Equine Insurance

Equine Insurance

Understanding Equine Insurance

Whether a horse is purchased for personal or business reasons, ownership represents a significant investment of time, money and resources. While no one likes to think about the potential for tragedy, horses seem to be prone to illness, accidents and injury.  Should some peril befall your horse, nothing may ease the emotional burden, but wise planning can help reduce the economic impact.

Insurance policies are legal contracts between the underwriter (the company) and the insured (horse owner). While individual policies vary so much from company to company and circumstance to circumstance, it is important to note is that each policy has its own terms, conditions and requirements, which may necessitate action from you, your veterinarian and your insurance company. To better safeguard yourself and your horse, follow these guidelines from the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP):


  • Read the contract thoroughly before you apply for coverage.
  • Ask the insurance representative to explain any words, phrases or provisions you do not understand completely.
  • Know your responsibilities. What is required should your horse fall ill, become injured or die?
  • Understand any specific guidelines for emergency situations. A crisis is not the time to be trying to interpret your policy’s fine print or to look for contact phone numbers.
  • If euthanasia is recommended, know what steps must be taken in order for a claim to be valid.
  • Make a list of questions to ask your insurance agent or company.
  • Define your needs.
  • Comparison shop. Besides cost, buyers should look at the longevity and reputation of both the agency and the insurance carrier.

  Common types of coverage available for horses include but are not limited to:


  • Mortality: Paid if the horse dies.
  • Loss of Use: Paid on a percentage basis if horse is permanently incapacitated for its intended use or purpose.
  • Major Medical: Like health insurance, offsets costs of veterinary care for catastrophic conditions.
  • Surgical: Policies that cover only specific procedures such as colic surgery.
  • Breeding Infertility: Covers stallions or mares for reproductive failure.
  • Specified Perils: Includes any number of things such as lightning, fire or transportation.

For more information about equine insurance, ask your equine veterinarian for “Understanding Horse Insurance Responsibilities: Guidelines to Consider,” a brochure provided by the AAEP in conjunction with Bayer Animal Health, an AAEP Educational Partner.  Additional information is available on the AAEP’s horse-health Web site, www.myHorseMatters.com.

*Permission for use is granted with attribution given to the AAEP and Bayer Animal Health.

Pre Purchase Exams

Pre Purchase Exams

Don’t Skip the Pre-purchase Exam


Owning a horse can be a big investment in time, money and emotion.  Unfortunately, horses seldom come with a money-back guarantee.  That’s why it is so important to investigate the horse’s overall health and condition through a purchase exam conducted by an equine veterinarian.  Whether you want a horse as a family pet, a pleasure mount, a breeding animal, or a high performance athlete, you stand the best chance of getting one that meets your needs by investing in a purchase exam.

Purchase examinations may vary, depending on the intended use of the horse and the veterinarian who is doing the examination.  Deciding exactly what should be included in the purchase examination requires good communication between you and your veterinarian.  The following guidelines from the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) will help ensure a custom-tailored exam:

  • Choose a veterinarian who is familiar with the breed, sport or use for which the horse is being purchased.
  • Explain to your veterinarian your expectations and primary uses for the horse, including short- and long-term goals (e.g., showing, then breeding).
  • Ask your veterinarian to outline the procedures that he or she feels should be included in the exam and why.
  • Establish the costs for these procedures.
  • Be present during the purchase exam.  The seller or agent should also be present.
  • Discuss with your veterinarian his or her findings in private.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions or request further information about your veterinarian’s findings in private.

The veterinarian’s job is neither to pass nor fail an animal.  Rather, it is to provide you with information regarding any existing medical problems and to discuss those problems with you so that you can make an informed purchase decision.  Your veterinarian can advise you about the horse’s current physical condition, but he or she cannot predict the future.  The decision to buy is yours alone to make.  But your equine veterinarian can be a valuable partner in the process of providing you with objective, health-related information.


For more information about purchase exams, ask your equine veterinarian for “Purchase Exams: A Sound Economic Investment,” a brochure provided by the AAEP in conjunction with Education Partner Bayer Animal Health.  Additional information can be found on the AAEP’s horse health Web site, www.myHorseMatters.com.

*Reprinted with permission from the American Association of Equine Practitioners.


Hurricane Prep

Hurricane Prep

Preparing for the Storm

With hurricane season upon us for 6 months out of the year, it is important for horse owners to know what to do in the event of an impending storm.  The most important step is having a plan in place and making sure that everyone understands their own job to ensure that all aspects run as smoothly as possible.


Before the Storm



It would be wise to have multiple forms of identification on your horse in case one or more are damaged or lost.  Fetlock ID bands can be purchased at an on-line tack store and should be placed on the horse’s front legs.  Additionally a halter tag with the horse’s name along with owner and veterinarian contact information should be attached to a leather or break-away halter.  Water proof luggage tags can be braided into your horse’s tail and special markers (also can be purchased online) can be used to write identification information directly on your horses.

