The Legalities of Equine Insurance Policies

A lawyer describes equine liability insurance and what you should know about these policies.

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An equine liability insurance policy can help cover expenses and protect you from a lawsuit should your horse hurt someone on your property. A good liability release and contract, however, will provide with an added layer of protection, says Rachel McCart, JD, who runs Equine Legal Solutions in western Oregon and is licensed in California, Oregon, Washington, and New York.

“Contracts and insurance are completely different things,” she explains. “Your contract helps keep people from suing you in the first place and helps keep them from winning if they do. There is no way to actually prevent someone from suing you, because anybody can sue anybody for anything. If someone sues you, even if there is no way they are ever going to win, it’s still expensive for you to defend yourself.”

If you’re insured, the claims in a lawsuit fall within the confines of your policy, so the insurance company will appoint and pay for your counsel. “They will also, within the limits of your policy, pay any legal judgment or settlement in the case,” she says. “When you look at it from that perspective, insurance is cheap!”

One thing you can do with a contract is shift responsibility for attorney fees and costs to the loser in a lawsuit. “In my mind, that’s the way it should be, because it discourages people from bringing frivolous claims,” she says

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Heather Smith Thomas ranches with her husband near Salmon, Idaho, raising cattle and a few horses. She has a B.A. in English and history from University of Puget Sound (1966). She has raised and trained horses for 50 years, and has been writing freelance articles and books nearly that long, publishing 20 books and more than 9,000 articles for horse and livestock publications. Some of her books include Understanding Equine Hoof Care, The Horse Conformation Handbook, Care and Management of Horses, Storey’s Guide to Raising Horses and Storey’s Guide to Training Horses. Besides having her own blog,, she writes a biweekly blog at that comes out on Tuesdays.

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