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Should Individual Horse Owners Get Liability Insurance?

The question of insurance for horse owners pops up from time to time, and it’s a difficult one to answer, to be sure.  Insurance is never a bad idea, especially when it comes to a large animal like a horse that can create uncontrolled havoc on a particularly bad day, but how do you know if you’re already covered for your horse’s actions?  Well, it depends, in part, on where you anticipate your horse becoming a danger to someone, but it also depends on your existing insurance policies. 

Some Policies Can Cover Horse Liability

Horses that are kept at home all the time and never see the inside of horse trailers are often covered by your homeowners or farm insurance policy.  There are limits on how many horses you can own and what you’re doing with them, though, depending on which policy you have in effect.

Homeowners policies may cover horse liability when the horse is only used by you or your family and friends, in a way that is strictly recreational.  This means that the horse can’t be used in any way that might create a commercial value, such as breeding or professional competition.  Your homeowners policy usually cover your horse’s misadventures should they end up causing an auto accident on a road adjacent to your property, but if you take your horse on the road and he gets loose when you flip your bumper pull horse trailer, your insurance won’t pay for the cars he kicked in his panic.  These policies also typically limit the number of horses you can own.

Farmowners policies are somewhat more flexible, though they still won’t cover your horse on trips to shows or friendly competitions.  If, however, you want to use your horse for breeding, give riding lessons or board a few neighbor horses, you can add a rider to your base package to cover horse accidents with visitors to your farm-based horse business.  Speak to your insurance agent in detail and read your policy carefully before you assume your horse is covered under your farm policy, though -- it can be a very costly assumption if you’re wrong.

Private Horse Owner Liability Policies

If you board your horse, you probably already have a private horse owner liability policy in place, since the vast majority of boarding facilities require this sort of coverage before they’ll accept a horse.  These policies cover your horse’s antics no matter where they may be -- you can think of it as a policy that’s attached to your horse instead of to your home or farm.  If you plan to take your horse on trail rides or off to visit friends, a private horse owner liability policy is definitely recommended before you load him up.

These policies are great for people who rent or have no on-site facilities for their horses and must board them elsewhere.  The catch is that your horse must be considered a hobby -- he can’t be used for income-generation if the private horse owner liability policy is going to cover your horse biting a kid at his next local horse show.  It’ll also cover your horse’s antisocial behavior if you were to have an accident while pulling your slant load horse trailer and he was freed on the highway 

No matter what your horse does, so long as he’s not earning money for you (things like rodeo and racing are terrible gray areas, so make sure to ask your insurance agent before committing to the policy), are covered.  If you tie your horse to your gooseneck horse trailer at a parade and he manages to kick or bite a passer-by while you’re not watching, your insurance will take care of their injuries.  The same goes for allowing someone else to ride your horse -- with a private horse owner liability policy, you’ll have one less thing to worry about.

But are they affordable?  These policies represent the base level of coverage needed to take your horse on the road, they’re designed for small horse owners.  Policies vary, but coverages often start around $300,000 and may go up over $1 million, and they often cover up to four or five horses.  Most policies are priced at only a few hundred dollars a year, since the chances of a horse-related lawsuit are still pretty slim, even if you’re traveling with a nervous horse.

How Can I Cover My Horse?

Your horse might also need some coverage, especially if you’re traveling with him a lot.  After all, if he were to get sick from exposure to other horses or be hurt in an auto accident, the bills for his treatment could be insurmountable.  This is where equine mortality policies come into play.  Most of the time, your horse doesn’t have to die for them to pay, but you can’t get a medical policy by itself -- they’re always attached to equine mortality policies.

Equine mortality is exactly what you’d think it would be: life insurance for your horse.  These policies can be difficult to secure after your horse has turned 16, but guaranteed renewal policies should help you get as much out of your policy as possible.  Your premiums will be based on the value of your horse, taking into consideration his purchase price and bloodlines -- only once you’ve secured an equine mortality policy can you add major medical coverage.

Major medical riders aren’t for regular care, but if your horse become suddenly and severely ill or has a bad accident, you’ll be thankful you took out the coverage.  Most policies cap out around $15,000, more than enough for the rare sickness of a hobby horse, but may exclude specific types of treatments, so check your policy carefully before signing on the dotted line 

There are a dazzling number of policy types for horse professionals, but if you’re just taking your four-legged friend out for a private adventure, you’ll get the most bang for your buck out of private horse owner liability and equine mortality policies.  Call an equine insurance specialist if you’re interested in starting up a small horse business, or if you’ve got more questions about insurance coverages for your horse.

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