Posted 07-Jan-2021 17:53:09
Category: Broadstone Equine
2021 Is Here (Thank Goodness!) - Make Horse Insurance Your New Year's Resolution
I am willing to bet that like pretty much everyone on planet Earth, you were relieved/thrilled/doing a happy dance to see the calendar tick over to 2021. Considering most of us are still dealing with the chaos and anxiety of life in a pandemic and economic downturn, it’s likely that you didn’t start off 2021 pondering all the ways your horse could rack up high dollar vet bills, or heaven forbid, pass away.
I realize that is scary language, but if 2021 has taught us anything, it is to prepare for the unexpected! Don’t get me wrong, I realize that most horseowners don’t want to hang out at the barn chatting about worst case scenarios, but as in many areas of life, what you don’t know can hurt you, and putting your head in the sand is rarely a successful strategy. So, without being too morbid, but in the interest of helping you protect your horses and your bank account, here are some reasons you should put “Get Horse Insurance Policy” on your 2021 list of New Year’s resolutions.
It is a common belief that horses are safest at home and at the most risk while traveling and competing. Interestingly, several years ago when Broadstone did an anecdotal analysis of more than 2000 horses that we had insured over a two-year period, of those that died during that time, pasture accidents ranked as one of the top causes of death.
The types of accidents ran the gamut from kick wounds, slips and falls, puncture wounds, crashes into pieces of fencing or other debris, and even jumping pasture fences and running into the road. Our review showed that these types of accidents did not discriminate by value or type of horse, with uses ranging from Olympic contenders living in immaculate conditions to backyard pleasure horses, and values from $1,000 to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
What to do?
First, consider insuring your horse. Rates for Full Mortality (life insurance) coverage for the typical performance horse aged 2-14 generally run from 2.9% to 3.7% of the insured value, depending on the horse’s use, breed, competition level, and the insurance company offering coverage. So, for example, the Full Mortality premium for a 10-year-old Dressage, Cutting or Reining horse insured at $10,000 could be as low as $290-$300 a year. Or for a Hunter/Jumper or Roping horse it could be as low as $325-$340 a year. And for Pleasure horses not used for a specific discipline, it could be as low as $300-$325 a year. This life insurance policy also usually covers for theft, and typically includes at no charge up to $5,000 (depending on the insurance company and the horse’s insured value) of free Emergency Colic Surgery coverage, providing the horse does not have a colic history. To get a free quote, go to Broadstone’s QUOTE page.
Second, take steps to limit your horse’s risk while turned out. Monitor fence lines, especially after bad weather, and keep all debris (and any type of equipment, vehicles, or other potential hazards) out of pastures, paddocks and other turn out areas. If possible, fence off trees to limit your horse's access to them. Introduce new horses to a herd gradually, and if you see a personality conflict cropping up among members of the herd (or even good “friends” consistently playing too hard), take steps to separate these horses for their own good.
In addition, keep an eye on the weather and avoid putting your horses out during storms or in slippery icy or muddy conditions. Almost every Winter we see at least one Mortality claim after a horse slips and falls in icy and/or significantly muddy conditions, not to mention the many Major Medical/Surgical claims for strained ligaments and tendons, and even fractures. For more Winter Safety Tips, see BLOG.
The word “colic” strikes fear in the hearts of horseowners around the world. Our anecdotal research has shown that colic and related intestinal issues also rank very highly as common causes of death.
And again we see these types of claims across the board, regardless of breed, discipline, or value. Horses receiving the best feed, hay, grass, training, turn out, veterinary care, and practically 24-hour monitoring can still end up on the operating table.
And while the prognosis has become more positive over the years, with more horses not only surviving colic surgery but also going on to have long, successful, colic-free careers, an unfortunate number still die before, during, or after surgery due to a variety of reasons. In some cases, the colic comes on suddenly during the night, and the horse has passed away before help arrives in the morning. In other cases, even with prompt care and attention, by the time the horse makes it to the hospital too much damage has been done. And in others, post-operative complications develop that cannot be overcome.
What to do?
