Saturday, May. 25, 2024

To Insure Or Not To Be Sure

Dear Rita,

My summer/fall journey to the United States is drawing to a close. Anna Pettersson, Winyamaro, Gizmo and I will all fly back to Germany next week and gear up for an intense show season through the end of 2011. The Salzburg CDI****, London CDI-W and Mechelen CDI-W are all on the roster for us.



Dear Rita,

My summer/fall journey to the United States is drawing to a close. Anna Pettersson, Winyamaro, Gizmo and I will all fly back to Germany next week and gear up for an intense show season through the end of 2011. The Salzburg CDI****, London CDI-W and Mechelen CDI-W are all on the roster for us.

Unfortunately, Cadillac will stay behind in the USA. He is still fighting off complications from a fractured tooth and a resultant infection that kept him from competing at Devon a few weeks ago. His full recovery looks promising even though it’s taking more time then my impatient seat bones would like. Cadillac will stay in the very capable care of my husband at his clinic in Califon, N.J.—Running S Equine Veterinary Services—until he is ready to travel. Greg promises to have him home by Christmas.

Which brings me to a subject that many people ask me about. Do you insure your horses? Let me tell you that insuring them at least for mortality, theft and also for major medical coverage is a great idea. The going rate for a dressage horse is between 3-3.5 percent of value for a mortality policy, with premiums getting higher if you add theft, major medical or loss of use to your policy.

Traditionally, I have not insured my horses. I simply own too many to afford the premiums. But I get nervous without coverage on my top horses because they travel too much. Every trip they take increases their risk of illness or injury.

If you plan to put your horse on an airplane or ship him overland multiple times in one year, I would highly recommend insuring your horse. If you can’t insure for your horse’s full replacement value, at least take out a policy to cover a portion of his value so you are not left high and dry without the means to buy a new horse if something tragic happens.

Winyamaro and Cadillac are now insured with Amlin Plus, specialists in sport horse insurance and the largest insurer of Thoroughbreds in the United Kingdom. Amlin offers a variety of policies and is willing to customize coverage to meet the special needs of each of its clients worldwide. David Ashby is one of the most well informed agents I have ever spoken to. He understands all the equestrian sports and can tailor a policy to your individual needs from mortality to theft and medical coverage to loss of use. 

I spoke with David last summer about my biggest concern—protecting my business from the losses that can occur during extended travel. My horses travel all over the European continent, from Stockholm, Sweden, in the north to Cannes, France, in the south. They are transported by van and ferry and even though we make every effort to limit transportation times to less than 12 hours per leg and no more than two days on the road, sometimes their travel times are extended due to unavoidable weather or traffic problems.


Know this: The longer your horse is underway (in particular, any journey more than six hours in length) and the number of stops you make along the way are two factors that increase his risk of contracting shipping fever, perhaps better described as tranport-related respiratory disease.

Shipping fever is characterized by depression, loss of appetite, fever, increased vital signs, followed by nasal discharge and a typical soft, moist cough. Without immediate and appropriate treatment, this condition can rapidly progress to pleurisy and pneumonia, which can be fatal. Even in the best case, you are probably looking at withdrawal from competition or a loss of training time due to a long period of recuperation.

The reason I started insurance shopping (and settled on Amlin Plus) last summer is that my horses are starting to travel back and forth between the USA and Europe as well as being transported overland on both sides of the Atlantic.

Here’s the deal, Rita. Freight shipping (all horse have to be shipped on main deck freightliners) has changed in recent years. Not all airlines operate freighters, and the advent of the wide body passenger jet with much larger freight capacity in the belly has reduced the number of main deck freighters in the fleets that horses can fly with. It is much harder to move horses around on the less traveled routes (to the Mideast, Far East or Australia) than ever before. Routes have become convoluted and involve more stopovers and longer travel times.

The routes between Europe and the USA are fortunately still very open and easy if you choose the right airlines. Direct flights operated with main deck cargo planes are available several times a week between Amsterdam and New York, Miami or Los Angeles. Frankfurt also operates many cargo flights to these destinations. I am a fan of flying with KLM, but I’ve had good experiences with Lufthansa as well.

In any case, limiting the TOTAL amount of transport time is vital in protecting your horse’s health. Amsterdam is a 3-4 hour drive from my stable in Germany, and Guido Klatte International Transport picks my horses up at the door. With no weather or maintenance problems, the wait is usually 2-3 hours at the airport before loading on the container and another 1-2 hours before loading on the plane. With luck, the horses will be loaded last and take off will occur within 45 minutes or so. 

After the 8-8½ hour flight my horses land at JFK, and are met by our trusty receiving agent, Tim Dutta Corporation. Then they are loaded onto trucks and driven up to the quarantine station in Newburgh, N.Y. This leg of the journey takes 3-4 hours. So, best case, the entire travel from my stable in Germany to the quarantine in New York will last only 17 hours. Worst case, 24 hours or more depending on conditions at both airports.

I won’t entertain you with horror stories, Rita.


Long blog made short, I have started insuring my top horses for part of their value!

And after this last trip to the USA, I can say that I breathe a little bit easier with Amlin Plus carrying the policies on my horses.

Winyamaro traveled with his usual ease and aplomb, but Cadillac had just plain lousy luck on the journey—contracting a skin infection, followed by the discovery of a fractured tooth which led to sinusitis and infection—all contributing factors to his delayed return this fall.

I’ve said this before, and I’ll repeat it again here. When you plan an arduous trip with your horse, ask your vet to examine your horse and do a simple complete blood count (CBC) test. Check his blood for any signs of infection or abnormality before traveling and do it again within 1-3 days after arriving at your destination. Make sure you move your horse before you begin the journey—either ride him, longe him or walk him as close to departure time as possible. Give him plenty of fresh hay during the travel, electrolytes every six hours and as much water as he will drink. Wet the hay for the journey if your horse is a poor drinker. And take his temperature several times a day for up to one week after arrival.

I’m Catherine Haddad Staller, and I’m sayin it like it is from Gladstone, N.J.

Training Tip of the Day: A fit horse always travels better than a horse that lacks condition. Minimize travel time to minimize risk. Consider insurance with flight coverage!




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