Recent events have taken a toll on various horse people and animals through this extraordinary drought and fire season that we have experienced in the West. This has prompted people to reexamine their commitment to insurance protection. This could include property, liability, care, custody and control, and equine accident and/or life insurance.

Property insurance is required by mortgage companies if you borrow money to buy a property. Do you know what your policy includes or does not include? Is there some provision for liability coverage if someone is injured on your property? What are the settlement limits? What conditions must be met? What types of natural disasters are covered and what ones are not? Are you prepared for possible evacuation? Are your tools, tack, and equipment included on the same policy? This may be a ‘contents rider’ on your property policy.

Liability insurance is to protect you from litigation due to injury your horse(s) may do to another person or their property. What is covered and what is not needs to be known by you. Do you have business liability insurance? I have recommended that farriers obtain it for many years. It is usually very inexpensive. You should obtain a certificate of insurance from your provider as some of the more expensive barns will require it to work there. You will also need to provide them with information for filling out 1099 forms that are now required. The nature of business liability insurance is different and specific to what you do and the risks you are exposed to in your regular business operations. Work that is done outside those operations such as training, transporting or rendering first aid is not covered.

Care custody and control insurance is required when you remove a horse from someone’s property and transport it or train it or do anything to it other than shoeing. Business liability insurance will not cover you. For example, policies may specify that if the animal is removed from the owner’s property or not under their direct control, it will not be covered. This kind of coverage is much more expensive than business liability insurance and should be obtained by those who run boarding and training stables, in addition to farrier service.

Equine accident and life insurance is obtained when horses are very valuable and their loss would mean severe financial loss to the owner(s). The premium is usually based on a percentage of the horse’s value. Evidence to establish the horse’s value is needed. Athletic horses in competition have a higher value than pets. Anytime the farrier or vet works on an insured laminitic or foundered horse, the insurance company must be notified and give their permission.

There seems to be a growing trend for people in high risk jobs like ours to be denied coverage or to tell us that a certain activity that we thought should be covered but was not. Naturally,insurance companies are reluctant to pay off every claim without challenging it to be sure it is legitimate. Yet, we expect them to do what they agree to do when we pay the premiums.

You must keep accurate records of what you do each day to protect yourself from frivolous lawsuits. A simple record or day book is all that is necessary. I know of several cases where these records saved a farrier in a lawsuit. If you feel something isn’t right, or you feel you are exposing yourself to unnecessary risk, you must learn to say no and stop work. This is not easy to do since farriers are finishers – they “get ‘er done.” But, it is better to be safe than sorry.

More and more insurance companies are dropping out of the market and denying coverage, even to those of low risk and who have been customers for many years. Excessive government regulation and litigation has caused many companies to quit. What can you do to protect yourself and your accumulated assets? Running a business without insurance is risky business. Your exposure to predatory lawyers and greedy clients is magnified.

After purchasing insurance, your best protection is to be corporate and competent. Learn all you can and practice the highest standard of craftsmanship and character. Select carefully those you choose to do business with.

We would appreciate hearing of your experiences as a farrier, veterinarian, horse trainer, or horse owner in this unique and sometimes dangerous business.