In The Saddle with Anita Marsh: Why it pays to insure your horse

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The old saying ‘no foot, no horse’ is one of those quotations which is as true now as it ever was, and it’s also one of those quotes that equestrians never want to hear uttered when their horse is lame. To insure or nor insure? That is the question.

In the 14 years of horse ownership I’ve been extremely lucky never to have found my horses lame or for them to have suffered anything serious, thankfully. In fact, the only claim I did make once didn’t even cover the cost of the excess.

So, with this in mind and having decided to take the plunge to buy a new horse three years ago I knew I had to make the decision as to whether I insured or decided against it given my previous experience.

Was it really worth throwing away £50 a month? Especially knowing that every penny counts in horse ownership.

The best thing to do was to consult my horsey friends. I shared my experience of the past, and they sat me down and in return recounted tales of colic, lameness and operations - some with tears, some with sighs of relief when their horse hadn’t died. But all agreed I’d been remarkably lucky up until now.

For me, it would be just my luck for my luck to run out. So I chose to insure. It was only then the minefield of the horse insurance world was opened up to me.

I was warned to treat this exactly like my car insurance and not to choose a policy on price alone - because as some had found out, you get what you pay for. Their advice was priceless.

They all used equine insurance specialists and they’d all looked carefully into the vet fee cover. Vet fees are usually the biggest area of pay out for insurers and cheaper premiums are not always as cost effective, giving a lower total amount for vet fees.

So, the cheapest quote I’d got was not the one I went with. I chose to use a company who were Epworth-based, and who came highly recommended by other equestrians.

And guess what? After three years of owning my horse, April, and her being as fit as a fiddle, I found she was slightly lame when riding her on a left circle in trot. It was so slight I got a friend to check, in walk she appeared perfectly normal.

Nearly five thousand pounds later (and two damaged suspensory ligaments in her front legs, her left foreleg worse than the other) I’m so pleased I chose to insure!

The insurance policy enabled me to have many tests, scans and shockwave treatment performed at home and at the veterinary practice. But, after three months, and with no real sign of improvement, she was sent off to see a consultant at the Rainbow Equine Hospital, near Malton.

Her week’s stay cost £1,500 where they performed further tests, X-rays and scans including a bone scan of her front foreleg to ensure we got to the bottom of the diagnosis and she’d been assessed correctly in the first instance (which she was).

April and I have been following the consultants recovery plan to the very letter, with confined paddocks to reduce her running and a controlled walk and trot programme on straight lines to reduce the stress on her ligaments as they rebuild.

The insurance company have been fabulous throughout. I’ve had no forms to fill in, a quick-to-get-through support claims line and they’ve paid all my bills on time and without quibbling.

They’ve even sat and listened whilst I cried on the phone and I’m not sure that was part of the small print.

As for April, well we missed out on much of the competition season last year but with slow progress, and a careful recovery plan we hope to be to take part in a little showing in the Spring. Fingers (and hooves) crossed! This week will see another lame test carried out so we can monitor her progress. And as for the insurance, oddly enough I would now highly recommend!