronic respiratory conditions, heart murmurs, uveitis, or laminitis. These horses, providing they are otherwise sound and healthy, are generally insurable, but these conditions or issues relating to them, would be excluded.

2.            Promptly report any non-emergency health issues

Your policy requires you to “immediately” report any non-routine veterinary care that your horse receives during the policy period.  Now, that doesn’t mean the moment your horse takes a funny step or has a minor cut or bruise that you need to call the 800 number on your policy, but you certainly want to call sooner rather than later, with the emphasis on “sooner.”  Failure to promptly report a claim could jeopardize your coverage.

Oftentimes clients worry that the reverse is true--that reporting that something is wrong with their horse will jeopardize their coverage. This is not the case. First, reporting is required by the policy. But beyond that, by getting in touch with a claims adjuster, the adjuster can best advise you as to how your coverage works, what’s covered, what’s not, for how long, etc.  This will allow you to work with your veterinarian and the adjuster as you navigate the process. And if you’re lucky enough that whatever issue you’re dealing with turns out to be minor, then the file can be closed and everybody wins. But if the situation turns serious and complicated, then you will have established a dialogue with the adjuster that should help you throughout the process.

3.            Call Immediately in an Emergency Situations Such as Surgery, Euthanasia, and Death

As much as we hate to think about it, unfortunately you could find yourself in a situation with a seriously ill horse, or even worse, walk into the barn one morning to find that your horse has passed away during the night. As terrifying and heartbreaking as these situations can be, it is very important that you contact the insurance company’s emergency number immediately so that the adjuster can advise you as to what steps to follow.

If you are considering euthanasia, it is vital that you contact the insurance company before taking that step, as failure to contact the insurance company and follow the other policy requirements could jeopardize your coverage. The adjuster will need to consult with you and your veterinarian to determine if the horse meets the policy terms for humane destruction, keeping in mind that the policy does not cover putting the horse down for anything other than humane reasons (and would still not cover if this humane destruction was due to a condition that was excluded by the policy).

This means that putting the horse down for financial or philosophical reasons is not covered.  For example, if your veterinarian recommends colic surgery to save the horse’s life, and you choose not to approve surgery due to financial, philosophical, or other reasons, and the horse dies as a result, or you put the horse down instead, then you can expect that you will have voided your Mortality (life insurance) policy. This is because the insurance Mortality policy is a contract between you and the insurance company, and each party is expected to meet certain requirements. For the policy holder (horse owner), that means following the recommendations made by the veterinarian to save the horse’s life. You certainly have the right to take whatever steps you feel are best for you and your horse, but keep in mind that not following the policy requirements can nullify the insurance contract.

Also keep in mind that putting a horse down because it is no longer able to be used in your sport, or is no longer rideable (but is still able to comfortably be a horse, hanging out in a pasture or trail riding occassionally), is also not covered – as again, this would not be considered humane destruction.

If you find yourself in a worst case scenario and either you (or third parties) are with your horse when it unexpectedly dies, or you walk into the barn to find that the horse has passed away, as hard as it is to focus on something that at the time feels as inconsequential as your insurance policy, it is very important that you immediately call the insurance company.  The adjuster will do their best to keep things as simple as possible, but unfortunately there are certain protocols that must be followed regarding the adjuster determining the circumstances of the horse’s death, talking to your veterinarian, and possibly arranging for a necropsy.  For these reasons, it is vitally important that you do not dispose of the horse’s body. Again, doing so could jeopardize your coverage. 

4.            Be thorough when completing Renewal paperwork

On a more positive subject, hopefully you’ve had a relatively drama-free year and the expiration date of your policy is coming up. Horse insurance policies are underwritten each year, so in most cases about a month before the expiration of your policy, you will receive renewal instructions and a renewal application, which is usually a very abbreviated form with just a few questions.

It is very important that you complete this renewal application just as thoroughly as you completed your initial application.  This is because health issues that have occurred over the past year need to be assessed by the underwriters so they can determine whether or not an exclusion will apply on the next year’s policy. 

Going back to item 2 above, hopefully you will have reported any health issues to the claims office when they occurred.  If you have, then make sure to still give this information on the renewal application – basics such as the approximate date of occurrence, diagnosis, treatment, and how the horse is currently doing. The underwriter should have access to this information, at least the first three items, but they will still want a summary from you, and they will also want a current status. 

Now, if you have not reported a health issue that occurred during the policy, you definitely need to do so on the application (and should really also call the company to report the issue) and give as much specific detail as possible:  Date of onset, diagnostics that were done, diagnosis given, treatment, prognosis, and the horse’s current health status. When the underwriter reviews this information, they may ask for additional information from you and your vet, such as discharge papers, invoices, a statement from your vet, or an entirely new, current vet certificate – it will depend on the severity and timing of the health issue.

Again, like with the initial application, do not sugar coat (or worse, omit completely) any information.  It’s very important that you be honest and thorough, so that the underwriter can do their job, and so you don’t run into problems in the future.

5              Take a Deep Breath

Dealing with a sick or injured horse, or worse, the loss of a horse, can be incredibly stressful and painful. Adding paperwork and phone calls with claims adjusters certainly does not improve the situation.  So, take a deep breath, and allow yourself to feel the fear and the frustration, and then allow the claims adjuster to help you with the process of sorting through the details.  They are all horse people who understand your situation, and they are also professionals who will do their best to make the process as smooth as possible. 

Hopefully this entry will help you avoid adding more stress to that process, and fingers crossed, this is advice you will never need.

 

***

For more information on insuring your horse, check out the Broadstone Protect Your Horse, and FAQs pages, and for a free, online quote, click on the Quote page.

**These blogs are for basic information purposes only, and do not constitute advice from Broadstone Equine Insurance Agency. Contact our office directly at 888-687-8555 or info@BroadstoneEquine.com to speak with an agent for complete and current information regarding all coverages.

 

My Least Favorite Cliché

“Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.”

