Whether you board horses or rent them out for people to ride on your property, having the right insurance is crucial. It is also important when you are the person sending your horse to a boarding facility. There are many situations that could result in an insurance claim as these real news headlines show.
“Horse Escapes and Causes Highway Collisions”
Perhaps this headline makes you squeamish because you wonder how the horse fared against the vehicles. But what about the occupants of those cars? Were they injured or killed? Who’s to blame? In most cases the person at fault is the owner of the horse or pony that made its way onto the road and caused the accident.
“Riders Lose $1,000 in Barn Theft”
Maybe it’s the devastating thought of losing the essential pieces of tack critical to your horse’s training that you’ve spent months and years saving to purchase, only to have some vandal enter the barn and swipe your possessions. If it happens on your private home farm, will your homeowner’s policy cover you? If you board at a commercial stable, will their insurance cover your loss?
“Tragic Fire Claims Lives of 40 Horses”
It goes without saying that every time we hear news of a barn fire, our thoughts immediately turn to the welfare of the horses inside, but what happens when it’s all over? What if those horses don’t make it out in time and are seriously burned, or even worse, lost their lives? Did you have a mortality or major medical policy on your horse so that you will be reimbursed? If not, will the barn (if at fault) be held responsible for repaying you and others the estimated value of your horse?
“Child Sustains Life-Threatening Injury When Kicked by Pony”
Who is held responsible and what can you do to protect yourself in case you find yourself being sued after your bombproof horse, safely enclosed in his pasture, kicks or bites a trespassing child?
These are all headlines that make horse-owners cringe. While we all (hopefully) take the necessary precautions to ensure that one of these scenarios doesn’t happen to us, one should maintain the mindset of “never say never” because in today’s society anything can and, if Murphy’s Law holds true, will happen.
Are you absolutely positive that your insurance policy will hold up and pay out should you be sued? Do you know where in your policy it specifically covers your horses should you keep them at home? Are you wondering how you can be better protected and what it will cost you? Then read on while we discuss some of the different insurance policies, what they cover, and who should purchase them. You can also call and speak to an American Heritage Insurance Agent for more information, a quote, or to review a current policy you have with us.
The Purpose of Insurance
Originally, insurance was designed to protect what you own- your assets. Did you know that the first type of insurance in the world was written in Egypt for insuring cargos for people who shipped them on the ocean? In case something happened en route they could be compensated for their losses.
It’s important to know that there are two kinds of insurance- property and liability. Property insurance protects you in case something happens to the structures (houses, barns, etc.). You are then compensated by the insurance company when damage due to fire, wind, earthquake, or another disaster occurs. Pure liability protects you when you or your company is legally responsible for anything which you or your employees caused, and you are sued and can legally be held liable.
What Kind of Insurance Do You Need?
The type of insurance that is best for you depends on various factors. You need to assess what it is that you do with your horses. For instance, if you keep one horse at home and it never leaves your property for a trail ride, horse show or clinic, then you may be covered under your homeowner’s policy. However, it is important that you specifically ask your insurance provider if you are covered and if so, where that is stated within your policy. It doesn’t hurt to follow that phone call up with a written, dated letter sent certified mail that on a specific date you spoke with a specific person and were told that your one horse was covered under your policy and that you wanted to verify in writing that this is correct. Keep a copy of the letter you send in case a problem arises later on.
Personal Horse Owner’s Policy
But what if you, like many others, keep your horse at home but travel to events? Maybe you keep more than one and aren’t sure if they are even covered under your homeowner’s policy. In that case, it would be wise to check first with your homeowner’s policy to see if you are covered. If not, a personal horse owner’s liability policy is something you should be readily looking into. This is a great addition even if you are covered under homeowner’s because it will give you added coverage when traveling or stabled at properties other than your own. This is a huge bonus in the instance of your horse biting another horse, or worse a human, while out on a trail ride or kicking out and damaging a parked vehicle or trailer while at a horse show.
And of course, don’t forget that even at home, safely behind proper fencing and latched gates, your horse is still a liability due to “attractive nuisance” laws. An attractive nuisance is a potentially harmful object or condition of the land that has the ability to attract children. Swimming pools, tractors, and in some cases horses qualify as attractive nuisances. While we can all sympathize with children that love horses, it is unacceptable for them to enter your barn, fields or other property to “pet the pony” without your permission and/or supervision. The personal horse owner’s policy will protect you against potential lawsuits in case a child trespasses and is injured.
While you may be thinking, “Whew, I board my horse at a facility so I don’t need to worry,” stop right there! While your boarding facility is (or should be) property covered (and we will discuss those later on) you should still consider the personal horse owner’s policy. Why? Well, let’s run through this scenario. Bosco, your frisky Thoroughbred, enjoys his paddock by the road. He also enjoys kicking up his heels and has been known on occasion to knock a board down and escape the property. One day he knocks down that top board and before it’s fixed, being a talented jumper, he sails over the now shorter fence. When it’s realized that he is missing a search party ensues and finds him parading across the neighbor’s newly landscaped yard. While come may accept your offer of helping to re-seed the lawn or replace the damaged plants, others may not be so kind. You and the barn could be held liable since the horse was a “known offender.”
