There’s been a tremendous shift toward recreational horse ownership, so much so that this group represents a significant (and the fastest growing) portion of the horse industry. Accompanying this growth is an increasing need for horse boarding facilities that can provide quality equine custody and care. As the market grows, many owners of horse boarding operations are seeing a good return on their investment but need to be aware of the unique risk exposures and liabilities they are taking on. This article will discuss how insurance agents can be important representatives for their clients so their horse boarding operations thrive in the midst of certain risk exposures.
Benefits of Recreational Horse Ownership
Winston Churchill, the iconic former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and avid horseman, is said to have mused, “There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.” There are, in fact, many benefits of recreational horse ownership including:
- Companionship: One of the primary reasons recreational horse owners are drawn to this hobby is because horses provide companionship. As intelligent animals with individual and unique personalities, horses can readily form strong bonds with their owners.
- Fitness: Horseback riding requires a high degree of balance and coordination. Not only does this activity enhance one’s fitness level, but it can also count as cardiovascular activity that can strengthen physical endurance as well as muscles.
- Therapy: The joy of caring for and bonding with a horse can help to ease the stressors of life, especially during times of hardship and uncertainty.
- Social Networks: Horses are social animals and may help their owners overcome anxiety and loneliness by providing a shared interest and connection with others who enjoy the hobby. Many horse owners enjoy activities such as showing, competitions, training, clubs, races, and more – all of which provide opportunities for their owners to expand their social networks.
- Enjoying Nature: Horse ownership provides many opportunities to experience the natural world through training activities, equestrian events, and walks through the countryside.
It’s not uncommon for recreational horse owners to live in an apartment building or private home, where housing a horse on-site is either impractical, against the law, or perhaps both. Fortunately, horse boarding facilities can provide all the space a horse needs.
Horse Boarding Facilities & Contract Agreements
Horse boarding facilities meet the needs of recreational horse owners by providing housing, food, exercise, and other accommodations. The services and amenities provided by horse boarding facilities can span a wide range. Depending on the boarding contract, the horse boarding facility may provide some or all of the following:
- Housing in a wide-open corral, stall, or pasture
- Food and water
- Medication (if necessary)
- Scheduled vet services
As representatives of their clients, insurance agents that provide horse insurance to business owners should understand the most common types of horse boarding operations, which include:
- Full Boarding Facilities: Full boarding facilities commonly occur on small private farms, also known as hobby farms. These farmers may have a few crops and some livestock, but they are not major players in the farming industry. Rather, they own farming property and have the right accommodations, so they may choose to operate a boarding facility for other people’s horses as a way to generate income. These types of horse boarding operations generally provide everything a horse requires for daily maintenance. They are also likely to employ hired hands to maintain and clean the facility.
- Partial-Care Boarding Facilities: For these facilities, the responsibility to care for the horse is split between the business owner and the horse owner. For example, the horse boarding operation owner may supply the day-to-day housing and feeding, but the horse owner is responsible for grooming and exercising their own horse.
- Training Boarding Facilities: Training boarding facilities are most commonly used for competition horses. In addition to housing and feeding, horses at training facilities are provided a training routine that can include obstacle jumping, endurance riding, and speed.
Liabilities & Risk Exposures at Horse Boarding Facilities
Horse boarding facilities face certain liabilities and risk exposures. Once an owner brings their horse to the boarding facility, the business owner assumes the care, custody, and control of the animal to the extent outlined in the boarding contract. While the horse is under the business owner’s care, there are certain risk exposures that the facility owner should be aware of such as:
- Risk of injury to the horse
- Risk of injury to trainers, employees, and guests
- Damage to the property
Risk Assessment and Inspection
Insurance agents can play a valuable role by informing the business owner of the risks and liabilities that come with running their horse boarding operation. In some cases, the business owner may not even be aware that a standard insurance policy may not include adequate coverage for equine operations. A risk assessment and inspection may include:
- Conduct an on-site inspection
- Check for faulty equipment
- Identify any defects in the horse stables
- Schedule repairs and deferred maintenance
A thorough inspection of the horse boarding facility can assist the insurance agent when it comes to discussing coverage options and risk management strategies with the business owner.
Equine Care, Custody, & Control Policy
For horse boarding operations and facilities, having an equine care, custody, and control policy in place is important because standard general liability insurance typically does not include coverage for non-owned horses. For example, if a horse is injured while under the business owner’s care, the business owner can be liable for all costs, which can be very expensive depending on the extent of the damage. An equine care, custody, and control policy fills in this coverage gap by protecting the business owner from liability exposures that can occur while boarding horses at their private farm or boarding facility; this includes possible injury to the horse and damage to the building as result of boarding the horse.
Are you looking to place a commercial equine risk? MiniCo’s exclusive Agribusiness Insurance program offers coverage for equine care, custody, and control as well as property, liability, commercial auto, and more. Contact us for a quote.