The idea is that it's rude to closely inspect a gift to see if it meets your standards, such as checking the gift horse’s teeth to determine its age.  To extrapolate from that idea, I am amazed at how many people purchase a horse without doing any sort of pre-purchase exam, or if they do some sort of vetting, it’s pretty much just a cursory one.  And typically the reason they give is because the horse was either a gift, or very inexpensive, such as an off-the-track Thoroughbred or a rescue.  Or even stranger, they will spend thousands of dollars on a horse, but not invest at least a few hundred more for at least a somewhat thorough vet exam.

Cost is typically the reason they give.  They had already spent $XYZ to buy the horse, and maybe to pay the trainer acting as their agent, transport the horse, etc., and they didn’t want to have to add to that ever-growing dollar figure. 

But I can promise you this – I truly believe there is not a more important investment you can make than a thorough pre-purchase exam.  Just like there is “no such thing as a free lunch” (one of my favorite clichés), there is no such thing as a free horse.  Or a cheap horse.  Even if the horse is perfectly sound for the rest of its life, there are still so many expenses, from feed/hay, regular farrier work, basic preventative veterinary care, not to mention tack, equipment, lessons or training, etc.  that need to be taken into consideration.  If you cannot afford to give your prospective new horse at least that standard of care, you should rethink the idea of purchasing a horse and maybe consider leasing, until you’re sure you are up to the financial (and emotional) commitment of horse ownership.

Providing you are ready for that commitment, are you ready to shell out potentially thousands of dollars if the horse develops some sort of illness or lameness?  The least of your problems will be the inconvenience of time out of the saddle and show ring, when you find yourself staring down an invoice for a couple thousand dollars for diagnostics and treatment. And if that treatment isn’t successful, the end result could be a horse that was supposed to spend years with you in the show ring, or out on cross-country, or hunting, or on the trails, that instead spends the rest of its years hanging out as a pasture ornament. Surely, the cost of a thorough pre-purchase exam would have been worth it.

And by thorough, I mean more than just a cursory 15-minute, vital-organs-are-in-working-order exam.  Yes, you certainly want to make sure that those vital organs are fully functional – no heart murmurs, respiratory problems, or eye issues.  But beyond that you will want a complete neurological exam (to check for any signs of illnesses such as EPM), skin exam (looking for tumors and growths), and maybe even an endoscopic exam if you are concerned about gastric ulcers.  Then, you want to make sure to request a comprehensive soundness evaluation that includes hoof testers, flexion tests, and the vet watching the horse at all gaits on the lunge and under saddle.  After that, radiographs are imperative.   Even if the horse never took a bad step up to that point of the evaluation, there could still be potential problems lurking in those joints, such as OCD, bone chips, navicular changes, arthritic changes, and evidence of prior injuries.  Digital X-rays run between $50-$100 per view, and yes that will add up, but again, the cost will be well worth if you catch an issue that puts the kibosh on the sale.

Also, if there is any evidence of prior soft tissue injuries, such as thickening or swelling of tendons or ligaments, you will want an ultrasound exam of those areas to make sure any prior injuries are cold and unresponsive, and won’t present concerns for the future.

After all of this is done, keep in mind that you will need to be realistic with regard to the results. Very few horses, especially those with some mileage, will pass a pre-purchase exam with flying colors.  It is very likely there will be some dings here and there, at which point you need to discuss with your veterinarian (and possibly a second veterinarian who you can send the radiographs to for a consultation), trainer, and other professionals as to which of these lumps and bumps are acceptable, especially taking into consideration your plans for this horse’s future.  If you’re looking at an hour-long trail ride a couple times a week, then your threshold for some minor issues is much higher than someone who is looking at a long-term competition prospect that will be in serious work for many years to come. 

The moral of this story?  Learn from the mistakes of many horseowners who came before you:  Don’t be cheap, even when buying a cheap horse.  Making the initial investment during the buying process will save you future financial pain and heartbreak.  You can take that to the bank.

And of course, once you’ve found the horse of your dreams, consider protecting that financial investment by putting an insurance policy in place.  To find out more, go to Broadstone’s Protect Your Horse, FAQs, and Quote pages. 

**These blogs are for basic information purposes only, and do not constitute advice from Broadstone Equine Insurance Agency. Contact our office directly at 888-687-8555 or info@BroadstoneEquine.com to speak with an agent for complete and current information regarding all coverages.

 

 

Making Sense of Recent Changes to Major Medical/Surgical Coverage

There are a lot of changes happening in today’s equine insurance market, and a few of those impact horse owners in significant ways, so I thought I would address one specific area – Major Medical/Surgical coverage.

In the last several years, due in large part to drastically rising claims costs—most significantly related to Major Medical/Surgical claims—insurance companies throughout the U.S. have made changes to their Major Medical/Surgical coverages. These changes range from the easily understood increases in premiums and deductibles, and additions of co-pays and coverage sub-limits, to only allowing Major Medical/Surgical coverage on horses valued at certain amounts, or restricting the limit of coverage based on the horse’s insured value.  In the following blog, I’ll try to address these areas in more detail.

First, while the knee jerk reaction by many consumers is to feel that with these changes the insurance company is trying to take advantage or rack up huge profits, to my knowledge, this is not the case.  Over the last decade or so there have been great strides in veterinary medicine, from the availability and types of diagnostic tools, to high tech and more effective treatments for lamenesses and illnesses. This is great news for horseowners around the world. The sooner we can diagnose a problem, and the more advanced our treatment options, the better chance we have for our horse’s full recovery.

Of course, along with those technological advances come increased costs, and this is where over time the insurance companies that offer Major Medical/Surgical have seen an increasing tide of claims expenses coming their way, enough so that changes become necessary if the companies are going to be able to continue to offer the coverage.

What do you mean, my horse isn’t worth enough to have Major Medical/Surgical coverage?!?!

This is a question being asked by many horseowner’s these days, even those whose horses have been insured for years. The great majority of companies have instituted minimum value requirements for horses to be eligible for Major Medical/Surgical coverage, therefore with these companies if you have a lower valued horse, you may just have no options for this sort of coverage (with these companies – see below for others that may be more accommodating).

