A Necessary Evil

It pays to pay close attention to your insurance policy on an annual basis to make sure your business is covered.

Insurance is something that we all love to hate. After all, there is something aggravating about paying for something that you really hope you won’t have to use. But when the circumstances arise and you DO need your insurance, you are forever glad that you have it! One mistake made too often is thinking that you have coverage for something and it turns out you don’t. This mistake can be a costly one, to the point that it can cripple your horse business. One of the best ways to prevent this from happening is to review your insurance policies annually when they come up for renewal. Things change over the course of a year, and it is these changes that can rear their ugly heads in terms of insurance coverage when overlooked.

Knowledgeable Expertise

Since your expertise is with horses, training, and riding, it’s important to have an insurance agent and company that you trust and consider to be part of your business advising team. Jerry McTear, VP at Fanelli, Harley, Harper & Associates, heads up the Equine Insure division of this agency. He says, “Let’s face it, most people don’t like to deal with their insurance agent. Given a choice between riding and meeting with your agent, I think we can all agree that we’d rather be riding. Despite our reluctance to deal with them, in a time of loss, your agent should be your best friend.

“When the agent relationship is established, you will likely have to go through pages and pages of questions. We do this so that we have an appropriate understanding of the risk and to ensure that you are obtaining the appropriate level of coverage. Painful process? Maybe, but necessary.”

McTear continues, “So once you’ve worked out pricing and the policy has been delivered, you may be thinking that’s that. Not quite. Your operation may change during the policy year and some of those changes can affect your coverage. Perhaps you sold a tractor during the year and purchased another one. Or you decided to hold a clinic or add a new service. These are the types of things that should be reported to your agent throughout the year.

“As agents, we need to be informed throughout the year. As your policy comes up for renewal, we should be proactive in determining that you have the appropriate level of coverage for your horse business as it is now, not a year ago. Depending on the results of the policy review, we may find that you have gaps in coverage that need to be filled. This can result in additional premiums, but in some cases I have also determined that some of my clients had too much coverage as they had dropped activities or disposed of equipment during the year resulting in lower premiums.”

An Unpleasant Surprise

All the experts agree that keeping your policy as current as possible should be a top priority for an equine business in order to avoid nasty surprises down the road. “Unfortunately there are times when the insured’s neglect to be as thorough as they should in completing their annual review is only uncovered when there was a claim,” says McTear. “While going over their review, a client forgot to mention that they had purchased several new pieces of equipment. Subsequently there was a loss and the equipment was not covered. Later they advised me that they were rushing to get through the renewal interview and didn’t stop to carefully consider their answers.”

Your review should include all aspects: buildings, property, operations, vehicles and equipment. Don’t forget the other aspects of your life when doing a review and remember to consider your home, household contents and life circumstances. The following list of questions will help prepare you for your annual review. Be prepared to provide details related to any of these questions.


  • Have you built any new buildings? Please include storage facilities.
  • Are you planning new construction in the coming year?
  • Did you make additions or improvements to existing buildings?


  • Have you purchased or leased any additional locations or acreage?
  • Do you plan to purchase or lease new property in the coming year?

Vehicles and Equipment

  • Have you purchased any new machinery or vehicles (tractors, trucks, trailers, haying equipment, manure spreaders, etc.)?
  • Are there any changes in the drivers of any vehicles and equipment?
  • Have you purchased any new tack and training equipment?


  • Has your annual payroll for equine operations changed?
  • Have your annual receipts changed?
  • Has the number of horses that you own or lease changed?
  • Has there been a change in how your horses are used?
  • If have non-owned horses on your premises, has that number and/or use changed?
  • If you provide services to the general public (pony rides, rent horses, trail rides, hay rides, sleigh rides, carriage rides, etc.), has that changed in any way?
  • If you give riding lessons and/or provide training, has that changed (independent vs. stable employed)?
  • Are you offering any new events, such as horse shows, clinics, or summer camps?
  • Are there non-equine operations?

Home, household contents and life circumstances (for those horse professionals that live on the farm)

  • Do you have any new construction, additions or improvements?
  • Is there new protection equipment?
  • Are there new heating devices?
  • Have you purchased any new items of jewelry, furs, cameras, etc.?
  • Has marital status changed?
  • Are there new children?
  • Have there been family deaths/inheritances?
  • What about retirements or job loss for off-farm income?

In closing, McTear says it best: “Try to consider your agent as something more than a necessary evil—we are here to help. Think of us as a partner in your risk management process. We can be valuable resources and are always willing to share what we’re seeing in the industry as well as best practices. We love to be in touch with our clients throughout the year and greatly appreciate when a client calls us when they are thinking of doing something so we can adequately address the insurance ramifications. Use us—that’s what we’re here for!”

(Lisa Derby Oden has been providing business development, marketing, and nonprofit consulting services to the horse industry since 1995. Oden is author of “Growing Your Horse Business” and “Bang for Your Buck: Making $ense of Marketing for Your Horse Business,” and partner in the CD series “Inventing Your Horse Career.” She can be reached at: (603) 878-1694; email at; or visit her website at






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