Horse & Farm Insurance: Mistakes to Avoid by Tina Langness

Tina LangnessFirst and Foremost – Choose the right agent – someone with farm/horse business savvy. Choose an agent that will come out, meet with you, walk your property, talk about your specific needs, and offer advice and worksheets on how to best inventory your personal and business property. Also an agent that meets with you yearly to go over any major or minor property changes, inventory changes, etc. Even if it’s as simple as adding new fencing, a tractor, a lean-to, electric or water lines , you will want to add these changes to your properties policy.

My best advice is to video tape your entire property inside and out, and to have good photos of identifying marks, serial numbers, etc. in the event of a catastrophic loss or theft. Don’t forget to video the inside of your tack rooms, tack areas in your trailer(s), barn lounge, offices, tool shops and equipment, property/land and inside and outside of your home.

A good insurance company will require the agent to meet with you yearly to re-inventory/add/delete changes to your property and/or equipment.
They will also require the agent or an independent firm to walk the property with a check off list to assure you have the proper liability signs posted, fire extinguishers for each building, fire and CO2 alarms, is barn/s heated and how, escape routes, and also for general unsafe conditions or practices. You then get a “fix-it” list and the agent is required to come back to assure all safety issues have been addressed in an allotted amount of time.

When choosing an agent make sure they are selling you the correct coverage – if you are running any type of business no matter how large or small, you must have business or commercial type insurance to assure coverage. I made this mistake once. Feeling confident our agent had insured us properly and adequately, only to find out this was not the case. A few years ago our property was struck by straight line winds and did significant damage to our home, barns, trailer, etc. Upon filing our claim the insurance adjuster discovered we were not insured correctly as a business – and any damages to the farm buildings were not covered.

This was a huge learning curve for us as we trusted our agent and really felt he knew what he was doing – we live in a farm community so assumed because he sold “farm policies” this was adequate. Make sure you are working with an agent with expertise in equine farms and ranching, and knowledge of how equine businesses work.

This mistake cost us a lot of angst and anxiety and three years of litigation with our agent’s employer as well as the insurance company that the agent had procured for us. The agent insured my truck with commercial automobile insurance and also set us up with workers compensation insurance, but when it came down to the nuts and bolts of taking our claim through the justice system – he denied knowing we were running a training and boarding business. This person had been on our farm many times, understood the operations and still denied making a mistake in procuring the proper policies. Insurance agents do have what is called, Error and Omission coverage, and this is what actually helped us in retrieving a small part of our losses. The insurance agency, and the actual insurance companies (there were two) who wrote the policies got involved in the litigation.

A second example of the “learning curve” when it comes to insurance: Two weeks after the straight line winds hit our farm, I left our property with our truck, trailer and training horses for a show in Madison, Wisconsin. The day before I left for the show, I picked up my trailer which was at the dealer getting repairs from the wind damage. I had a brand new hay rack installed (which was ripped off the trailer in the storm), new windows which had been shattered from debris, and three new axles because the trailer had been blown sideways across the driveway. It looked like a brand new trailer when I picked it up.

Upon arrival at the show I unloaded the horses, tack needed for showing, feed, etc. I then parked the trailer in the trailer lot. I was the first trailer in the lot, closest to the horse barns and was parked under 5 halogen parking lot lights. I locked up my doors, checked my windows, etc. to assure everything was secure and went about my day.

The following morning I walked out to the trailer to grab a few things I needed. I unlocked the tack room door and noticed water on the floor. I looked up at the door and realized my window had been broken out and because it had rained, water had blown in through the window. I then scanned my tack room and realized everything I had left in there had been stolen. Years of bit collections, spurs, all of my tails, show headstalls, western and English show saddles, my show clothing, show halters, etc. They even took my “everyday” clothes I had packed to wear that weekend! It was a devastating and violating feeling – all I had left was what I had brought into my tack stall at the show.

I filed a police report to report the losses, and then notified my insurance company. The insurance company requested a list of everything stolen, the value of each item and also proof of the value of each item. I spent hours going through catalogs to substantiate values, getting manufacturers to write letters of pricing, going through items with serial numbers and trying to match them with win photos for show equipment that was taken, etc.

Seriously it took weeks to put it all together. I then submitted my claim. My losses were roughly $30,000.00. I then received a call from an insurance auditor – it was not a pleasant experience. I felt bullied and intimidated having to recant the entire experience for a 100th time. I was then told because the items stolen were not on “my actual property,” I was not covered.

Out of a $30k loss, I was given a check for $1500.00.

Another hard lesson learned after believing and trusting in the competency of our agent. Make sure your policy covers losses while away from home. Also make sure your policy covers losses of not only your own personal property, but the property of anyone else hauling items in your trailer. It’s knowing WHAT is in your policy and WHAT is covered. It’s also knowing WHAT is in your trailer and having record and receipts for it. Take pictures or video – I cannot stress this enough. Also know WHAT coverages your clients have and are they covered from losses when their property is in your possession?

There are many good companies out there that specialize in equine farms and ranches and provide commercial liability insurance as well. In fact, a good insurance company will require you to have commercial liability insurance or care, custody and control if caring for other people’s horses.

Some helpful websites in planning your insurance needs are:

Markel Insurance Company

American Financial Group

State Farm

Farmers Home Insurance


Cowgirl Logic:

“Better to be safe than sorry…”

Celebrate Your Horse!


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