With other companies, they will not pay out an amount under the Major Medical/Surgical endorsement that is higher than the horse’s insured value.  Which would mean that if the lowest limit of Major Medical/Surgical that the company offers is $7,500, but you have a pleasure horse worth less than that  amount, such as $5,000, then you would expect that $5,000 would be the maximum the Major Medical/Surgical endorsement would pay out during the policy period, even if the actual annual limit (and the amount of coverage that you paid for) was $7,500. In this situation, you could try to see about increasing the horse’s insured value to $7,500 in order to get the full benefit of the Major Medical/Surgical limit, but this will of course result in a higher premium, or may not be possible if you cannot substantiate an increased value on the horse.

**Broadstone does work with one company that has no restrictions regarding the amount of Major Medical/Surgical coverage in relation to the horse’s insured value. Providing the horse otherwise meets the required underwriting criteria, you could insure the horse for just $1,000, and still have anywhere from $5,000 to possibly up to $15,000 of Major Medical/Surgical coverage.  Go here for a Quote.

This can be especially useful if you have recently purchased a horse, such as an off-the-track-Thoroughbred, for an inexpensive amount.  Or if you adopted or were gifted a horse.  In these cases, you will likely still want the protection of Major Medical/Surgical coverage, and we should be able to help you achieve that.

What about diagnostics?  They are getting more and more expensive, and now the insurance companies are making me pay out of pocket.

Most all companies these days require a co-pay or co-insurance, often specifically with regard to diagnostic testing.  Basically this usually means that you will be responsible to pay a percentage of certain expenses out-of-pocket (though talk to your agent for specifics).  With some companies, this percentage may be restricted to the type of diagnostic test, for others, it will be across the board for all diagnostics. And for other companies, there might be a co-insurance on all expenses, not just diagnostics--again, talk to your agent for details.

We currently work with two companies that handle diagnostics in different ways. One applies the percentage out-of-pocket to only certain types of diagnostics, which can be a good compromise. The other requires a percentage to be paid by the insured for all diagnostics, but interestingly, they will allow  the insured to pay an additional premium to waive that diagnostic co-insurance clause, which is a rare option in today’s marketplace. So if you are particularly concerned about the potential costs of diagnostic tests of all kinds and willing to pay an additional premium, providing your horse otherwise meets the underwriting criteria (this company has a minimum value requirement), you could potentially see about waiving the diagnostic co-insurance clause.

What about older horses?  I heard that I can't get Major Medical/Surgical coverage on my 15-year-old horse?

Actually most companies will offer Major Medical/Surgical coverage for horses through the ages of 18-20, though rates for the Full Mortality coverage generally begin to increase at around 15 or 16, so the Mortality premiums will increase. In addition, the limits of Major Medical/Surgical available for older horses may change over time.

With all these changes to the Major Medical/Surgical coverage, is it really even worth it?

For me, the quick answer is a resounding “Yes!”  Having been in the industry for much of two decades, I have seen simple hoof abscesses turn into surgery, and unexpected illnesses result in a week of hospitalization, not to mention the usual colics, lamenesses, and injuries– and all of these easily and quickly add up to thousands in expenses. Insurance is a bit of a hedging of bets, so yes, you could pay a premium that you will never recoup. But for all intents and purposes, that would be the best case scenario. If you do need to use your coverage, while there will be (and always have been) deductibles and possibly co-insurance and other coverage requirements that will not reimburse you for every dollar of expense, having Major Medical/Surgical coverage can allow you to handle as many expenses as possible in your horse’s road to recovery.

For more information, go to our Protect Your Horse and FAQs pages, and to get a free, online quote, visit our Quote page.

**These blogs are for basic information purposes only, and do not constitute advice from Broadstone Equine Insurance Agency. Contact our office directly at 888-687-8555 or info@BroadstoneEquine.com to speak with an agent for complete and current information regarding all coverages.

 

An Unusual New Year’s Resolution – Insure Your Horse in 2015!

Let’s face it, insurance falls way to the bottom of the list of topics any horse owner wants to talk about.  Discussing the variety of ways our horses can be injured, or heaven forbid die, doesn’t make for enjoyable barn aisle or ringside conversation.

Unfortunately, as in many areas of life, what you don’t know can hurt you. So without being too morbid, but in the interest of helping you protect your investments--especially in these changing economic times--here are some reasons you might want to consider putting “Get horse insurance policy” on 2015’s list of New Year’s resolutions.

Accidents Happen

It’s a common misconception that horses are safest at home, and at the most risk while traveling and competing. Instead, what we found in a recent anecdotal analysis of more than 2000 horses insured over a two-year period, of those that died during that time, pasture accidents ranked as one of the top causes of death. 

The types of accidents ran the gamut from kick wounds from another horse, slip and falls, puncture wounds, being impaled on pieces of fencing or other debris, and even getting loose and running into the road. And these types of accidents don’t discriminate by value or type of horse, with uses ranging from Olympic contenders living in immaculate conditions to backyard pleasure horses, and values everywhere from $5,000 to $250,000.

What to do?

First, consider insuring your horse.  Rates for Full Mortality (life insurance) coverage for the typical performance horse age 2-14 generally run from 3.0% to 4.5% of the insured value, depending on the horse’s use, competition level and the insurance company. So, for example, the annual Full Mortality premium for a 10-year-old dressage or pleasure horse insured at $10,000 would run about $300 a year. At $15,000 it would be $450, and so on. This life insurance policy also covers for theft, and includes at no charge up to $5,000 (depending on the insurance company) of free Emergency Colic surgery coverage, as long as the horse does not have a colic history.

Second, take steps to limit your horse’s risk while turned out. Monitor fence lines and keep all debris (and any type of equipment or vehicles) out of pastures, paddocks, and dry lots. If possible, fence off trees to limit your horse's access to them. Introduce new horses to a herd gradually, and if you see a personality conflict cropping up among the herd (or even good “friends” consistently playing too hard), take steps to separate these horses for their own good.

In addition, keep an eye on the weather and avoid putting your horses during storms, or out in slippery conditions with ice or mud. Every winter we see at least one mortality claim come through after a horse slips and falls in icy and/or muddy conditions, not to mention the many Major Medical/Surgical claims for strained ligaments and tendons, and even fractures.