Health and Paperwork:

Make sure your horses are up to date on their vaccines – all should have a tetanus toxoid vaccine within the last year.  Also due to increases in mosquito populations following heavy rainfall, all horses should be vaccinated against Eastern/Western Equine Encephalitis and West Nile Virus.

A negative coggins test is required for admittance to a shelter or the crossing of state lines – make sure your horse’s coggins is up to date.

If you know you will be evacuating and crossing state lines, your horse will also need a health certificate dated within the previous 30 days.

Have a separate file to keep with you that contains all of your horse’s information (name, age, breed, sex, color, registration information, coggin’s test, pictures with distinguishing features, microchip number, etc).  Keep this file in a safe place (off site, if possible) so it won’t be damaged.


Where do I put them?

While you may be tempted to keep your horses in their stalls during the storm (after all, you wouldn’t want to be outside), this may not be the best course of action.  One of the leading causes of death of large animals during hurricane Andrew in 1992 was being trapped in a barn which collapsed.  If you have a barn which is specifically designed to withstand hurricane force winds then keeping your horse indoors may be ok, otherwise letting them out in a wide open pasture would be the best option.



 It is vital to have an adequate supply of feed and water.  Keep a minimum of 72 hours worth of hay and feed (the more, the better) and 12-20 gallons of water per horse per day.  Hay should be covered with tarps and kept off the ground.  If possible, store feed in water tight containers.

Water can be stored in garbage cans with plastic liners and fill all water troughs.  Be sure to have chlorine bleach on hand to treat contaminated water – to purify water, add 2 drops of chlorine bleach per quart of water and let stand for 30 minutes.

Secure all movable objects that could become projectiles – lawn furniture, jumps etc.  Keep large vehicles/trailers/tractors in an open area where trees cannot fall on them.
Turn off electrical power to your barn.

Have an emergency/first aid kit for your horses – flying debris can cause lacerations and other traumatic injuries.  Be sure to have the following items: bandages (wraps and quilts), antiseptics, scissors/knife, topical antiseptic ointments (Nolvasan®), pain relievers (Bute or Banamine®), flashlight with extra batteries, extra halter and lead rope, clean towels and plenty of fly spray.


After the Storm

Following the storm, make sure to assess your barn and surrounding property for any damage.  Walk your pastures – remove any debris, note down power lines, take pictures of any storm damage.  Carefully inspect each horse for injuries, with special attention to their eyes and limbs.  If your horse is missing, contact local animal control with your identification information.

Every county in Florida has an Emergency Support Function officer who oversees animal emergencies.  These ESF officers report to the Emergency Command Officer for their county who then reports to the state veterinarian.  The state veterinarian can, under severe conditions, activate the federal veterinary rescue team VMAT (www.avma.org/disaster/vmat).

Weight Reduction

Weight Reduction

Weight Reduction in Overweight Horses

As a horse owner, you play an important role in controlling your equine companion’s weight. Sound nutrition management, a regular exercise program and veterinary care are key to keeping your horse fit and healthy. Maintaining the ideal weight is not always easy, however.


When implementing a weight loss program for the overweight horse, it’s important to do it gradually and under the supervision of an equine veterinarian.  Follow these guidelines from the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) to get you started:

  • Be patient.  Weight reduction should be a slow, steady process so not to stress the horse or create metabolic upsets.
  • Make changes in both the type and amount of feed gradually.  Reduce rations by no more than 10% over a 7- to 10-day period.
  • Track your horse’s progress by using a weight tape.  When the horse’s weight plateaus, gradually cut back its ration again.
  • Step up the horse’s exercise regimen.  Gradually build time and intensity as the horse’s fitness improves.
  • Provide plenty of clean, fresh water so the horse’s digestive and other systems function as efficiently as possible and rid the body of metabolic and other wastes.
  • Select feeds that provide plenty of high quality fiber but are low in total energy.  Measure feeds by weight rather than by volume to determine appropriate rations.
  • Select feeds that are lower in fat since fat is an energy-dense nutrient source.
  • Switch or reduce the amount of alfalfa hay feed.  Replace with a mature grass or oat hay to reduce caloric intake.
  • Feed separate from other horses so the overweight horse doesn’t have a chance to eat his portion and his neighbor’s too.  In extreme cases of obesity, caloric intake may also need to be controlled by limiting pasture intake.
  • Balance the horse’s diet based on age and activity level.  Make sure the horse’s vitamin, mineral and protein requirements continue to be met.

Once your horse has reached its ideal body condition, maintaining the proper weight is a gentle balancing act. You will probably need to readjust your horse’s ration to stabilize its weight.  Exercise will continue to be a key component in keeping the horse fit.  Because obesity can affect a horse’s health, communicate regularly with your veterinarian.  Schedule regular check-ups, especially during the weight reduction process.

For more information about caring for the obese horse, ask your equine veterinarian for the “Overweight Horse” brochure, provided by the American Association of Equine Practitioners in partnership with Educational Partners Bayer Animal Health and Purina Mills, Inc., or visit the AAEP’s horse health web site, www.myHorseMatters.com.

