Storm Losses

Moore Tornado Takes Heavy Toll on Racehorses

A deadly twister cut into the heart of Oklahoma's horse industry, burdening equine insurers.
By: | September 1, 2013 • 4 min read

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 horses. Scores of them.

Among the many losses suffered in the May 20 twister, losses of the four-legged variety were keenly felt by many — horse owners not least among them. The tally of horses lost in the deadly tornado is 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.

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The Oklahoma City region’s vibrant horse industry took a heavy blow. For some, rebuilding will be a challenge.

Celestial Acres Training Court, located on the Orr property, was virtually wiped out. Once the largest horse training facility in the state, it was reduced to dust and rubble, save for a single barn. Several trainers operating out of the facility had their entire stables wiped out.

At least 80 thoroughbreds and quarter horses perished at the site, but an exact tally has been elusive because the training center maintained several hundred stalls that it rented out to boarders on a “come and go as you please” basis.

Many individual horse owners who boarded their animals at Celestial Acres and 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 owned 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 individuals and business owners who lost horses in the tornado, 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.

Exact figures on the insured equine losses aren’t available. Kirby Smith, public information manager for the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, said the department has estimated that at least half of the lost horses were insured. But opinions vary on how accurate that figure might be.

The insured losses are still substantial, running well above a $1 million and possibly even reaching $2 million if even a handful of high-value animals were among the deceased.

“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.

Even if only half of the lost horses were insured, said Petersen, chances are the insured losses are still substantial, running well above a $1 million and possibly even reaching $2 million if even a handful of high-value animals were among the deceased.

But Jeff Tebow, managing partner with insurance broker Andreini & Company 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.”

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While a large percentage of the lost animals were involved in racing — particularly those that perished at the training facility — that doesn’t necessarily mean they were covered under mortality policies, said Tebow, whose brokerage insures horses across the globe through Markel’s quarter horse racing insurance program.  

While the equine losses were massive for a single storm, they were actually small for the area’s horse industry overall, compared to the actual number of horses in the region and the state. Horse-related business in the area probably won’t feel much more than a ripple. Even so, it’s no less tragic for anyone in the community.

“It’s an unfortunate number of animals,” said Tebow. “One is too much. Two hundred is a catastrophic number. I’ve seen this kind of devastation from a tornado before, but I’ve never seen this type of horse loss from a storm.”

Michelle Kerr is associate editor of Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

4 Companies That Rocked It by Treating Injured Workers as Equals; Not Adversaries

The 2018 Teddy Award winners built their programs around people, not claims, and offer proof that a worker-centric approach is a smarter way to operate.
By: | October 30, 2018 • 3 min read

Across the workers’ compensation industry, the concept of a worker advocacy model has been around for a while, but has only seen notable adoption in recent years.

Even among those not adopting a formal advocacy approach, mindsets are shifting. Formerly claims-centric programs are becoming worker-centric and it’s a win all around: better outcomes; greater productivity; safer, healthier employees and a stronger bottom line.

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That’s what you’ll see in this month’s issue of Risk & Insurance® when you read the profiles of the four recipients of the 2018 Theodore Roosevelt Workers’ Compensation and Disability Management Award, sponsored by PMA Companies. These four programs put workers front and center in everything they do.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top,” said Steve Legg, director of risk management for Starbucks.

Starbucks put claims reporting in the hands of its partners, an exemplary act of trust. The coffee company also put itself in workers’ shoes to identify and remove points of friction.

That led to a call center run by Starbucks’ TPA and a dedicated telephonic case management team so that partners can speak to a live person without the frustration of ‘phone tag’ and unanswered questions.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top.” — Steve Legg, director of risk management, Starbucks

Starbucks also implemented direct deposit for lost-time pay, eliminating stressful wait times for injured partners, and allowing them to focus on healing.

For Starbucks, as for all of the 2018 Teddy Award winners, the approach is netting measurable results. With higher partner satisfaction, it has seen a 50 percent decrease in litigation.

Teddy winner Main Line Health (MLH) adopted worker advocacy in a way that goes far beyond claims.

Employees who identify and report safety hazards can take credit for their actions by sending out a formal “Employee Safety Message” to nearly 11,000 mailboxes across the organization.

“The recognition is pretty cool,” said Steve Besack, system director, claims management and workers’ compensation for the health system.

MLH also takes a non-adversarial approach to workers with repeat injuries, seeing them as a resource for identifying areas of improvement.

“When you look at ‘repeat offenders’ in an unconventional way, they’re a great asset to the program, not a liability,” said Mike Miller, manager, workers’ compensation and employee safety for MLH.

Teddy winner Monmouth County, N.J. utilizes high-tech motion capture technology to reduce the chance of placing new hires in jobs that are likely to hurt them.

Monmouth County also adopted numerous wellness initiatives that help workers manage their weight and improve their wellbeing overall.

“You should see the looks on their faces when their cholesterol is down, they’ve lost weight and their blood sugar is better. We’ve had people lose 30 and 40 pounds,” said William McGuane, the county’s manager of benefits and workers’ compensation.

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Do these sound like minor program elements? The math says otherwise: Claims severity has plunged from $5.5 million in 2009 to $1.3 million in 2017.

At the University of Pennsylvania, putting workers first means getting out from behind the desk and finding out what each one of them is tasked with, day in, day out — and looking for ways to make each of those tasks safer.

Regular observations across the sprawling campus have resulted in a phenomenal number of process and equipment changes that seem simple on their own, but in combination have created a substantially safer, healthier campus and improved employee morale.

UPenn’s workers’ comp costs, in the seven-digit figures in 2009, have been virtually cut in half.

Risk & Insurance® is proud to honor the work of these four organizations. We hope their stories inspire other organizations to be true partners with the employees they depend on. &

Michelle Kerr is associate editor of Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]