Posted 28-Dec-2022 13:42:39
Category: Broadstone Equine
2023 New Year’s Resolution - Get Horse Insurance!
2022 is coming to a close, and after taking a collective sigh of relief, let’s plan for 2023! It is fair to say many of us are still dealing with the fall out from the chaos and anxiety of life in a pandemic and the resulting kind of/sort of/still possible recession, so it’s likely that no one wants to kick off 2023 pondering all the ways our horses could rack up high dollar vet bills, or heaven forbid, pass away.
But if the last two years have taught us anything, it is to prepare for the unexpected! While no one wants to hang out at the barn chatting about worst case scenarios, as in many areas of life, what you don’t know can hurt you, and putting your head in the sand is rarely a successful strategy. So without being too morbid, and in the spirit of my personal 2023 philosophy of the old proverb “Forewarned is Forearmed,” and in the interest of helping you protect your horses and your bank account, here are some reasons you should put “Get A Horse Insurance Policy” on your 2023 to-do list.
It is a common belief that horses are safest at home and at the most risk while traveling and competing. Interestingly, several years ago when some colleagues did an anecdotal analysis of more than 2000 horses that had been 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, slips and falls, puncture wounds, crashes into pieces of fencing or other debris, and even jumping pasture fences and running into the road. Our review showed that these types of accidents did not discriminate by value or type of horse, with uses ranging from Olympic contenders living in immaculate conditions to backyard pleasure horses, and values from $1,000 to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
What to do?
First, consider insuring your horse. Rates for Mortality (equine life insurance) coverage for the typical performance horse aged 2-14 generally run from 2.9% to 4% of the insured value, depending on the horse’s use, breed, competition level, and the insurance company offering coverage. So, for example, the Full Mortality premium for a 10-year-old Dressage, Cutting or Reining horse insured at $10,000 could be as low as $290-$300 a year. Or for a Hunter/Jumper or Roping horse it could be as low as $325-$370 a year. And for Pleasure horses not used for a specific discipline, it could be as low as $300-$325 a year. This equine life insurance policy also usually covers for theft, and typically includes at no charge up to $5,000 (depending on the insurance company and the horse’s insured value) of free Emergency Colic Surgery coverage, providing the horse does not have a history of colic and/or other gastro-intestinal issues. To get a free horse insurance quote, go to our QUOTE page.
Second, take steps to limit your horse’s risk while turned out. Monitor fence lines, especially after bad weather, and keep all debris (and any type of equipment, vehicles, or other potential hazards) out of pastures, paddocks and other turn-out areas. If possible, remove or 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 members of 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 if possible avoid turning your horses out during storms or in slippery, icy, or muddy conditions. Almost every Winter we see at least one Mortality claim after a horse slips and falls in icy and/or significantly muddy conditions, not to mention the many Major Medical/Surgical claims for strained ligaments and tendons, and even fractures. For more Winter Safety Tips, see our BLOG.
The word ‘colic’ strikes fear in the hearts of horse owners around the world. Our anecdotal research has shown that colic and related gastro-intestinal issues also rank highly as common causes of mortality claims.
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, turn out, veterinary care, and even round the clock monitoring can and do colic. The recent crazy weather all over the US is proof that even a day or two of extreme temperature changes can be dangerous to the best cared for horses.
And while the prognosis has become more positive over the years, with more horses not only surviving colic surgery but also going on to have long, successful, colic-free careers, an unfortunate number still die before, during, or 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 before help 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 cannot be overcome.
What to do?
Colic prevention is an art and a science, and sometimes feels like a matter of luck. In a nutshell: allow your horse to live as much like a horse as possible, with as much safe turn-out time as you can. This provides both exercise and hopefully good pasture to munch on, as their digestive systems are designed to have an almost constant influx of roughage. If grass is at a premium where you live, good quality hay can be a sufficient substitute. A comprehensive de-worming program is also essential, since certain types of parasites can contribute to colic—your veterinarian can work with you on the best parasite management plan. And it is vital that your horses have a constant access to clean, fresh water (especially in cold weather, when buckets and troughs can freeze over), since dehydration can very quickly cause an impaction colic.
For horses that have little access to grass and/or turn out, try to 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 consider some of the supplements designed to help maintain gut health. And if your horse is primarily turned out in sandy areas, be aware of the possibility of sand colic, which you can help prevent by some of the tips above, as well as by not putting hay or feed on the ground, and adding psyllium to your horse’s feed.
Also, be on the lookout for gastric ulcers, which can lead to colic issues. Research over more than the last decade has shown that gastric ulcers are much more prevalent than previously thought--among all breeds and disciplines. A routine two-day trip away from home for a show or trail ride can be enough to set the stage for ulcers. If your horse is dropping weight for no reason, seems girthy or unusually tense or depressed, has changed his eating or drinking habits, and/or seems “off” or slightly colicky, talk to your veterinarian. And if you are traveling to competitions or will otherwise be away from home, consider preventative measures. The good news is that there are effective prevention and treatment supplement and medication options to help keep gastric ulcers at bay and treat them if they occur.
The review of those two years of Mortality claims showed that neurological diseases such as EPM were slightly more prevalent than other causes of death. And the remainder of causes included issues such joint infections from puncture wounds, various cancers, conditions like founder that required the horses to be put down, as well as catastrophic injuries resulting from trailering accidents and barn fires.
Other Expenses – Equine Medical and Surgical Insurance Coverages
In many cases, before these horses passed away or were euthanized their owners invested significant funds toward attempts at diagnosis and treatment. This is important to mention because the Equine Mortality Insurance policy wording requires that the insured takes all steps to save the horse’s life, regardless of the expenses necessary to do 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 the horse dies due to the untreated colic, it is very likely that a Mortality claim would not be paid since the policy requirements were not followed. While humane destruction is covered under most equine Mortality policies, the circumstances of the euthanasia must meet the policy requirements.
Having some sort of Medical and/or Surgical coverage (a type of horse health insurance) can ease some of the financial considerations when making decisions regarding your horse’s care. In cases of covered injuries, illnesses, lamenesses, accidents, and diseases that occur during the policy period, Medical and Surgical coverages can help provide reimbursement for a good portion of the veterinary expenses related to those issues.
Equine Medical and Surgical insurance is usually available to add to a Mortality policy for horses through the age of 30 days to 18-20 years. Coverage limits include: $5,000, $7,500, $10,000, $12,500, and $15,000 (depending on the horse’s age, breed, use, insured value, and the insurance company offering the coverage) with additional premiums starting at $200 per year for the lowest limit. Considering the cost for a complication-free colic surgery averages between $8,000 - $12,000 (and can be considerably more expensive depending on the surgical facility, the type of surgery, and any post-operative complications), and that even a horse with something as “simple” as a puncture wound or a non-surgical colic that requires several days in the hospital can easily rack up more than $5,000 in vet bills to treat the resulting infection, Medical and Surgical coverages can be the best investment a horseowner makes.
Thankfully there are a 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 Medical and Surgical coverage can come in handy.
For more information on equine insurance coverages, please check out our other Blog entries, and visit our PROTECT YOUR HORSE and FAQ pages. To see about a horse insurance quote, 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, a division of Marshall and Sterling Insurance, or its affiliates. Contact our office directly at 888-687-8555 or info@BroadstoneEquine.com to contact an agent for complete and current information regarding all coverages.