Q: I have insured my 19-year-old gelding with the same company for the past five years. I wasn’t happy with some aspects of its service so have been shopping around for a new policy, but I can’t seem to find one that will accept an “older” horse – which, for some companies, can be as young as 15 – unless they have been insured with the same company since before this age.

My gelding is fit, has not been treated for any ailments relating to old age and still competes regularly. With horses living and staying fit and healthy for longer, why can’t I find insurance for my teenage horse that does not cost the earth?

A: Petplan Equine claims to be the only insurer offering comprehensive cover, including illness and injury, for all horses and ponies up to the age of 25, providing they are insured before their 20th birthday. The policy in question is their Older Horse Policy.

“It is essential we are providing products that meet horse owners’ needs,” says Petplan Equine’s brand manager, Jo Whittaker. “Despite improved standards in care and nutrition, an older horse is more likely to need veterinary attention than a younger one.

“As your reader points out, horses are staying fit and healthy and living much longer. Despite this, and the fact that older horses are competing successfully, the Veteran Horse Society (VHS) has noted reluctance to take on ownership of an older horse due to concerns about the possibility of high vets’ bills and the inability to insure against them,” she says.

Olympic event rider Jeanette Brakewell had problems finding insurance for her 20-year-old Olympic partner, Over To You. Although “Jack” has now retired from top-level competition, he continues to compete in advanced one-day events.

“I looked everywhere for an insurance company that would insure Jack for illness as well as injury, but none would take him on because he had not been signed up prior to his 15th or 16th birthday. Most policies would only provide comprehensive cover until he was 20,” explains Jeanette, who is now insured with the Petplan Equine Older Horse Policy.

David Buckton, associate director of South Essex Insurance Brokers (SEIB), says: “From an insurance underwriter’s point of view, older horses do present an increasing risk. All insurance companies, therefore, have a maximum age above which standard terms will be modified.

“At SEIB, we are happy to insure horses and ponies up to and including 16-year-olds on our standard terms for mortality and vet’s fees, including sickness and disease cover, as well as accidental injury. For horses and ponies already insured with us, we will continue to renew the policy up to and including 20 years although, from 17 years onwards, we do increase the premium in recognition of the increasing risk.

“Once a horse is 21, we would offer our Fifteen Plus Policy which is available as a cheaper alternative for any horse that is aged 15 or over but is restricted to accidental injury cover.

“Not long ago, 13 was the maximum age for insurance,” he says. “‘Aged’ was used to describe any horse over eight. Insurers will always balance risk against the potential for income, but I would expect further developments as insurers design products to meet the demand from owners.”

Useful contacts

  • Petplan Equine Tel: 0800 783 777 www.petplanequine.co.uk
  • South Essex Insurance Brokers Tel: 01708 850000 www.seib.co.uk

Looking for horse insurance? Try Horse & Hound’s insurance comparison service at horseandhound.co.uk/insurance

This feature was first published in Horse & Hound (31 January, ’08)