What Is Equine Insurance?

Definition & Examples of Equine Insurance

Cowboy with straw hat leads a brown horse.

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Equine insurance provides coverage in the event a horse becomes ill or dies, is no longer able to be used for business purposes, or causes an injury or property damage.

Learn more about equine insurance and how it works.

What Is Equine Insurance?

Breeders, trainers, riding instructors, and other equine businesses use horses in their day-to-day operations. Horses are a valuable asset, and businesses may incur significant expenses or lose income if a horse becomes ill or injured. An equine business may be sued if a horse hurts someone or damages their property. A business may also suffer a loss if a stable, barn, or equipment is damaged by a fire or other peril. Equine businesses can protect themselves from these unexpected losses by purchasing specialized equine insurance.

How Equine Insurance Works

All states in the U.S. except Alaska, California, Maryland, and New York have passed an Equine Activity Liability Act (EALA). These laws were enacted in the 1990s to preserve equine-affiliated areas of the economy and to facilitate activities with horses. The laws transfer liability from the equine business or event sponsor to the participant for risks inherent in the horse-related activities.

EALAs are based on the idea that equine activities provide benefits for both businesses and participants. Horse-related activities have fundamental risks like falls, bites, and kicks. These risks are widely known, so participants assume liability for them when they undertake the activity. EALAs don't provide blanket immunity from lawsuits, though. A business may be held liable for an injury to a participant if, say, it provided faulty equipment, failed to assess the participant's equestrian skills properly, or neglected to warn the participant of a hidden danger on the business' property.

Since businesses can still be held liable, equine insurance provides valuable protection. In addition to liability coverage, they can purchase insurance to cover major medical bills, mortality, and loss of use.

Types of Equine Insurance

Horse-related businesses need liability insurance to protect themselves from third-party claims. The specific kind of liability insurance needed depends on the nature of its operations.

Horse clubs and associations typically need equine liability insurance. They may also need premises liability insurance if they own or lease their premises. Equine liability insurance covers claims against a business for bodily injury or property damage suffered by third parties in accidents caused by horse-related activities. Premises liability insurance covers claims arising from injuries that occur on a business' premises or from its operations.

Horse trainers and riding instructors typically need commercial general liability (CGL) and professional liability insurance. CGL insurance covers third-party claims for bodily injury or property damage sustained in accidents related to the insured's equine business, whether the accident is caused by a horse, a trip-and-fall, or some other event. Equine professional insurance covers claims against a business related to negligent acts or omissions committed while providing horse-related services.

Horse farms and ranches should consider CGL and professional liability insurance, among other coverages. They also may need property insurance to safeguard their business against physical losses to barns and other buildings. They can obtain these coverages separately or as part of a commercial package or farm policy.

Care, Custody, or Control

Equine businesses that breed, board, or train other people's horses may be held liable for injuries or damage those animals sustain while in their care. To protect themselves against claims, these businesses can purchase care, custody, or control insurance. This coverage is not included in an equine liability or general liability policy. Liability policies contain a care, custody, or controlexclusion, which eliminates coverage for damage to property owned by someone else that's in the insured's custody.

Businesses can secure equine insurance by contacting a specialty insurer like Great American or Markel Insurance or a broker like Blue Bridle or The Equestrian Group.

Equine Mortality Coverage

The costs associated with the theft, illness, or death of a horse can be substantial for a small business. Fortunately, these costs are insurable.

Equine mortality insurance covers the theft of a horse or its death by certain causes. This coverage may apply to all risks or just named perils. All-risk insurance covers theft, death by any cause (including illness or disease) not specifically excluded, and humane destruction (euthanasia). Named perils insurance covers death by the causes listed in the policy, but not illness or disease. These may include fire, lightning, drowning, and various other perils.

Equine mortality insurance can be extended to include medical coverage like emergency colic surgery, medical and surgical expenses, and stallion infertility insurance. To obtain mortality insurance and any extensions, a business owner must complete an application and submit it to the insurer. The insurer will require information in the application about the health of the animal, including any history of disease (including colic), previous surgeries, medications, and genetic heritage.

Mortality insurance compensates a horse owner for the value of an animal that has died or been euthanized due to a covered peril listed in the insurance policy. A loss is typically calculated according to the agreed value of the horse. This is generally the purchase price of the horse or, if the animal was homebred, the stud fee.

If the value stated in the application exceeds the horse's purchase price, the insurer may require substantiation. The owner can justify a higher value by providing a show record for the previous 12 months, a breeding record (for both stallions and broodmares), or a training record.

Cost of Coverage

The cost of insuring a horse-related business depends on the size and nature of the operation and the types of coverages it needs. A horse club with no physical location needs less coverage and will pay less for insurance than a ranch with two dozen horses. Equine mortality premiums are usually calculated as a percentage of the agreed value of the horse. The premium for any additional coverages like emergency colic surgery or medical and surgical expenses may be a flat charge that varies by state. 

Key Takeaways

  • Equine insurance provides coverage in the event a horse becomes ill or dies, is no longer able to be used for business purposes, or causes an injury or property damage.
  • While EALAs provide some liability protection, equine insurance is still essential for horse-based businesses. 
  • Equine insurance can include liability, care, custody, and control, mortality, and major medical. You can tailor your coverage based on your needs. 
  • The cost of coverage depends on the type of insurance and the value of your horse(s).