Rider hit with £5,500 bill reminds others to check insurance small print

  • An owner who found herself with a £5,500 vet’s bill that her equine insurance company refused to pay is sharing her story in hope it will prevent others from facing a similar situation.

    Emma Gardiner told H&H she mentioned the stem cell treatment her vets had recommended for her mare Apple’s arthritis to her insurers when she called them to check how much she could claim – but when she sent in the bill, the company rejected it.

    “I think I forgot that the insurance company is not my friend,” she said. “It’s left me completely shocked, and in financial difficulty.”

    Emma said the rejection came as a surprise as she had had no previous issues with the insurers, who had covered kissing spines surgery for Apple last year. It was then found that the then nine-year-old former racehorse had neck and hock arthritis, and Emma’s vets recommended the stem cell treatment.

    “The vets went through all the options and said they would probably be the best thing to give her a chance of a decent recovery,” Emma said. “I went ahead thinking the insurance would pay; it was an open claim.

    “I had called the insurers a few months before; there was apparently a stem cell shortage so I had to wait. I wanted to check how much I had left of the £6,000 per claim, as I knew the treatment was expensive, so I asked, and told them what I wanted to do, and the person I spoke to said that was fine. The problem was, it was only verbal.”

    Emma said the insurers told her the claim was rejected as the company classes stem cell treatment under organ transplant or gene therapy, which are not covered by the policy.

    “Arguably, I should have read the small print first,” she said. “But even now, I can’t see anything about stem cells in there, they just say it comes under that.”

    Emma praised the fellow liveries at her yard for their support, including suggestions on legal advice, and her “wonderful” vets who have been fighting her corner. She believes the insurers may now pay up to £1,000 of the bill, but that leaves a significant amount.

    “I didn’t even pay that much for the horse!” she said. “My vets said it was one of the biggest rejected claims they’ve had, and they’re now warning other clients with the same company.

    “It ruined Christmas; my husband and I officially cancelled it because we couldn’t afford it.”

    Emma said some of her followers on social media suggested setting up a GoFundMe page, which she has done, and that her vets are letting her pay the bill in instalments.

    The silver lining, she added, is that Apple is looking much better, and the treatment appears to be working.

    “She’s massively improved,” she said. “All I wanted was for her to be happy, comfortable and enjoying life.

    “But I want to make people aware; I can’t be the only one this has happened to, so if this saves someone else getting in this position – I always try to find the positives but have struggled with this one! But if I can do that, at least that’s something.

    “I really want to raise awareness of the importance of reading small print in insurance policies.”

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