Understanding insurance policies can be mind-boggling. H&H asks the experts to answer the questions that you thought were too obvious to ask
1. Why has horse and pony insurance become so much more expensive?
“Insurance premiums reflect the risk. An insurer cannot pay for claims if they have not received enough premium to cover the payments,” explains Nicolina MacKenzie of South Essex Insurance Brokers (SEIB). “Although the most common claims against a horse insurance policy are for mortality, liability plus tack and saddlery, the bulk of the premium covers payment for veterinary fees because they are so expensive.
“With advances in treatment some conditions that once would have been considered terminal can now be treated, but at a cost. In addition, the options for diagnostics have increased dramatically, for example, MRI scanning, which is a very important tool for veterinary surgeons. But the machinery is expensive and each scan costly for the horse owner or insurer.
“As veterinary costs rise year on year the insurance premiums increase so that the insurers can continue to afford to provide the cover. Just because a horse is insured doesn’t mean the treatment is free; the insurer pays for the costs, protecting the owner.”
2. How can you reduce your premiums while still remaining protected?
“As horse insurance premiums rise to reflect the claims experience of the insurer, there are still ways to reduce the premium,” says Nicolina. These include:
• Do not over-insure for the activities the horse participates in. For example, don’t insure for hunting or eventing if you just hack around the block. The activities have a direct effect on the premium paid.
• The other option is to consider increasing the excess paid following a claim. By increasing the excess from around £100 to £250 or maybe £500 for each and every claim made, the premium reduces considerably. Many horse owners can afford to pay £500 for veterinary treatment, but need to be protected against a large bill, which could end up being thousands of pounds.
• Another option is to ask for co-insurance, which means that you pay a percentage of the cost of the treatment, as this can also reduce the cost of the premium.
• Do not pay for cover that you already have elsewhere. For example, tack and saddlery may be covered under the all-risks section of your household cover, and you may have liability insurance included within the membership of an equestrian organisation.
• Don’t under-insure as this would be a false economy. If there is a complete loss [that is, the death of the horse], the insurer will not pay for a full replacement if the appropriate premium has not been paid. But don’t over-insure either, as the insurer will only pay out on market value.
3. Do I have to have third-party cover to ride on the road?
“Unlike with motor vehicles, there is no legal requirement to hold third-party liability cover to ride on the roads,” says Shearwater Insurance’s Kathleen Tansey. “However, it is always advisable to have this cover as, in our experience, the most common claims made on this type of insurance are for motor accidents. Although third party can normally be added to a horse policy, it is not always the case as not all insurers are licensed to write this type of cover
“There are other ways of ensuring you are covered as many organisations, such as the British Horse Society, British Showjumping, British Dressage and British Eventing, offer this cover as a benefit of membership.”
4. Am I covered if other people ride my horse or I put my horse on loan?
“Normally cover is not affected by who is riding your horse for any section of the policy, as long as the person is riding with the policy holder’s permission,” explains Kathleen. “However, you should be aware that a person who has permission to ride your horse cannot claim against you on the public liability section of the policy if anything happens to them.
“Personal accident sections of a horse policy will normally cover anyone who is riding or handling the horse (unless it is a commercial arrangement). There are special arrangements for horses on loan depending on whether the policy is in the name of the owner or the loaner regarding who gets paid out for each section of the policy.”
5. When taking out insurance, do I need to have my horse vetted and should I tell the company about previous illness and injuries?
“Most leisure riders have horses valued under £5,000 and, up to this level, Petplan Equine do
not require a vetting, as long as you don’t have loss of use on your policy,” says Charlotte Gibbs from Petplan Equine.
“Other insurers can vary and it is often best to ask specifically what is required when you get a quote.
“All previous history must be provided to the insurance company. If your horse has suffered an injury or condition that is likely to reoccur, the insurer may exclude claims related to this problem. However, usually if your vet can confirm that this is a one-off, it should not affect the policy.”
Guy Prest from KBIS adds: “At the inception or renewal of the policy, you will be asked various questions about the health of the horse. These must be answered in full so that the insurers are in a position to accurately underwrite your policy. If pertinent information is withheld, it
may result in claims being denied, or at worst, the policy being cancelled.
“Requirements for vet certificates will vary depending on the type of cover, value and from company to company, but in general, a vet certificate is needed if the value is over £3,000 with vets fee cover or whenever permanent loss of use is included.”
6. Can I just insure for vet fees?
Kathleen says: “Vet fee only insurance is not possible with any of the companies we use, nor have we heard of any offering it recently. It is usually only offered as part of a package.”
KBIS’s Guy Prest agrees: “Most companies want an element of mortality cover as part of the package.”
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7. How easy is it to claim?
Charlotte advises: “Claiming is a really simple process, you just need to fill out a form and send it to your vet. Most insurers will then deal directly with the vet and pay them accordingly so that the client doesn’t have to pay for treatment first and then be reimbursed.
“It is worth checking with your insurer that this is definitely the case.”
Having the correct documentation will cut time, as Guy explains: “Make sure all the documentation is completed accurately by the policy holder and vet, and all invoices are included. If these are supplied at KBIS, we try to turn claims around in 48hours. The ones that take longer are either due to incomplete documentation or issues over non-disclosure.”