So how much will this personal horse owner policy cost you? Most will range from $150-250 for the year for up to five horses. That means for as little as $12.50 a month, you could be insured for up to $300,000 per occurrence with an aggregate of $600,000. Of course the more you pay, the more you are covered with up to 1 million over 2 million. Just to clarify, an aggregate is the total amount for the full year. For example, if you had the 1 million over 2 policy, one claim could be made for $1 million and the aggregate would provide an additional million dollars in coverage for that year should an additional claim arise. The maximum amount to be paid for any one occurrence would not be more than 1 million.
Calling All Professionals
It’s important to define what professional means before we begin discussing coverage for them. A professional for the purposes of this article is someone who is compensated for an activity pertaining to horses such as teaching, training, boarding, breeding or racing. All professionals have different circumstances and these will dictate the coverage that is needed.
The first scenario is the person who owns the farm also owns the horse business (boarding facility, riding stable, etc.). To ensure proper coverage, a farm policy package which includes insurance on all structures including the dwelling, barns, indoor arenas, etc., and liability protection for themselves personally and as a commercial business which would include the aforementioned activities would be most appropriate. It is also important for them to have a care, custody and control policy. This protects them in the case that negligence leads to the death or injury of one or more boarded horses. That covers them not only at the home property listed under the farm policy but also if they should be hauling the boarded horses to an event away from the farm. Care, custody and control is important for any barn to have. Remember accidents and mistakes can happen. Someone new starts working at the barn and turns your precious (and expensive) Saddlebred mare out in the paddock along with another mare that is known for being ornery and aggressive. A fight ensues and your mare is kicked in the shoulder, resulting in an emergency trip to the nearest equine clinic and months of rehabilitation. If the farm doesn’t have a care, custody and control policy you could wind up responsible for footing the pricey bill.
The great aspect of care, custody and control is that it can be purchased separately, which is ideal for trainers that lease a barn or indoor and don’t own the property. While the property owners should have the appropriate property coverage the trainer will be unable to insure the property since they don’t own it. This policy leaves them protected in case a mishap occurs due to negligence. The care, custody and control policy is priced according to the choices that you have in selecting your limits of the policy. For example, if you value ten boarded horses at $5,000 each, the maximum amount the client will be reimbursed for one horse is $5,000. The insurance company may also place an aggregate amount, which is the maximum amount the company will pay in case of a full loss. It’s important to note that money will only be awarded if the trainer or stable was negligent.
Barns that have high dollar horses will in some cases request that the client keep a mortality and/or major medical policy on their horses.
Independent trainers and instructors can also purchase their own insurance policy to protect them. This is primarily for people that do not own their own farm and who either teach/train at a farm who has a farm package and/or they teach clients at the client’s facility. Some farms that have a farm package can add an instructor to their policy. The problem that can arise with this is that it only covers the instructor/trainer while they are at the farm they are covered under.
It should be mentioned that there are some companies that offer a mono-line commercial liability policy for individuals that rent a barn but don’t own the property. Be sure to call around and inquire to see if you can find something of this nature.
Above and Beyond
An umbrella policy is also known as an additional coverage policy because it goes above and beyond what you have. Large facilities may also want to look into an umbrella policy if they are uncertain that their current policy limits will be sufficient if an incident arises that they need to use it. If for example, you have a limit of 1 million, an umbrella policy can give you an extra 1-2 million in coverage. When purchasing an umbrella policy make sure it protects what you think you are protected for. Individuals with a personal horse owner’s policy may also be interested in purchasing an umbrella policy if they wish to have more coverage. With more and more claims being made and related to equine versus vehicle, the damage amounts are rising, especially when it involves bodily harm to a human. As one insurance agent stated, “There is no price on human life.”
While we can take all the precautions we want, on occasion we hear about tack thefts from area barns. Most farm policies will allow you to list the items separately with the specific tack and amount that it is worth. Usually farm policies will cover you for a certain amount of tack ($2,500-$5,000) as a blanket coverage, but let’s face it- the backyard owner with one or two horses probably has more money than that invested in horse supplies and tack. What are some steps you can take to recoup your losses should there be a theft in your barn? Keep an inventory of what you have with pictures to document specific details, save receipts to help prove the value and put your name on everything.
Purchasing a Policy
You will be amazed to find out that it’s not as expensive as you thought for the amount of coverage you will receive. It always seems difficult to put down money for something that you hope to never use, but before you have to experience a claim, do yourself a favor and purchase insurance to protect yourself. We all know that accidents can happen any time, any place. That’s why they are called accidents – they were unintentional. What’s not an accident is not having the proper coverage to back you up.
Call American Heritage Insurance Group today and see what we can do to help protect you and your horses.
Article By: Rebecca Eddy
Source: Allen Financial Insurance Group