Horse owners are familiar with the repressed yet constant concern that their horse will do something that will result in a major and dreaded vet bill. If you’ve ever had this happen, then you know firsthand that both the complexity and cost of veterinarian care for horses is increasing at an impressive pace.

Vets have wonderful new diagnostic tools at their disposal which often make it easier to diagnose a lameness or medical issue. Many will have digital imaging devices, scopes, lasers, medications and tools that even a decade ago were simply not available. It is probably an urban myth – but maybe not! – that I can get a standing MRI to diagnose a stubborn foot lameness for my horse and have it treated in a fraction of the time that it might take me to get the same procedure done for my own bad running knee at the local hospital.

With the above in mind, it is no surprise that there are higher costs associated with the progress we see in veterinarian medicine. To mitigate the cost of dealing with the unexpected, horse owners can purchase medical horse insurance plans to help pay the bill. The specialist insurers who provide these coverages to the horse community have created a wide range of options to consider.

Of the available policies, Medical and Surgical policies are the most common as an extension of a full mortality (life) insurance policy and cover both diagnostic expense and treatment expense. These policies generally have an overall limit as well as sub-limits for certain procedures. For example, diagnostic expense may be restricted to a certain total annual limit, or a maximum contribution. While these policies are not designed to cover endless diagnostic expense or long term disability, the majority of clients are happy with the low cost of the coverage as compared to a trip to the equine hospital.

These insurance policies have an annual premium and some coverage provider’s will offer different ways to settle claims:

Deductible: A deductible is a fixed dollar amount you pay each time there is a claim made. Deductibles can and sometimes do go up as claims frequency increases. These policies offer predictable costs in the event of an emergency, but may come with a higher annual cost.

Co-insurance: With co-insurance, you pay a pre-determined percentage of each claim. For example, if you have a 20% coinsurance clause you will pay 20% of the total amount, with the insurer paying 80%. This type of insurance is common in human and small animal health insurance policies and in many cases, generates a lower annual premium cost.

It’s a truth in the insurance industry that “the majority of claims are suffered by a minority of clients”. If you are fortunate to be among the majority of clients that haven’t made a medical claim for your horse, then the annual cost savings of a policy that utilizes a co-insurance approach might make sense for your budget. Using co-insurance, you may end up paying a little more if you do ever happen to have a claim, but the savings with these policies is meant to offset the difference.

If you are looking for a lower and stable annual cost of insurance, there are several things you can do:

  • Make sure that your horse has an annual vet wellness check-up
  • Make sure that all applicable vaccines and parasite controls are up-to-date
  • Have your horses teeth checked (at least) annually
  • Make sure that those that manage the day-to-day care of your horse are trusted and educated professionals.
  • Join your Provincial/Territorial Equine Association. The supports that come from these groups across Canada are significant – including insurance benefits.
  • Educate yourself. Your Provincial / Territorial Equine Association and their partners at Equine Guelph have a plethora of online courses that can increase your knowledge to make the right choices in managing your horse.
  • Generally, be an active participant in the risk management of the horse. Leaving fate to be the manager of the health and welfare of your horse is never a good idea.

Of course, we’ve all known a horse that is simply prone to injury no matter the precautions taken, and these are the animals that account for many claims each year. However, if you are among the majority of clients that diligently care for your horse, and rarely have a problem, then you may be able to find some cost savings by working with CapriCMW Insurance.

~ Written by Mike King, Partner and National Manager of equine programs at CapriCMW Insurance