BY MICHELLE KERR
As a tornado headed for the heart of Moore, Okla., gearing up to level Briarwood Elementary School with an EF-5 punch, it first blazed a path through the 160-acre Orr Family Farm. Two hundred-plus mph winds laid waste to stalls, barns, fences and anything else above ground -- including racehorses. Scores of them.
The tally of horses lost in the deadly tornado was approximately 200, according to the state veterinarian. One local animal disposal firm alone received at least 180 requests from area farms for the removal of deceased horses.
At least 80 thoroughbreds and quarter horses perished at Celestial Acres Training Court, located on the Orr property, but an exact tally has been elusive.
Many individual horse owners who boarded their animals at Celestial Acres on a "come and go as you please" basis and at other nearby facilities will be unable to recoup their losses.
Training, boarding and breeding operations typically carry Care, Custody and Control endorsements on their liability policies to cover damage to non-owned horses in their care. But that coverage doesn't extend to acts of nature.
Local farms that lost horses may get relief from their farm or business property coverage. Working horses may be covered under a property policy along with other livestock. But horses kept for showing, racing or breeding would be excluded.
The bottom line is that for most, the only available relief is mortality coverage, one of the cornerstones of the typical equine insurance suite. Mortality policies are essentially life insurance for horses, and replace the full insured value of a horse lost under nearly any circumstances.
"Anyone who has invested $10,000 or more on a horse generally goes ahead and gets a mortality policy," said Judi Petersen, mortality program manager for the Equestrian Insurance Group based in Phoenix, Ariz.
The state's department of agriculture estimated that half of the horses lost were insured, which would lead to insured losses in the millions.
But Jeff Tebow, managing partner with insurance broker Andreini & Co. in Oklahoma City, said the department's estimate is on the optimistic side.
"In some ways I'd like that to be true," he said, "so these people are compensated for their losses. But I'd just find that hard to believe."
September 1, 2013
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