*Reprinted with permission from the American Association of Equine Practitioners

Choosing Hay

Choosing Hay

Choosing the Best Hay for your Horse

High-quality hay can be an important source of essential nutrients in your horse’s diet. A horse’s protein and energy requirements depend on age, stage of development, metabolism and workload. A mature horse will eat 2 to 2.5% of its body weight a day, and for optimum health, nutritionists recommend that at least half of this should be roughage such as hay.  For a 1000-pound horse, that means at least 10 pounds of roughage each day.

Hay generally falls into one of two categories – grasses or legumes.  Legume hay is higher in protein, energy, calcium and vitamin A than grass hays. While hay alone may not meet the total dietary requirements of young, growing horses or those used for high levels of performance, high-quality hay may supply ample nutrition for less active adult horses.

Once you’ve determined the best category of hay for your horse, most people select hay based on how it looks, smells and feels.  Use the following tips from the American Association of Equine Practitioners to select the best hay for your horse:

  1. It’s what’s inside that counts.  Ask that one or several bales are opened so you can evaluate the hay inside the bales.  Do not worry about slight discoloration on the outside, especially in stacked hay.
  2. Choose hay that is as fine-stemmed, green and leafy as possible, and is soft to the touch.
  3. Avoid hay that is overcured, excessively sun-bleached, or smells moldy, musty, dusty or fermented. 
  4. Select hay that has been harvested when the plants are in early bloom for legume hay or before seed heads have formed in grasses.  Examine the leaves, stems and flowers or seed pods to determine the level of maturity.
  5. Avoid hay that contains significant amounts of weeds, dirt, trash or debris.
  6. Examine hay for signs of insect infestation or disease.  Be especially careful to check for blister beetles in alfalfa.  Ask the grower about any potential problems in the region.
  7. Reject bales that seem excessively heavy for their size of feel warm to the touch, as they could contain excess moisture that could cause mold, or worse, spontaneous combustion.
  8. When possible, purchase and feed hay within a year of harvest to preserve its nutritional value.
  9. Store hay in a dry, sheltered area out of the rain, snow and sun, or cover in the stack to protect it from the elements.
  10. When buying in quantity, have the hay analyzed by a certified forage laboratory to determine its actual nutrient content.

Remember that horses at different ages and stages of growth, development and activity have different dietary requirements.  Consult your veterinarian or a qualified equine nutritionist when formulating your horse’s ration.  He or she can help you put together a balanced diet that is safe, nutritious and cost-effective.


For more information about choosing hay, ask your equine veterinarian for the “Hay Quality and Horse Nutrition” brochure, provided by the AAEP in partnership with Educational Partners Bayer Animal Health and Purina Mills, Inc.  More information about nutrition also can be found online at the AAEP’s horse health Web site,  www.myHorseMatters.com.

*Reprinted with permission from the American Association of Equine Practitioners

Feeding Foals

Feeding Foals

A healthy foal will grow rapidly, gaining in height, weight and strength almost before your eyes.  From birth to age two, a young horse can achieve 90 percent or more of its full adult size, sometimes putting on as many as three pounds per day.  Feeding young horses is a balancing act, as the nutritional start a foal gets can have a profound affect on its health and soundness for the rest of its life.

At eight to ten weeks of age, mare’s milk alone may not adequately meet the foal’s nutritional needs, depending on the desired growth rate and owner wants for a foal.  As the foal’s dietary requirements shift from milk to feed and forage, your role in providing the proper nutrition gains in importance.  Following are guidelines from the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) to help you meet the young horse’s nutritional needs:


  • Provide high quality roughage (hay and pasture) free choice.
  • Supplement with a high quality, properly balanced grain concentrate at weaning, or earlier if more rapid rates of gain are desired.
  • Start by feeding one percent on a foal’s body weight per day (i.e., one pound of feed for each 100 pounds of body weight), or one pound of feed per month of age.
  • Weigh and adjust the feed ration based on growth and fitness.  A weight tape can help you approximate a foal’s size.
  • Foals have small stomachs so divide the daily ration into two to three feedings.
  • Make sure feeds contain the proper balance of vitamins, minerals, energy and protein.
  • Use a creep feeder or feed the foal separate from the mare so it can eat its own ration.  Try to avoid group creep feeding situations.
  • Remove uneaten portions between feedings.
  • Do not overfeed.  Overweight foals are more prone to developmental orthopedic disease (DOD).
  • Provide unlimited fresh, clean water.
  • Provide opportunity for abundant exercise.

The reward for providing excellent nutrition and conscientious care will be a healthy foal that grows into a sound and useful horse.  For more information about providing proper nutrition for your foal, talk with your equine veterinarian and ask for the “Foal Growth” education brochure provided by the AAEP in conjunction with Education Partners Bayer Animal Health and Purina Mills.  Additional information about foal nutrition can also be found on the AAEP’s horse health Web site, www.myHorseMatters.com.

*Reprinted with permission from the American Association of Equine Practitioners.