Colic

There is a reason that the word “colic” strikes fear in the hearts of horseowners around the world.  As our research has shown, colic and related intestinal issues also rank at the top with pasture accidents as the most common cause of death.

And again, we see these types of claims across the board, regardless of breed, discipline, or value.  Horses receiving the best feed, hay, grass, training, veterinary care, and practically 24-hour monitoring can still end up on the operating table at the local veterinary hospital.

And while the prognosis has become increasingly more positive over the years, with more and more horses not only surviving colic surgery, but also going on to have long, colic-free careers, an unfortunate number still die before, during, and after surgery, due to a variety of reasons.  In some cases, the colic comes on suddenly during the night, and the horse has passed away by the time anyone arrives in the morning. In other cases, even with prompt care and attention, by the time the horse makes it to the hospital, too much damage has been done.   And in others, post-operative complications develop that the horse cannot overcome.

What to do?

Colic prevention is a bit of an art and science, and oftentimes seems to be a matter of luck. In a nutshell: allow your horse to live as much like a horse as possible, with as much turn-out time as you can, which provides both exercise and hopefully good pasture to munch on, as their digestive systems are designed to have an almost constant influx of roughage. Also, constant access to clean, fresh water (especially in cold weather, when buckets and troughs can freeze over) is imperative since dehydration can cause an impaction colic. For those that have little access to grass, have good quality hay available as often as possible, and feed several small meals of grain daily, versus just one or two larger meals.

Also, be aware of the possibility of gastric ulcers, which can lead to colic issues. Research over the last decade or so has shown that ulcers are much more prevalent than previously thought--among all breeds and disciplines--and even just a two-day trip away from home can be enough to set them into motion. If your horse is dropping weight for no reason, seems unusually tense or depressed, has changed his eating or drinking habits, and/or seems “off” or slightly colicky, talk to your veterinarian. The good news is that there are effective prevention and treatment options to keep ulcers at bay.

The Rest

Neurological diseases such as EPM were slightly more prevalent than other causes when looking at horse mortality claims. And the remainder of causes we saw included eye issues, joint infections (caused both as a result of acute injuries as well as from preventative or maintenance joint injections), various cancers, conditions like founder that require the horses to be put down, as well as catastrophic injuries resulting from trailering accidents and barn fires.

Other Expenses – Major Medical/Surgical

In many cases, before these horses died or were euthanized, the owners invested significant funds toward attempts at diagnosis and treatment. This is important to mention, because the Full Mortality policy wording requires that the horse owner takes all steps necessary to save the horse’s life.  So, in the example of a horse that is colicking, if the horse is a candidate for surgery as recommended by the veterinarian, and the owner chooses not to follow the vet’s recommendation and instead euthanizes the horse or it dies due to the colic, it is very likely that a Full Mortality claim will not be paid as the policy requirements were not followed. While humane destruction is covered under the Full Mortality policy, the circumstances of the euthanasia must meet the policy requirements.

Having Major Medical/Surgical coverage can take the financial factor out of making decisions regarding the horse’s care. In cases of injuries, illnesses, accidents and diseases that occur during the policy period, Major Medical/Surgical coverage can help provide reimbursement for a good portion of the veterinary expenses related to those issues.  This coverage is available for horses through the age of 30 days to 18-20 years, at annual policy limits ranging from $5,000, $7,500, $10,000, $12,500, and $15,000 (depending on the horse’s age, insured value, and the insurance company) for additional premiums starting at $200 per year.  Considering the average colic surgery, without complications, averages around $8,000 (and can be considerably more expensive depending on the surgical facility, the type of surgery, and any resulting post-operative complications), or that even a horse with something as “simple” as a puncture wound can easily rack up more than $5,000 in vet bills to treat the resulting infection, Major Medical/Surgical coverage can be the best investment a horseowner makes.

And of course in the much greater number of instances where injuries and illnesses thankfully do not result in the horse’s death, but do rack up high dollar invoices from the veterinarian, that same Major Medical/Surgical can come in very handy.

Other Coverages

Loss of Use coverage is available from some companies, depending on the age, use and level of a performance horse. This type of coverage is intended to respond if the horse can permanently no longer perform its insured use, at any level. Over the years the coverage has become less popular as it has become more restrictive and expensive, and if a claim is approved, will only pay a portion of the horse's insured value.

Stallion Accident, Sickness and Disease is a coverage you may want to consider if you have a proven breeding stallion, as it would help reimburse for a portion of the horse's insured value if he can permanently no longer get mares in foal.

 

Private Horseowner's Liability is a coverage to consider for owners of show/pleasure horses, to help protect them in the event they are considered negligent and pursued legally by a third party for bodily injury or property damage caused by their personally owned horse. 

 

 

 

More Information

 

For more information on coverages, please check our prior blog entries, and also visit the Broadstone Protect Your Horse and FAQs pages. To see about a quote for coverage, go to the Quote page. And also please contact our office at 888-687-8555 with any questions.

 

**These blogs are for basic information purposes only, and do not constitute advice from Broadstone Equine Insurance Agency. Contact our office directly at 888-687-8555 or info@BroadstoneEquine.com to speak with an agent for complete and current information regarding all coverages.

 

 

 

Commonly Asked Horse Insurance Questions

In talking to prospective clients every day, a lot of the same questions come up and I thought I would share some of the more common in this blog.

1.       1. I just bought a horse that is already insured, does his policy just automatically transfer to me?

OR

I just sold my horse and he’s insured. Will his policy just automatically transfer to his new owner?

No. Your insurance policy on a horse you own is only in effect while you have an insurable interest in the horse. Just like if you sold your car, the insurance on the car would not transfer to the new owner, the same is true of a horse. So if you’re in the process of purchasing a new horse and want to make sure there is no lapse in coverage between the current owner’s policy and you, it’s a good idea to get all the paperwork for your new policy in order prior to the purchase so you can make coverage effective the day of the sale.

