Never did the stable owner expect to be sued. A horse in his care became injured in the pasture, with a large wound, but the stable owner thought he had it under control. He dressed the wound, gave the horse a penicillin shot using old medication in the barn refrigerator, left the horse in the stall for a few days to rest and recover, and gave the horse only quick checks in the days that followed. There was no need to call a veterinarian, he thought. Several days later, however, the horse’s condition worsened to a very serious point, and by the time a veterinarian was summoned, the horse had to be put down. It turned out that the cut was more severe than the stable owner thought, and the penicillin was unsuitable for the horse. At the very end, a surprised horse owner received the call that the horse was gone.

In this example, the stable owner’s actions led to the horse’s death under circumstances that were avoidable. The stable owner created other problems, as well. The horse owner’s equine mortality insurance claim was denied because the insurer believed two provisions of the policy were violated. First, the policy required only veterinarians to administer or supervise injections, but the stable administered the penicillin shot independently. Second, the policy required the owner (or someone of the owner’s behalf) to promptly notify the insurer if the horse became injured or ill, but nobody notified the insurer until several days had passed and when the horse was already a candidate for euthanasia.

How Communication Could Have Changed the Scenario

Prompt communication could potentially save a horse’s life. It can also spare the horse owner a considerable amount of money and avoid legal disputes. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Stables can ask owners to give contact numbers in case the boarded horse becomes injured or ill. That way, the stable or trainer has an opportunity to seek the owner’s approval before veterinary attention is either withheld or sought.
  • The boarding and/or training contract can require the stable to notify the owner any time the horse becomes injured or ill and seek approval from the owner.
  • Horse owners can keep their boarding stables and trainers aware if the horse is insured with equine insurance. Importantly, stable owners and trainers can receive the insurer’s most current, designated (800) notice number and policy information in case the stable or trainer must place a call on the owner’s behalf. Equine insurance accept these calls 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Late notice could potentially justify the insurer in denying an equine mortality and major medical insurance claim.
  • Horse owners can leave a credit card on file with the regular attending veterinarian and encourage the stable to call the vet in the owner’s absence.
  • Stables and trainers can seek written authorization to arrange veterinary attention, at their discretion, if the owner cannot be reached. Boarding and training contracts can include this.