Do You Need Equine Insurance For Your Horse?

November 20, 2021

Hi, I'm Paige, half of the duo behind Fairway Stables™

This website is the one I've been searching for, for years; a compilation of knowledge on all things horsemanship, including practical advice on how to start an equestrian business.

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If you own a horse, do you really need to have equine liability insurance? 

This is a contested question in the equestrian world, and today we’re breaking down:

  1. What types of equine insurance are available? 
  2. Why is equine insurance important?
  3. Misconceptions about equine insurance
  4. As a horse owner, should you have equine insurance?

What are the types of equine insurance?

First and foremost, when it comes to “equine insurance” we’re usually talking broadly about one of four types of insurance:

  • Mortality insurance: insurance covering the health of the horse
  • Care, Custody and Control (CCC) coverage: insurance for taking care of a horse you do not personally own
  • Commercial Equine Liability (CEL): insurance for using horses for commercial purposes like boarding, breeding, selling or training horses for business purposes
  • Private Equine Liability: coverage for having horses at your home

Your insurance provider will be able to map out exactly what equine insurance options are available for you. When thinking of equine insurance, the question comes down to what, as a horse owner, you’re willing or able to pay for when it comes to accidents (medical or otherwise). At the end of the day, horse owners should always be prepared for the unexpected. 

Unfortunately, it’s inevitable that your horse will get hurt or sick. If you have an expensive health emergency on your hands, such as a colic episode, you’ll want insurance coverage. As we all know, injuries can get expensive quickly, and insurance companies who deal primarily with equestrians have the experience to know exactly what coverage horse owners need. 

For example, when I was young, my first pony encountered a trailer full of fescue grass clippings. I’m sure to him it looked like a giant cake just waiting to be eaten. As you can imagine, he colicked quickly and severely and had to spend weeks in an equine hospital. Miraculously, he survived, and thankfully, my parents had the foresight to have insurance to help cover the episode.

Equine Morality Insurance

Do you have a highly valuable horse you can’t afford to replace? Like a show horse, for example? Consider equine mortality insurance or equine loss of use insurance. Can you afford colic surgery, as I mentioned in my story above? Equine major medical insurance may quite literally save the day.

As a side note, consider joining United States Equestrian Federation – for a nominal fee, your membership includes a free equine liability insurance policy which could be useful if you board your horse. 

Commercial Equine Liability Insurance

If you use horses in any commercial capacity, you’ll want some level of Commercial Equine Liability insurance to protect you against third-party lawsuits. For example, if you are a trainer, you want to be protected if you get sued by a student who gets injured in a class. 

Care, Custody, and Control Coverage

What type of liability do you have if you are simply caring for horses you don’t own, such as boarding horses on your property? You don’t want to be in a position where you have to front all of the legal fees if a horse owner sues you when their horse gets sick or injured and claims you were negligent. Care, Custody and Control insurance would be a good option in that type of situation.

Private Equine Liability Insurance

Finally there is Private Equine Liability insurance. I’d argue this is the most important type of equine insurance any horse owner who keeps horses on their property can have. Here’s why: imagine you keep your horse on your property, and someone tresspasses onto your property to pet your horse and gets kicked in the process. Yes, they broke the law by trespassing….but under the law, you still have liability for any injury your horse may cause. 

This is particularly important when it comes to children. Horses can be considered “attractive nuisances” in US tort law, meaning even if you’ve done everything you can to secure your property (gates, signs, etc), a court will be inclined to side against you on a negligence claim if a child were to climb the fence and hurt himself. In that type of situation, having an insurance policy can be a saving grace.

Why is horse insurance important?

Simply put, equine insurance is important in the eyes of the law because equine liability extends further than just the horse. 

In other words, there are times when, as a horse owner, you can do all the right things, and still have legal liability. For example, say that you have all of the proper fencing in place, you even have a proper warning sign in place, but a child walks by your horse’s paddock, thinks the horse is pretty, crawls under the fence to pet him, and gets stepped on. 

Would you be able to pay the legal fees if the child’s parents took action? 

This is what equine insurance boils down to: what are you willing to pay for out of pocket when it comes to medical fees or legal fees regarding your horse?

Going back to the example of the child who climbed under the fence to pet your horse. Even if you haven’t actually done anything wrong, are you prepared to pay thousands of dollars to a lawyer to defend you? Once again, having a proper equine insurance policy in place can be a lifesaver in providing a defense.

Here are the questions you really need to ask yourself:

  • Could you afford all of the legal fees if:
    • Your friend is riding your horse, the horse spooks, your friend falls off and breaks her leg
    • You’re in the schooling ring, your horse kicks another horse and injures it
    • You tacked up a school horse for a lesson, the student falls off, and claims you tacked up the horse incorrectly
    • You leave a gate open, your horse runs out of the paddock onto a road, and causes an accident 

Obviously, there are plenty of “what if ” scenarios that could come up. The point is, if you own a horse and find yourself in any sort of legal dispute, having an insurance policy in place can make an incredible difference in what an accident costs you.

Misconceptions About Horse Insurance 

We want to set the record straight. Below are the misconceptions we commonly hear about equine insurance:

  1. If I have equine insurance, I won’t get sued.
    1. Incorrect- there’s always a chance you could be sued (just like anything else in life.) Equine insurance doesn’t mean someone can’t sue you, but it means you will likely have financial protection in the lawsuit. (In some cases, your insurance carrier may even provide you with legal counsel.)
  2. My state has an equine immunity statute, so I’m protected. 
    1. Again, this doesn’t mean you can’t be sued. Yes, it may help your odds of winning the lawsuit, but defending yourself in any lawsuit is still expensive. Insurance helps cover these costs. Plus, just because your state has an Equine Liability Statute, it doesn’t necessarily mean horse owners have extra protection. You must ensure that you’re following these laws exactly. 
  3. I have a strong contract in my equine business, so I don’t need insurance on top of it.
    1. Once again, while this is one of the most important steps anyone in an equestrian business can take, equine insurance will be an additional layer of protection. 
  4. My homeowner policy covers my horses on my property.
    1. Most of the time, homeowner policies don’t provide general liability coverage that extends to horses, especially in cases where the law finds you at fault. For example, if your horse escapes, runs out onto a road, and causes an accident, you’re at fault. In this scenario, your general liability coverage likely won’t extend to your horses because they are off the property.

Should horse owners have equine liability insurance?

To summarize, yes, it is highly recommended that every horse owner have some sort of equine liability insurance. 

Again, it’s always best to be prepared for the unexpected, and equine liability insurance can go as far as providing a legal defense and covering legal fees if you do ever find yourself in hot water. 
Talk to a financial advisor or insurance advisor to find the best policy for you. I’ve used Connaway & Associates for more than 20 years. I am not an affiliate and receive no compensation for sharing their information, but they have been lovely to work with and have provided such peace of mind over the years! 

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