2.       2. My horse isn’t registered – can I still insure him?  What type of identification can I use?

If your horse isn’t registered, you can use a microchip number if one is available. If not, then photos can be used as identification. Typically a front and side view is all that’s necessary, and if you need a few days to get those to us, that’s fine, we can still see about getting coverage started pending receipt of the photos.

3.      3. Do you need a copy of the Bill of Sale to get coverage started on my new horse?

No. We do not need a copy of the bill of sale for our records, but you definitely want to keep that document on file, because in the event of a Mortality claim, the claims adjuster will ask you for proof of the sale.  They may also ask for proof of the purchase, such as a cancelled check, or wire transfer.

4.       4. Can I just call and insure my horse over the phone?

This depends on the agency and/or insurance company. At Broadstone, we do require an application to be completed by the horse owner (or lessee if the horse is being leased). The application asks for very important information with regard to the horse and the coverages that you want, and we feel it is best that we have that information in writing from you so there are no misunderstandings.

That said, we make the paperwork as easy as possible. The application can be completed and signed as a fillable PDF and then emailed to us. Or completed by hand and scanned/emailed, faxed, or even sent as a picture from your smart phone – as long as we can read the application (and all the questions are answered) and it is signed/dated by you, we should be able to work with it.

In some instances (though not many) we may also need a current vet certificate or copy of the pre-purchase exam. See the next question for details.

5.       5. Do I have to pay a vet to examine the horse before I can get him insured?

In most cases, no.  You will definitely need a current vet certificate (or copy of the pre-purchase exam on a recent purchase) for horses to be insured for over $100,000; or age 16 or 17 (depending on the company). Something from the vet may also be necessary if the horse has had a recent injury or illness that the underwriter would like addressed. In addition, with one company that Broadstone works with, if you have not known the horse for at least 30 days, a vet certificate will also be required.

6.       6. If I have a claim, my horse won’t be insurable any more, right?

In the great majority of cases, a claim doesn’t make a horse uninsurable. Typically when the policy is due to renew, the underwriter will review the details of the claim and determine if they will offer renewal (which they usually will), and if so, if any exclusions will apply at renewal. Horse insurance policies are 12-month term policies, and are underwritten every year.  So issues that occur during the policy period can be considered pre-existing, and therefore excluded, on the next year’s policy.  This can be confusing, as it is unlike human health insurance policies.

7.       7. OK, then if my horse has a minor leg injury, the whole leg is going to be excluded forever, right?

In most cases, this would not be the case. Providing the injury has been diagnosed and the underwriters have information to work with, they will typically exclude for the injury that has occurred, such as deep digital flexor tendon right front, not the whole right front leg. Exclusions vary depending on the situation, but the underwriters do try to be as specific as is reasonably possible.

8.       8. I had a friend who walked into her barn one morning, and found her horse lying dead in the pasture. She said that the insurance company required a necropsy.  Is a necropsy always required?  If so, do I have to pay for it?

If you are unfortunate enough to be in a situation, you first want to give the insurance company’s claims office a call. They can then advise you on how to follow the provisions of the policy to ensure the best result. If the horse was previously healthy and the death is unexpected, then I would expect a necropsy will be required, and those costs are not covered by your policy, so you would pay out of pocket.  If the horse had been ill/injured and under a vet’s care, there is the possibility that a necropsy may not be necessary, if the cause of death is definitive, but that will be determined by the insurance company depending on the specifics of the case.

If you find yourself in this situation—do not dispose of the horse’s body without contacting the insurance company and determining if a necropsy is required, otherwise you will void coverage under your policy. Claims adjusters are available around the clock, including weekends, and will do their best to help you through a heartbreaking situation.

9.       9. My horse was a little girthy and grumpy. The vet thought it might be gastric ulcers, so we just gave him a course of medication without actually doing any diagnostics. Would that be covered under my Major Medical/Surgical coverage?

Most likely, this would not be covered. It is quite possible that the insurance company will require a definitive diagnosis by an endoscopic exam before they cover the costs of the medication to treat the ulcers. If your vet suspects that your horse has ulcers and wants to treat without an endoscopic exam, before starting treatment you should contact your insurance company and consult with an adjuster to determine what the company will require in order for coverage to apply.

10.   10. I don’t know what limit of Major Medical/Surgical coverage I should get. Any advice?

This question comes up quite often, and the answer varies based on what limits are even available (some companies will not offer a Major Medical/Surgical limit higher than the horse’s insured value on the Mortality policy), your budget, your comfort level, and past history. Some people want the peace of mind to know that a worst case scenario will be covered as much as possible, and therefore will purchase the highest limit of coverage possible. Other people would rather save some money and purchase a lower limit, hedging their bets that hopefully they won’t need the coverage, or if they do, it won’t be for a catastrophic scenario. And that even if that worst case scenario happens, they feel comfortable that they have the funds (or credit card balance) to handle the difference. And for those horseowners who have experienced an unfortunate run of luck with a previous horse, their past history will inform their decisions and they often want a high limit. In my experience, the $7,500 and $10,000 limits are most popular, but those may not be suitable for you, especially if you’re concerned about a worst case scenario.

11.   11. I just bought my horse, but I think I may want to save some money on the premium and insure him for less than the purchase price. What do most people do in that situation?

Generally most people insure a new horse for its purchase price, but certainly not always. Just keep in mind that the process of introducing a horse to a new location, new feed, new barn mates, etc., can be a little tricky. Most likely no damage will be done in those first days and weeks, but change can be difficult for some horses. Like with Major Medical/Surgical limits, how much you insure your horse for is a very personal decision, and will be based on your budget, your comfort level, and past history. Also, take into consideration that if heaven forbid your horse dies, and you have insured for considerably less than his value, are you able to afford to “replace” him with a horse of similar age, talent, training? Some people choose to insure their horse for considerably less than his actual value because their plan would be to purchase a younger, less experienced (and therefore less expensive) prospect. 

12.   12. I’ve had a bad experience in the past with a horse that had colic surgery. There were serious complications and he died. I would not put another horse through that. So if I insure my horse and he colics, and I choose to put him down instead of surgery (or because I don’t allow surgery he dies as a result), would my Mortality policy still cover.

