One major decision every horse owner makes is whether or not to insure his equine companion. If you own a pleasure or recreational horse, no matter how much or how little his purchase price was, you should consider equine insurance – not so much in the case of the horse's death, but for major medical and surgical incidents such as colic.
If you are devoted to your horse, it doesn't matter if you paid less than $5,000 for him when he's sick and you're struggling to pay medical bills. And, once he has been ill, insurance costs skyrocket. It's really locking the proverbial barn door at that point.
About the Policies
Most equine insurance companies base their premium on the amount of money you paid for your horse. So, if you paid $2,500, your mortality premium will be much less than that of a horse whose purchase price was $10,000.
Equine insurance companies have a "minimum" mortality coverage they require you to take, but it's usually no more than a few thousand dollars. This will cost you roughly $100 a year, depending on the insurance company you choose. But mortality insurance allows you to choose the very important option of adding major medical and surgical coverage – an additional $150 annually with most companies. So, for $250 a year, your horse can be covered for costly surgical procedures.
For example, colic surgery in the Northeast costs well in excess of $5,000 – if there are no complications. Horses requiring this type of surgery also must be kept in an equine rehabilitation facility, where they are administered medication and other after-care. In short, most equine colic surgeries run from $6,000 to $10,000. It's great to be insured and not have to worry about this huge costs if they come.
It's important to do your homework before signing on with an insurance company. There are many, and all provide different benefits with varying premiums. Don't jump to the conclusion that the company with the cheapest premium is the best buy.
For instance, some companies offer $7,500 coverage for colic surgery, while others provide only $5,000. Other companies offer an additional $3,000 in colic coverage if you also have mortality insurance, for a total colic surgical coverage of $10,500. This could be a real benefit, since that figure is much more realistic for colic costs.
Major surgical coverage, of course, also protects you for less severe incidents. If your horse needs stitches, for example, your insurance will cover that cost minus a typical deductible.
There are exceptions, too. If your horse has a pre-existing condition, that may be excluded from your insurance coverage. For example, if he had a bone spur in one leg, the insurance policy may exclude that leg from further lameness treatment. This seemingly paradoxical act of insurance companies is a very sticky point. They are not going to pay for pre-existing conditions. In fact, if your horse is diagnosed with a problem, the problem may be excluded from coverage when the horse is reinsured next year. So be careful assuming that insurance will cover a problem even after you insured you healthy horse.
Some insurance companies demand a yearly examination by your vet before renewing the policy. Unless you can coordinate this check up with a regular visit for spring or fall shots, it will add to the cost of your insurance. Many companies no longer require the yearly form to be completed by a vet; owners are allowed to do it.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is that by being an informed shopper, you can insure your horse for an annual premium of about $250, depending on the amount of mortality coverage you request. If your priority is to have major medical and surgical coverage, take as low a mortality premium as the insurance company will allow.
Many breed and discipline organizations sponsor insurance plans for their members. Investigate these first if you belong to one because they usually offer good deals. Otherwise, look through the ads for equine insurance in national equestrian magazines.
Once your horse is sick, veterinarians will be tremendously relieved that your horse is insured for medical and/or surgical conditions. They're going to do their best either way, but it reduces the anxiety of having to explain unexpected overruns in medical costs later on.
Paying for an appropriate insurance policy is small price for your horse's well-being and especially your peace of mind.