"Horse insurance - are you covered?

"Horse insurance - are you covered?

Health & Safety

Owning a horse or pony is a huge commitment, both financially and in terms of time and energy. Therefore, regardless of whether your horse is aimed at Badminton or is intended as a companion for other horses, it's important your pride and joy is insured. Equine insurance can cover you for theft or straying, vets fees and theft of tack, but perhaps the most important aspect of your insurance policy is third party liability. A landmark court case in 2003 set a precedent and the result of that case now means that if, for example, your horse escapes and causes a traffic accident or kicks someone, despite whether you have been negligent or whether your horse is normally well behaved, you can be held accountable and sued for many thousands of pounds.

Where to start...?

If you own a horse or pony the chances are you probably own a dog, a car or a house and therefore have some experience of the insurance industry. There are many providers of specialist equine cover active in the marketplace and the internet is a great place to start. You can also canvass the opinion of friends, yard owners and instructors. There are lots of insurance companies out there that offer equine insurance and often the decision comes down to price, however many offer different levels of vet fee and public liability cover as well as cover in the event of death, theft or loss of use so it really does pay to do your homework. Online forums will also give you a good idea of which insurance companies provide a good level of service, and which are slow at paying up or exempt certain conditions.

What are you using him for?

Most insurers will want to know what you plan to use your horse for - the level of risk attached to a 4* eventer will be much greater than that attached to Shetland used as a companion for another horse and therefore the insurance premiums for an International eventer or racehorse will be much higher. Companies usually offer graduated levels of cover depending on intended use.

These groups are sometimes broken down as follows:

  • Group 1 - Breeding, Horses at Grass, Retired Horses
  • Group 2 - Group 1 plus: Hacking, Heavy Horses, Rides up to 25 miles, Western Riding
  • Group 3 - Groups 1 and 2 plus: Foals (aged 30 days to 12 months), Gymkhana, Le Trec, Local Shows, Pony Club Activities, Rearing and Breaking, Riding Club Activities, Schooling, Vaulting
  • Group 4 - Groups 1,2 and 3 plus: Dressage (below elementary level), Driving (except in competitions), Hunter Trials/Cross Country, Intro and Unaffiliated Eventing, Jump Cross, Showing, Show Jumping
  • Group 5 - Groups 1,2,3 and 4 plus: Dressage (elementary level and above), Driving (in competitions), Endurance Rides (over 25 miles), Hunting, Pre-Novice, Novice and Intermediate affiliated Eventing
  • Group 6 - Groups 1,2,3,4 and 5 plus: Advanced affiliated eventing
  • Group 7 - Groups 1,2,3,4,5 and 6 plus: Arab Racing, Horse Ball, Hunter Chasing, Point to Pointing, Polo, Polocrosse, Team Chasing So you see - the higher up the scale you go, the more expensive your premiums will be.

Insurance brokers

Brokers can help find competitive quotes on your behalf, and as they work on commission from the insurance companies, using one does not mean inflated prices. A broker can help trawl through the many insurance policies available and find the right one for you at the best price. Plus, they can also provide expert advice and guidance for those who are experiencing their first foray into equine insurance. As price comparison websites are fairly scarce for equine insurance, using a broker may be an effective way of finding an insurance policy.

Insurance jargon

Mention the word insurance to most people and they will visibly shudder! It takes a lot of work to find the right policy, no matter what needs insuring, and it can cost a lot of money. People are naturally suspicious of companies that provide insurance as, if nothing goes wrong it seems you are paying for very little. Another scary aspect of the insurance industry is the language it uses - it can sometimes seem like the companies are trying to blind us with science in order to part us from our hard-earned cash.

Below we have included a glossary of horsey and non-horsey insurance terms to help you navigate your way through the process.

  • Vet Fees By adding vet fees to your horse insurance policy you know that in the event of your horse becoming ill or injured, you can cover the costs of diagnosis, treatment, hospitalisation and complementary treatment.
  • Permanent loss of use This element means that should your horse become unable to perform the duties he was intended for through illness or injury, and you do not want to euthanize, your insurance policy will provide a lump sum to help cover the initial costs of retirement.
  • Disposal Distressing as it seems, it can be very expensive to arrange the safe disposal of your horse in the sad event of his death. By including disposal clause in your policy you will not have to worry about this at a time when you have other things on your mind.
  • Personal accident Personal accident cover means that in the event of an accident while riding your horse, if you or anyone permitted by you to ride or handle your horse, are injured you are covered for any treatment required. Some policies also provide cover for dental treatment too.
  • Settlement What your insurer pays out for a claim
  • Claim This is the term which is used to describe the process of getting the insurance company to pay out on your insurance policy which you have bought from them.
  • Excess The excess is the part of an insurance claim which the policy holder agrees to pay if he (or she) suffers a loss. An excess is usually standard with most insurance policies such as car insurance, and can be applied to the vet fees section of an equine policy. A voluntary excess will cut the cost of most insurance premiums considerably.
  • Policy The document that details the contract between the insurer and the policyholder.
  • Policyholder Person to whom the insurer issues the policy. Normally this is the person benefits from an insurance policy.
  • Premium The amount a customer has to pay in return for insurance cover.
  • Sum insured The maximum an insurance company will pay for a claim.
  • Underwriter Person employed by an insurance company who decides whether to accept a risk and calculates the premium to be charged.

So much does it cost?

The cost of your insurance to cover the vets fees should vary depending on the type of cover taken and the value of your horse or pony, but it should be expected to be around £20-£40 per month. However, do please bear in mind the price of insurance is affected by many factors such as the general health of the economy and not least the activities of other policy holders. For example, when personal injury claims increase so too does the cost of insurance policies. You will also be required to pay an 'excess' which is usually a small contribution towards the cost of any claim. The excess is usually a flat fee, plus a percentage of the outstanding claim.

For example if you claim £2000 for vets fees you may have a voluntary excess of £70 + 10% of the remaining cost (£70 + £193 = £263). The higher the excess, the lower the premium, which is why it's always worth shopping around!

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