Probably not. When you purchase an insurance policy, you have made an agreement with an insurance company, and one of you responsibilities is to provide the horse with the care necessary to save its life. If the veterinarians recommend surgery (or other treatments) in order to save the horse, and you choose not to pursue those treatments, most likely the policy will not respond. Now, if your vet recommends euthanasia, this would be a different set of circumstances, as the policy does cover for humane destruction, providing it meets the requirements. If you find yourself in this situation, make sure to contact the insurance company’s claims office and work with an adjuster to determine how the policy will respond.

To get more information on insuring your horse, go to the Broadstone FAQs and Protect Your Horse pages. To see about getting a free quote, go to the Broadstone Quote page.

**These blogs are for basic information purposes only, and do not constitute advice from Broadstone Equine Insurance Agency. Contact our office directly at 888-687-8555 or info@BroadstoneEquine.com to speak with an agent for complete and current information regarding all coverages.

 

Private Horseowner's Liability coverage

You have liability insurance on your house and car, right?  In case someone slips on your icy steps, or you take your eyes off the road for just a second and cause an accident, you want to make sure you have protection in the event legal action is the final result. 

What about damage done by your horse?

So…

You’re in the process of turning your horse out and some high winds and blowing leaves send him spinning, yanking the lead rope out of your hands and bolting across the field. In his panic he gallops across the road and is hit by a passing car.

Or you’re in the warm-up ring at a competition and your usually unflappable mount gets spooked, taking you by surprise. You hit the ground, and he gallops off to stabling in search of his stall. In the process he knocks down a spectator.

Or a non-horsey friend has been begging you for months to let her take a spin on your horse (“How hard can it be? The horse does all the work.”)  Unfortunately she’s not quite as “athletic” as she claimed, and when your horse ambles off into a slow trot, his rider lands head first in the dirt.

In all of the above situations, and many others, you could be considered negligent and pursued legally and possibly held responsible for any bodily injury or property damage caused by your horse, and depending on the extent of injuries or damages, the dollar figures for compensation could be very high. And in today’s lawsuit-happy society, even if the situation really was an accident, or the injured party was partly or even totally at fault, at the very least you’ll be having to pay an attorney to defend you.  At worst, you’ll be looking at a settlement or judgment against you.

And if you think a friend, or someone who understands that it really was an accident, won’t pursue you for compensation of damages, keep in mind that they may not have a choice.  If they have health insurance and their insurance company finds out the nature of the incident, the insurance company could “subrogate,” which means that while they’ll pay the injured person’s medical bills, they will then pursue you for reimbursement.

Or, if like millions of people, the person who was injured doesn’t have any health insurance, they may feel that they have no choice but to try to recoup their expenses through you, especially once they talk to a personal injury attorney, or realize they may be facing bankruptcy as their medical bills pile up and they have to take time off work.

Let’s face it, our horses are an important part of our live-- a hobby/pastime/addiction into which we happily invest our valuable time and money. But owning and working with horses are also potentially dangerous activities, and no matter how careful you are and how well trained and bomb-proof your horse is, not every situation is in your control and as the cliché goes, “accidents happen.”

That said, insurance exists to help mitigate these risks.  First, if you have a Homeowner’s or Farmowner’s policy, check with your insurance agent to see what type of liability coverage you might have under that policy for your horse activities.  Be very specific when you talk to the agent because some policies may cover while your horse is on your property, but not anywhere else. Or it may not cover if you compete the horse because money can be won, which they will consider a “commercial” activity, no matter how much you try to convince them that at the end of the day, you’re certainly not walking away with a bulging wallet.

If you get an answer from the agent that you are covered, at home and away, at a boarding facility or on the road at a competition, great, just make sure to get that assurance in writing.

If you find out that no coverage exists, then you will want to consider purchasing an inexpensive Private Horseowner’s Liability (PHO) policy.  The application process takes less than five minutes, and with the insurance company that Broadstone works with, premiums range from $130, $150 to $250 a year for occurrence/annual aggregate coverage limits of $300,000/$600,000, $500,000/$1 million, or $1 million/$2 million.

This type of policy is meant to respond in the event your personally owned show/pleasure horse injures a third party or damages their property, and you are considered negligent and are pursued legally for those damages.  Some examples of who would not be considered a third party: someone who is a family member, or who is contracted (this does not need to be a formal, written contract) or performing services that involve handling or caring for your horse, such as an employee, vet, farrier, staff at the boarding facility, etc.

In addition, this policy is also not intended to cover you if a) you allow your horse to be used as a lesson horse as part of your or another instructor’s lesson program; or b) you are a professional horse person who teaches, trains, boards, buys/sells horses, etc. In those cases you would want to look at a Commercial General Liability and Care, Custody and Control policy, which will be covered in a future installment.  The agents at Broadstone can help you determine under which category you fall into and the coverage options.

Go to the Broadstone Forms and Applications page for the PHO application.  And with any questions, please give us a call at 888-687-8555.

*Please note that the insurance company that Broadstone works with cannot write PHO coverage in AK, HI, MN, ND, SD, and WA states.

**These blogs are for basic information purposes only, and do not constitute advice from Broadstone Equine Insurance Agency. Contact our office directly at 888-687-8555 or info@BroadstoneEquine.com to speak with an agent for complete and current information regarding all coverages.

 

 

Tips for Owning Horses in an Uncertain Economy

It’s been a rough couple of years, and while in general signs are pointing to improvements in the economy, making ends meet can still be a struggle for many horse owners.  Following are some tips to help during an uncertain economy.

Fueling Up

Oil prices, and therefore the cost of fuel, are tied to a majority of the price increases that the average person sees, from putting diesel in your tow vehicle, to the cost of grain, hay, and bedding, and even the shipping charges when you purchase a new piece of equipment or clothing. 

Buy Local

When it comes to the bedding, grain, and hay, just like when it comes to putting groceries on your table, do your best to purchase locally. The prices of these items aren’t loaded with costs incurred to ship them, and purchasing them at the same time supports local businesses.

