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18 March,2018

Should I Insure My Horse…….The Minefield That is Horse Insurance

As a practice manager of a busy equine veterinary practice, wife of a vet and horse owner I get to see the many benefits, pitfalls and frustrations that come with horse insurance.

If you are faced with having to make a decision about whether to send your horse for surgery, knowing that insurance is in place and the financial worry is taken care of, means you can make the decision purely on what is right for you and your horse. This usually means discussing the prognosis for your horse with your vet and thinking carefully about the rehabilitation; can you manage a horse on box rest for several months and can your horse cope mentally.  As vets, it is our job to guide you and ask all of these questions to make sure you make the right decision for both you AND your horse. It is not our job to judge you and we will always respect our client’s decision but I personally know that our team find it hard when finances limit the care we can give.

However, for those of you with multiple horses, insuring all of your horses can end up costing a fortune. I know some practices offer clients the option to make regular payments so there is credit on their account or you could squirrel money away each month into a slush fund for those unexpected emergencies.

We are often faced with a client who doesn’t have insurance or any spare cash and wants to do absolutely everything for their horse. Their first reaction is to tell us to do whatever is necessary with no idea of how they are going to pay for it. I believe vets have a responsibility to make sure owners have as much information as possible to make the right decision for their individual situation. On top of this, the horse world is quick to judge and this puts yet more pressure on us when emotions are running high and our judgement can be clouded.

If you do decide to insure your horse there are three fundamental questions to ask yourself before taking out a policy:

  1. Do I just want cover for vets fees?
  2. Do I want to recover the value of my horse should he suffer a catastrophic injury and require immediate euthanasia under the British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA) Guidelines
  3. Do I want Loss of Use if my horse were to sustain an injury and no longer be able to do the job for which he is insured?

The value that you insure your horse for will have a massive impact on your premium. If you just want cover for veterinary fees you can keep your premium down by limiting the value for your horse. Your excess will also have a big impact on your premium but beware the percentage excess, 17.5% of a £4000 claim gets seriously expensive.

Equally, if your horse needs a lameness investigation and is lame on a front and hind leg the insurance company will probably split the claim into two separate conditions. On the face of it that’s great, as they will pay out up to your maximum limit for each of the two conditions. The downside is you will have two separate excesses, which if you have chosen a policy with £500 excess you may regret it! 

Insurance companies are putting more and more conditions on their policies. Most now ask for proof of routine vaccinations and dental care even if you are claiming for a kick wound so make sure everything is up to date and that you have proof if they ask for it.

They will always request a full clinical history from your veterinary practice so it is really important that at the time of your renewal you disclose everything! We have to record a full clinical history for your horse and asking your vet to amend or remove a clinical note would constitute insurance fraud on your part and result in your vet being struck off by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons.

If you get your vet out and they see a small sarcoid or they find a fractured tooth during a routine dental examination the clock is ticking on your 12 month period to claim. If you don’t and wait 18 months before deciding to do anything your insurance company will class it as a pre-existing condition and likely exclude it.

So my four top tips would be:

  1. Insurance (or a slush fund) takes away the financial worry and means you can make the best decision for you and your horse whatever that may be…………
  2. Read the small print of your policy to avoid getting caught out.
  3. Always disclose all of your horse’s history, your vet will have to disclose it anyway and you will at least know what is covered and what isn’t in an emergency.
  4. If your vet finds something that is covered by your insurance and your bill exceeds your excess, start a claim. If you don’t it will probably be excluded when you renew your policy.

And for those of you wondering, yes I do insure my own horse! It would be easy to think that I have access to ‘free’ veterinary care and therefore don’t need insurance but having had several accident-prone horses over the years it’s meant I can make a quick and easy decision as well as limiting any marital arguments with my husband over my “b****y horses”!

www.notjustavetswife.co.uk

Image Credit: Loch Leven Equine Practice


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