Colic prevention is an art and a science, and sometimes feels like a matter of luck. In a nutshell: allow your horse to live as much like a horse as possible, with as much turn-out time as you can. This provides both exercise and hopefully good pasture to munch on, as their digestive systems are designed to have an almost constant influx of roughage. A comprehensive de-worming program is also essential, since certain types of parasites can contribute to colic. And it is vital that your horses have a constant access to clean, fresh water (especially in cold weather, when buckets and troughs can freeze over), since dehydration can cause an impaction colic.
For horses that have little access to grass and/or turn out, try to have good quality hay available as often as possible, and feed several small meals of grain daily, versus just larger meals. Also consider some of the supplements designed to help maintain gut health. And if your horse is primarily turned out in sandy areas, be aware of the possibility of sand colic, which you can help prevent by some of the tips above, as well as by not putting hay or feed on the ground, and adding psyllium to your horse’s feed.
Also, be on the lookout for gastric ulcers, which can lead to colic issues. Research over more than the last decade has shown that gastric ulcers are much more prevalent than previously thought--among all breeds and disciplines. Just a two-day trip away from home can be enough to set the stage for ulcers. If your horse is dropping weight for no reason, seems girthy or unusually tense or depressed, has changed his eating or drinking habits, and/or seems “off” or slightly colicky, talk to your veterinarian. And if you are traveling to competitions or will otherwise be away from home, consider preventative measures. The good news is that there are effective prevention and treatment supplement and medication options to help keep gastric ulcers at bay and treat them if they occur.
In our look at those two years of Mortality claims, neurological diseases such as EPM were slightly more prevalent than other causes. And the remainder of causes we reviewed included eye issues, joint infections from puncture wounds, various cancers, conditions like founder that required the horses to be put down, as well as catastrophic injuries resulting from trailering accidents and barn fires.
Other Expenses – Medical and Surgical Insurance Coverages
In many cases, before these horses passed away or were euthanized their owners invested significant funds toward attempts at diagnosis and treatment. This is important to mention because the Full Mortality policy wording requires that the insured takes all steps to save the horse’s life, regardless of the expenses necessary to do so. In the example of a horse that is colicking, if the horse is a candidate for surgery as recommended by the veterinarian, and the owner chooses not to follow the vet’s recommendation and instead euthanizes the horse, or the horse dies due to the untreated colic, it is very likely that a Full Mortality claim would not be paid since the policy requirements were not followed. While humane destruction is covered under most Full Mortality policies, the circumstances of the euthanasia must meet the policy requirements.
Having some sort of Medical and Surgical coverage can ease some of the financial considerations when making decisions regarding your horse’s care. In cases of covered injuries, illnesses, lamenesses, accidents and diseases that occur during the policy period, Medical and Surgical coverages can help provide reimbursement for a good portion of the veterinary expenses related to those issues.
Medical and Surgical coverages are usually available for horses through the age of 30 days to 18-20 years, at coverage limits including $5,000, $7,500, $10,000, $12,500, and $15,000 (depending on the horse’s age, breed, use, insured value, and the insurance company offering the coverage) for additional premiums starting at $200 per year. Considering colic surgery, without complications, averages between $8,000 - $10,000 (and can be considerably more expensive depending on the surgical facility, the type of surgery, and any post-operative complications), or that even a horse with something as “simple” as a puncture wound can easily rack up more than $5,000 in vet bills to treat the resulting infection, Medical and Surgical coverages can be the best investment a horseowner makes.
And of course, in the much greater number of instances where injuries and illnesses thankfully do not result in the horse’s death, but do rack up high dollar invoices from the veterinarian, that same Medical and Surgical coverage can come in handy.
For more information on coverages, please check our prior Blog entries, and visit the Broadstone Protect Your Horse and FAQ pages. To see about a quote for coverage, go to the Quote page. And also, please contact our office at 888-687-8555 with any questions.
**These blogs are for basic information purposes only, and do not constitute advice from Broadstone Equine Insurance Agency. Contact our office directly at 888-687-8555 or info@BroadstoneEquine.com to speak with an agent for complete and current information regarding all coverages.