Price Check

To lessen the pain at the pump, check web sites like www.gasbuddy.com to compare prices at gas stations in your area, or on the route to your next event.  

Vehicle Maintenance

Once you’ve purchased the least expensive fuel possible, do your best to stretch each gallon as far as possible.  If you’re in the market for a new (or “new to you”) vehicle, put fuel efficiency near the top of your list of necessary features.  Regardless of what you’re driving, make sure to keep up with maintenance—get regular tune ups, make sure your fuel filter is clean, oil changed, and that your tires are rotated and properly inflated (on your tow vehicle and trailer).  Not only will all of this keep you safer on the road, it will also allow your vehicle to operate as efficiently as possible.

Car (Truck) Pool

Use on-line chat rooms and bulletin boards to get to know other competitors in your area and consider sharing rides to competitions and clinics.  Not only will this save you some money, if you usually travel by yourself it also makes for a safer trip, and who knows, you may make a lifelong friend.  For those going to the USEA’s upcoming Nutrena American Eventing Championships, check out the USEA website at www.useventing.com for a list of competitors looking to catch a ride, or share a ride.

Prioritize

Wants Versus Needs

You may have to take a look at your budget and re-prioritize a bit.  Some decisions are easy, such as separating “wants” versus “needs.”  While a brand new top-of-the-line saddle would be a wonderful addition to your tack room, you might want to put that on the list for 2015, or look for a used version that will fill the void. 

There are many items that should always remain at the top of your list—all those related to your horse’s health and wellbeing.  Do not compromise on quality veterinary care, timely vaccinations, and necessary medications and quality supplements.  In that same vein, oftentimes one of the first items to drop off the list, or possibly not make it on in the first place, is insurance, which leads us to…

Be Pro-Active

Insurance

You’ve had your horse insured for the last two years, and your renewal notification shows up in the mail.  Cash is tight, and considering you’ve never had to file a claim in the last two years, you’re wondering, what’s the point?  Your horse has always been healthy, and to be honest, since the possibility of him going under the knife at the local vet hospital, or even worse not surviving the surgery or some other type of catastrophic health issue, insurance is something you’d like to avoid even thinking about, so why not just drop that renewal letter in the garbage, let the policy lapse, and hope for the best?

 

If you have the resources to self-insure without tapping into credit cards, retirement accounts, etc., then doing so isn’t necessarily a bad idea. But if you don’t have $8,000 - $10,000 (the approximate cost for the average colic surgery) in the bank, plus enough cash to replace your horse in the event of his death, then you might want to consider keeping your insurance in place (or obtaining a policy, if you don’t already have one).  The last place you want to be in an emergency situation is making a decision between your bank account and your horse’s life, or worse yet, not being in a position to make the decision at all because you absolutely do not have the necessary financial resources.

It is surprisingly simple, and cost effective, to avoid that type of situation.  Many horse owners are surprised at how inexpensive the average equine insurance Mortality and Major Medical/Surgical policy is.  For example, a Full Mortality (life insurance) policy for the average $10,000 sport horse (dressage, hunter/jumper, eventer) costs between $300-$410 per year—and includes up to $5,000 (depending in the horse’s insured value) in free Emergency Colic Surgery coverage.  To add $7,500 in Major Medical/Surgical coverage, the additional annual premium is as little as $300.  To make payment more convenient, installment plans are usually available, and major credit and debit cards are usually accepted.

Of course, a $10,000 value is just an example.  If your horse is worth more, you can certainly choose to insure for more (and pay a correspondingly higher premium).  But what if your horse is worth much more, but you’re trying to cut costs—whether with a new policy or a renewal of an existing policy?  How about insuring the horse for a lesser value, which will correspondingly save you money on premium?  Many people choose to insure their horses on a Full Mortality policy for a value of $7,500 or $10,000—enough to get them started with a less experienced mount, while still protecting themselves in the event of a major veterinary emergency by including Major Medical/Surgical endorsement, a definite win-win situation. 

To find out more about insurance coverages, go to the Broadstone FAQs and Protect Your Horse pages, and to get an emailed quote, go to the Quote page.

Preventative Maintenance

No Hoof, No Horse

Planning on having your current mount for long into the future?  Then do your best to prevent not only down time (or possibly even retirement) due to wear-and-tear conditions like arthritis by making sure your horse is properly shod, that you follow a reasonable training and competition schedule, and consider utilizing preventative supplements and medications such as Adequan, Legend, Cosequin, etc. Talk to your veterinarian, your trainer, and other trusted horse people as to the best options for your horse (and your budget) to help keep your horse sound year after year. Sure, there will be an outlay of cash on a currently perfectly sound horse to pay for these preventative options, but long term, this can save you thousands by avoiding veterinary bills down the line, and also keep you and your horse on track in your training and competition schedule.

Trust Your Gut

Gastro-intestinal health is an ongoing concern for all horse owners, with the words “colic surgery” striking fear in every one of us. In addition, gastric ulcers are much more common than previously thought, and can cause a variety of health problems, ranging from weight loss and changes in attitude to full blown colic.  With this in mind, there are a variety of gastro-intestinal supplements available marketed to reduce the possibility of ulcers and colic, including Succeed digestive conditioning program, as well as a variety of Smart Pak digestive products. In addition, products such as UlcerGard are specifically used to help prevent gastric ulcers.  Again, the purchase of these products will take a small bite out of your budget, but the long term ramifications of dealing with these health issues, not only financially, but also to your horse’s wellbeing, can be far more painful to handle.

Share Your Horse

Is keeping up with your everyday horse bills becoming a struggle?  Ever consider sharing your horse?  A full or half lease could be the answer to your problems, especially if you’re having trouble keeping up with work, family, and all of your other responsibilities.  For many busy professionals, a half lease can be the perfect solution. Each person has two or three days a week to ride, and in turn they split pre-determined monthly bills.  This way the horse gets regular work and attention, while keeping down costs. 

