Veterinarian's Role In Equine Insurance

Why Insure?

Over the last several years, more and more horses are being insured. The purchase of a horse or horses is a significant investment relative to purchase price and ultimate maintenance. For many buyers, the purchase of a horse or horses represents the biggest portion of their total spending ability. Purchasing insurance is obviously a way to protect such an investment. I think it is also safe to say that most insurance buyers remain somewhat uninformed as to the process and policy, just as most of us have never read our household and/or auto insurance policy.

Which Policy?

The most commonly purchased insurance policy is for mortality coverage. This policy, like other policies, requires an examination by a licensed veterinarian prior to approval by the issuing company. The examination is paid for by the purchaser of the insurance. Most companies require the same, basic examination to be reasonably sure that the horse or horses in question are in good health and that pre-existing problems (previous colic surgery, laminitis, allergic bronchitis, etc.) do not exist which may influence the horse's future health. This requires a physical examination as well as an accurate history.

The decision to insure or not insure a given horse is a sole province of the insurer; the veterinarian simply provides information about the present health status. The owner and perhaps veterinarian (assuming that he or she has had previous experience with the horse) provide history. There are instances whereby an accurate and detailed history is simply not available.

It is important to point out, for the protection of all parties, that a physical examination for each horse is required. That is, it is insufficient and potentially a problem in the event of a claim for the veterinarian to simply sign off on an examination form based on having been familiar with a given horse over the years (worming, vaccinating, and other basic maintenance procedures). It is not unusual for purchasers of insurance to either not understand that principle or be miffed that their veterinarian has to do a physical examination on a horse about to be insured that the veterinarian has known for some time.

Who Tells the Insurance Carrier?

The other very important aspect of all policies, which is occasionally overlooked, is that the carrier be informed of health-related problems (illness, injury, etc.) either at the time or shortly after the exam. Insurance owners can jeopardize the policy if they fail to notify the carrier until after the fact. The responsibility to inform belongs to the owner of the policy; I have been involved in a few instances when the owner of the horse thought his or her veterinarian would handle this.

After a problem has been identified, the company involved will contact both the policy owner and the veterinarian to fill out the required report or reports. Initially, this may be handled over the phone and then followed by written reports. Complicated cases will often require more than one opinion and/or a referral, and this should be done with the insurance company's knowledge; in other words, keep all parties "in the loop." Most of the problem claims that I have been involved in as a consultant for a given insurance company have usually been made harder by a lack of "up front" communication when the problem first emerged.

Defining Mortality Insurance

Some policy owners mistakenly equate a loss of function (such as a career-ending injury) with ability to collect on a mortality policy. With mortality insurance, the individual horse must have died or been euthanized for humane reasons, and a loss of athletic function may not always qualify. The guidelines for euthanasia were originally written by the American Association of Equine Practitioners and have been universally accepted.

Situations will arise with differences in opinion about the necessity of euthanasia. Allow for more opinions to avoid further problems with collection.

Loss of Use Insurance

Though more difficult to qualify a horse, Loss of Use policy covers the individual horse for just that--a loss of use. The policy, however, states that the individual horse must have sustained--via a known incident--an injury or problem that renders the horse useless for the job intended. For example, a cutting horse sustains a "wire cut" through the flexor tendons on a given leg. The laceration and tendons ultimately heal, but the tendons are no longer able to sustain the rigors of cutting.

Loss of Use policies do not cover all lamenesses. Those which tend to occur over the long term as a result of simply being an athlete and not the result of an accident or incident are not covered. The problem that often gets asked about is navicular disease. Navicular disease is a chronic, degenerative process that is not the result of a given single event; therefore it would not be covered under this policy.

The American Association of Equine Practitioners actively participates with the insurance industry via the Equine Insurance Committee. It is our stated goal to continually improve the interactions of the horse, insurance companies, veterinary profession, and horse owners.

About the Author

William Moyer, DVM

William Moyer, DVM, is the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences at the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences at Texas A&M and is President-elect of AAEP.

Stay on top of the most recent Horse Health news with FREE weekly newsletters from Learn More

Free Newsletters

Sign up for the latest in:

From our partners