Equine Insurance for Dummies: An Introductory Case Study

Meagan and Lance. Photo courtesy of Meagan Delisle

Meagan and Lance. Photo courtesy of Meagan Delisle

In the winter of winter of 2013, I was wrapping up my IHSA career, getting ready to graduate from college, and dreaming of moving on up with my gelding, Lance, that I showed in the local level Hunters. I had big dreams and was sure that nothing was going to get in my way. One day, Lance came in from his turnout lame. The swelling caused some concern and a few x-rays later my dreams came to a screeching halt. Lance had fractured his splint bone. Not necessarily a career ending injury, but the vet bills and stall rest added up in expenses.

By the time I graduated in the spring of 2014, Lance was still recovering, but my pocket book wasn’t. When my barn owner reached out to me and offered a great home for Lance to rehab in while I gathered myself back together financially, I had no other option but to make the difficult decision to bring our career together to an end.

Fast-forward two years: I finally got my life on track budget-wise and had the opportunity to ride again. When I purchased my new horse, Joey, the first thing on my mind was Lance’s accident and how there was nothing I could have done to prevent it. The unpredictability of owning a horse can be really stressful, especially if you are a ‘planner’ like I am. I immediately dove into researching equine insurance policies and agencies to find some peace of mind in the case of an unfortunate accident a second time around.

Meagan and Joey. Photo courtesy of Meagan Delisle

Meagan and Joey. Photo courtesy of Meagan Delisle

Enter HorseWorks Insurance Specialists in Colchester, Vermont. I was referred to HorseWorks via a fellow Adult Amateur and friend of mine who has her horse insured there. Cristen Bertolino, my agent, was so professional and easy to work with, in just a few days we had the perfect policy for mine and Joey’s needs at this time and I immediately felt a weight lifted off of my shoulders. HorseWorks is owned by Brendan Tetreault, a fellow equestrian and avid Polo Player who was happy to chat with me and give me the basic rundown on equine insurance so I had the best understanding possible.

Equine Insurance is a product many horse people are not familiar with; it isn’t a tangible object they can hold in their hands in order to gain an understanding of it, and all the agents at HorseWorks understand that. Brenden says it is their jobs as the representing agent of their clients to give them the best knowledge possible of their policy.  “Our clients stay busy,” said Tetreault, “they are riding, traveling, showing, and working! It isn’t odd for me to be speaking to a client while they are mucking out stalls. That’s why we try to streamline the process and make it as simple as possible.”

HorseWorks offers 4 types of equine insurance, and while other agencies may offer more or their policies might differ, Brendan gave me a brief rundown of each type to better help my understanding of each.

Equine Medical and Mortality

This is the basic and more common health and life insurance policy for your four legged friend. This was EXACTLY what I wanted to have set in place for Joey, especially as I saw how quickly he was progressing in his training and the potential he had to offer. I can go out and train and compete and know that in the case of an injury — or god forbid — the unfortunate death of my horse, that I will have some assistance in times of needs thanks to this coverage.

This type of insurance can be used for any horse, whether the horse is a sport horse, a performance horse, or even just a pleasure horse. We all know as horse owners that you have to expect the unexpected, and often the unexpected comes with quite the financial burden. This insurance gives you a Plan B if the going gets rough.

Brendan explained it the best by saying, “horses are a 24 hour a day, 7 day a week, 365 day a year responsibility.” Rainy days are going to happen, and since we can’t schedule out the days our horse might come up lame or decide to colic, this coverage gives you that umbrella you need when the bad days happen. If I were to walk into the barn tomorrow and Joey was dead lame, my policy would kick in and assist me with expenses accrued as we deciphered between treatment options or if we had to make the decision to put the horse down. There is no dollar amount on replacing a beloved pet, but had I had insurance when Lance originally hurt himself, I might not have had to quit riding/competing for two years as I got back on my feet financially.

Commercial and Personal Liability

Commercial Liability is aimed towards boarding barn owners, breeders, instructors, or trainers. Brenden said the thing to note with this type of policy is that liability insurance is really what you make of it. They can modify this policy to fit each individual’s needs. Some will need coverage for both their boarding facility and their training program, some will just need to cover their upcoming foal crop. This coverage is great for professionals needing to have a good night’s sleep knowing that in the case of an accident, someone has their back.

Personal Liability is a sound option for amateurs to help cover events that might happen while at shows or in a lesson program. For amateurs who catch ride for their trainer, friends or other owners, there comes some risk. This coverage helps with that unpredictability that comes with riding horses for those who are in the non-commercial/non-professional status of their horse ventures. Personal liability not only protects your pocketbook, but your relationships and reputation, as well. This policy guarantees you won’t have to depend on someone’s kindness or verbal agreements to protect you, because unfortunately, well-meaning arrangements can and do end dramatically when there are thousands of dollars at stake.

Property Insurance

This policy insures properties with horse exposure. For example, this type of insurance is an absolute must for boarding barns, training facilities, or breeding barns as it offers liability coverage of the buildings and land on the insured property. If you’re shopping boarding barns or training facilities as a horse owner, you may even consider asking the owner or barn manager if they can provide proof of Property Insurance to give you peace of mind that your horse will be living in a safe environment no matter what may happen.

Equine vs. Generic Insurance

To many horse owners, Equine Insurance is just as important as homeowners or car insurance, but you won’t find many name brand insurance providers offering equine-specific coverage. Some name-brand insurance companies that offer home and auto insurance are beginning to add pet insurance policies as options (and some work places offer pet insurance as a perk as well), but these plans often don’t cover horses, and almost never offer stipulations critical for a horse owner such as “loss of use” coverage. Some may allow you to list the horse as an “asset”, but that doesn’t offer any medical coverage or replacement funds for loss of use; you’re only reimbursed if the horse dies, and even then you’ll have your work cut out for you negotiating the red tape of reimbursement.

The great thing about going through a equine insurance broker is that they know and understand the market, which gives them the opportunity to write a policy for anything with equine exposure.

When you are shopping for coverage for your show horse, competitive athlete, or your trail buddy, shop around for the best policy and agent that fits your needs. What I love most about HorseWorks is that they are all involved in the equine community outside of work as well. They live and breathe horses, both at work and away from the office, and they knew where I was coming from when we were setting up the perfect policy for Joey. Research your options, ask tons of questions, and make the right investment for your budget and your horse. There is a huge peace of mind knowing that WHEN (not if) the incident occurs during my riding career, I am covered and have a great staff of people to help navigate me through the claims process so that I can continue to do what I love.