The vast majority of novice horseshoers will probably start their careers without paying much attention to getting insurance — and that’s a mistake.
Insurance is more than a luxury for farriers — it’s a necessity. If you are going to be a hoof-care professional, you need to look at insurance as a necessary part of doing business and include it in your business plan — and add the cost of insurance into your prices.
But many newcomers probably feel they simply can’t afford all of the insurance protection more veteran hoof-care specialists may have.
Building Your Insurance Plan
Esco Buff, a farrier from Webster, N.Y., who holds a doctorate in business administration, suggests new farriers start out with a couple of basic coverages and add to their insurance packages as their business and assets grow.
Buff says to start out with proper coverage on your vehicle and some sort of health plan. If you have dependents, life insurance is also a must.
If you’re fortunate enough to hook up with a multi-farrier business, you might find one that does offer health coverage, but those are pretty rare. Even if a more experienced farrier agrees to take you on in an apprenticeship, it would be highly unusual to get health coverage in such a relationship (although you may get workers’ compensation coverage).
Some farriers have a spouse who works in a job that provides family coverage. If you’re working at another job and shoeing part-time, you may be eligible for coverage through your employer.
If you are still in your teens or early 20s, Buff suggests looking into the possibility of remaining on your parent’s policy until you are more established. You can help them out by offering to pay toward the coverage from you income.
Another possibility is to look into health-care plans you may be eligible for through your state. Buff says all states have some sort of subsidized basic health-care plan.
As a self-employed farrier, you may be eligible to enroll in the plan, which typically offers participants lower co-pays than private plans. Benefits, eligibility requirements and payments will vary greatly from state to state and in the current economic downturn, some states are tightening eligibility requirements or not adding new participants. You’ll have to see what your own state is doing.
Private plans are also available. If you are single and in good health, you may be surprised at how affordable they can be. If you have dependents, the price will be higher, obviously. Buff suggests contacting independent insurance brokers in your area. They’ll have a better idea about what type of plans and price ranges are available. Farm and agricultural insurance company agents may be particularly good resources.
Buff says some farriers may want to consider high-deductible plans. These plans cost less up front, but you’ll pay most expenses yourself until you reach a plan-specified amount. The key concept with these plans is that you will have coverage if you suffer a major injury.
With any type of insurance, doing your homework and being a comparison shopper makes sense. If you have friends or relatives who work in the insurance business, ask them to share their expertise and knowledge.
Buff also suggests looking into local organizations that may offer some form of insurance as a membership benefit.
“I joined my local chamber of commerce and get my health insurance through a co-op plan they offer,” he says. “The savings are much more than my annual dues to be a member.”
Local shoeing, equine and agricultural organizations are other possible sources.
Insuring Your Shoeing Rig
Probably the biggest mistake farriers make regarding vehicle insurance is carrying personal vehicle insurance, rather than commercial. Many farriers use the same vehicle for work that they do for personal transportation. But if an accident occurs when you’re using your vehicle for business, you may find that your insurance company won’t pay.
Buff says it’s important to do your homework. You need to know how the state you’re working in defines commercial vs. non-commercial vehicles, and how your insurance company defines personal vs. commercial use.
“Each insurance company is a little different,” he notes. “Some look at the number of miles you travel in a set period of time, while others look at the percentage of use that’s for businesses purposes vs. personal use.”
Your safest bet is to sit down with an insurance agent or agents and hammer out the details.
It seems obvious, but if you use a shoeing trailer, make sure it’s covered. Buff notes that one advantage trailers offer is that you can unhook them when you’re not shoeing, more clearly separating personal and business use.
It’s also important to find out if your vehicle insurance covers the cost of your vehicles contents — the tools and supplies you’ll be relying on. Buff also says some insurance policies won’t cover fires outside the “normal” causes such as engine compartment and electrical fires.
Liability coverage is a tricky issue. Many young farriers can probably go without it because they have virtually no assets.
Red Renchin, an International Horseshoeing Hall Of Fame member from Mequon, Wis., says it’s a fact of life that many young horseshoers will work without liability insurance.
“I know I did,” Renchin admits. “I waited a long time. It wasn’t really until I had some equity built up in my business that I started worrying about someone coming after it.”
Renchin now operates with what he describes as an “umbrella policy,” that covers almost all areas of his business except health insurance. His health insurance is a separate policy.
Buff agrees that beginners will often go without liability coverage.
“That’s probably all right, up to a point,” he says. “Some people will also incorporate as a Limited Liability Corporation, which may provide some protection by separating business form personal assets. But at some point, you should look at farrier liability policies.”
Markel Insurance of Glen Allen, Va., and Farm Family Insurance of Albany, N.Y., both offer farrier liability insurance packages and other insurance companies may be able to put together specific packages for your needs.
The Markel Web site (www.markelinsurance.com) offers an idea of what kind of protection such policies provide. Basically, a farrier liability policy protects the farrier in the event he or she is sued for bodily injury and/or property damage. Terms of coverage are spelled out in individual policies.
Protecting Your Income
Disability insurance is another area you may want to consider. Mike Ehlert, a veteran farrier from Hartford, Wis., is a big believer in disability insurance. Twice in the last decade, he’s has been unable to shoe for extended periods. He credits his overall insurance package with protecting him and his family from financial disaster.
Ironically enough, Ehlert was not shoeing horses at either time when he suffered a broken leg. The first occurred in 2001 during a boating accident. The second one was in 2008, from a bad fall on ice.
“When I was laying there waiting for the ambulance, I wasn’t as stressed as I was 7 years ago,” he recalls. “Just having the insurance and knowing how things worked made things much less stressful.”
Ehlert has two different disability policies. One started paying when he’d been out of work for 30 days. The other kicked in at 90.
Ehlert points out that working with an agent to put together an overall insurance package paid off for him. He had health insurance coverage for himself and his family and his disability coverage provided an income while he was unable to work. ?