There are two keys to this arrangement.  First, you need to find the right person, someone you can trust with keeping your horse safe, and whose level and style of riding are on par with yours and will work with your horse.  If you do find a person that meshes well with both of you, then you must make sure to write up a legal agreement that spells out each party’s benefits and responsibilities (days a week to ride, horse care specifics, opportunities to participate in clinics and/or competitions, financial obligations including possible insurance provisions, etc.).  Sample contracts can be found at: www.equinelegalsolutions.com.

Now, if your horse is a true superstar, you might be able to arrange for a lease where not only does the lessee pay all the horse’s expenses, but they also pay you a monthly fee for the privilege of working with and competing the horse. 

Earn Some Extra Cash

How often have you rummaged through your tack trunk shoving aside pieces of perfectly good equipment, clothing, or tack that for whatever reason you no longer use?   Do a thorough inventory of all your stuff, be brutal in deciding what you still really need (and realistically still use), and then clean up all the rest and if you don’t already have one, create an eBay account, go to Craigslist, or a local tack shop that works on consignment, and start selling!  Who knows, maybe you’ll make enough to put a down payment on that new saddle.  Or maybe you’ll decide to shop a little more frugally…

Discount websites

Let’s be realistic, no matter how carefully you try to protect your checkbook, inevitably there will be lots of purchases to be made, from the odd pair of galloping boots to a new helmet or pair of reins.  Sites like eBay are one place to try, but if you’re looking for guaranteed new, quality products, try a site like www.Tackoftheday.com, where each day one or two different items are so ridiculously on sale that you might want to buy it just because (tempting, but would sort of defeat the purpose).   And of course don’t forget longtime USEA supporter Bit of Britain, which recently announced that USEA members will now receive a 10 percent discount on on-line orders at www.BitofBritain.com.

**These blogs are for basic information purposes only, and do not constitute advice from Broadstone Equine Insurance Agency. Contact our office directly at 888-687-8555 or info@BroadstoneEquine.com to speak with an agent for complete and current information regarding all coverages.

 

The True Cost

The True Cost

While pondering what to write about for this blog installment, I realized that I’ve covered a lot of the usual insurance-related topics: types of coverages, myths and misconceptions, value and benefits, safety and risk assessment.  I thought I was starting to run out of ideas when I hit on a philosophy that I often use when writing about the topic of insurance, basically that while we don’t think twice about insuring our other valuable property--vehicles, houses, equipment, trailers--why don’t we automatically include our horses on that list?

I will get into some reasons why I think that is, but first I’d like to touch on a different, somewhat related subject: do we consider our horses equipment?  Honestly, when I throw out the “insure your valuables” philosophy, in a marketing sense I’m basically equating our living, breathing horses to inanimate objects and pieces of equipment. I’ve got no nefarious agenda; it’s just my way of trying to alter the way the average horse owner looks at insurance. I’ve been in the business for almost 20 years, and while more people than ever are insuring their horses, the number is still far less than I would expect when comparing other pieces of “property” that have equal value. Few of us would consider going without insurance on a vehicle or piece of equipment worth the same value of our horses. Insurance is part of our culture for good reason – accidents happen, and it’s a lot easier to spend $500 a year for a policy than to be out $15,000 after a truck has been totaled.  Why is it that we don’t look at our horses in the same way? Or do we?

In thinking about that, and how I use this sort of tactic in some of my marketing efforts, I began to feel a little uncomfortable. I’ll admit, I’m a bit of a softy. I have and always will consider my dogs, cats, and horses as part of the family.  I will do whatever I can, within reason, to keep them sound, happy, and healthy. And if the worst happens, no insurance claim check will soften the blow because they are, in a word, irreplaceable.

In my heart I hope that’s a part of the reason why so many of my friends, colleagues, and fellow horseowners do not insure their horses. I think many are a bit superstitious, and that to really sit and think about the worst case scenario of losing our horse, we feel is to tempt fate. I’m not married, but I wonder if it’s a bit of the same feeling when taking out a life insurance policy on a spouse--you’re pondering the death of a loved one, and the possibility of profiting from something so terrible.  But at the same time, you realize that it is a necessary, responsible way of planning for, and protecting, your future.

Granted, our horses aren’t literally family, but they are our companions, partners, teammates, therapists, and if we’re lucky, they’re even a way to bring in the occasional prize money checks, ribbons and trophies. In a practical sense, we have every reason to insure something that we have invested considerable time and money into, something that has a real, dollar value, and that on a good day, may even give us a return on our investment.

From a practical viewpoint, getting a Full Mortality (life insurance) policy on our horse that protects our financial investment if the worst was to happen seems a bit of a no-brainer, especially considering the cost (averaging between 3% to 4% of the insured value, i.e. $300-$400 a year for a $10,000 horse).  The same could be send for adding Major Medical/Surgical coverage (as low as $200 a year for $5,000 in coverage), so that we can give our horses the best care possible, not only because they’ve earned it, but because after spending all that time and energy with them, it’s just good business to give them the best shot at returning to use if something goes wrong. For more information on these coverages, go to the Broadstone Protect Your Horse and FAQs pages. And to see about a quick and easy online quote, go to the Broadstone Quote page.

Huge strides have been made in veterinary medicine over the last two decades. Lamenesses and illnesses that would have previously ended careers are often now just bumps in the road. But effective diagnostics and treatments are not cheap, while comparatively speaking, Major Medical/Surgical coverage is. And considering that our agency’s informal analysis shows that approximately 15 percent of insured horses require non-routine/non-maintenance veterinary care each year, for everything from colic, to illnesses and lamenesses, several hundred dollars seems a reasonable investment. And from a sentimental standpoint, our horses try their hearts out for us and ask for so little in return, being able to give them the best care and comfort only seems fair.

As I often tell first time clients, insurance is one of those things that ultimately helps buy peace of mind. If you need it, it will be one of the best investments you ever make. And if you never need it, then that’s even better.   

**These blogs are for basic information purposes only, and do not constitute advice from Broadstone Equine Insurance Agency. Contact our office directly at 888-687-8555 or info@BroadstoneEquine.com to speak with an agent for complete and current information regarding all coverages.

 

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