When finances are tight, the ‘to insure or not to insure’ is a question that comes to forefront of most horse owner’s minds.
Some choose to put the money they would have spent on equine insurance in a savings account each month for the day when they have a big vet’s bill, rather than paying a monthly/annual premium.
But Jeremy Mantell, senior partner at the Liphook Equine Hospital would advise most people to insure their horses “unless they can afford not to”, and he would recommend everybody is insured against third party claims.
“If a horse strays on to a road and causes a crash there could be a multi-million pound claim,” he says, while veterinary claims can easily run into thousands of pounds if surgery or expensive diagnostic work is required.
At the hospital, all horse owners have to settle their bills before they can take their horse home, unless they have made some form of prior arrangement.
“We discuss the cost of treatments with clients when they come in and ask them if they have insurance for one reason — some insurance companies will not accept a claim unless they are notified in advance. Other than that it is irrelevant,” explains Jeremy.
Cheaper isn’t always better
As there is a wide range of insurance policies available, it pays to shop around to get the best cover. Always take the time to study the small print, so you understand what you are covered for and the terms and conditions of different insurance policies. The small print will become very large if you fall into dispute with your insurers.
“Horse insurance is a great example of marketing,” maintains Jeremy. “It is marketed at the lowest price, not the best value. The better companies make fewer hurdles to jump through for their clients when they come to claim.”
Some owners have the financial discipline to set aside regular payments into a “care of my horse” account. But others may find it easier to sign up with insurers, the money being paid automatically via direct debit, for the peace of mind of being covered.
But all horse owners should remember that insurance companies and vets are businesses. They make their profits by minimising their financial exposure to claims, while ensuring that they also offer a service. They also know that some owners do make fraudulent claims.
The best advice when dealing with equine insurance companies is to be totally honest, buy a good magnifying glass and read the small print very carefully.
Looking for horse insurance? Try Horse & Hound’s insurance comparison service at horseandhound.co.uk/insurance
A fuller version of this feature was published in Horse & Hound (3 December, 2009)