Holly Lopes started in the equine insurance business in 1992 and went out on her own as an agent and broker in 2000. In that time, she has helped her company’s clients find insurance for everything from horse training and clubs to full insurance packages for trail ride guest ranches and everything in between. Her company, Cheval Insurance Services, is thriving as a provider of equestrian, sports and recreational insurance. At Cheval, they love to work with horse people and are not afraid to work outside “the box.”
A relatively recent example of one of Cheval’s more complex challenges was the quest to insure straws of frozen semen for a breeding program’s high-value stallions. “It took quite a bit of doing to figure out that semen straws don’t fall under liability or property insurance, but under boiler and machinery,” she notes with obvious delight in having puzzled out a scenario so unique to the equine world. “If the frozen semen was destroyed because the freezing equipment malfunctioned, owners with a boiler and machinery policy could recoup the agreed-upon
value of those semen straws and refund their customers,” Lopes explains. (Assuming compliance with the equipment’s operating instructions and safety procedures.)
This example is one of many instances in which Lopes’ extensive experience as a horse person adds considerable value to her company’s services. “It’s not just anybody that should be writing equine insurance,” notes Lopes, a dressage rider and competitor. “You have to know the ins and outs and what questions to ask.”
Based in Orange County’s Fullerton, Cheval Insurance writes policies in eight Western states, a feat made easier by the company’s newly revamped website www.chevalinsurance.com. Although Cheval can and has written almost every imaginable type of insurance relating to riding, owning and running a business with horses, they consider education to be the most important part of the job.
Holly Lopes on Godiva, a beautiful Friesian mare
that was owned by John & Anita Mellott.
Figuring out what a customer really needs is the first step and it is an area where missteps are easily made. A common mistake for trainers, for example, is thinking that they do not need care, custody and control insurance because they do not own the boarding facility where their business is based. “Anyone that is handling a horse does have a care, custody and control exposure,” Lopes clarifies.
Lopes and her staff explain to all her customers that insurance is “a tool for transferring the risk of loss from yourself to your carrier for a fee.” From there they outline the limitations of the coverage options. “We determine what potential exposures to loss you have and then work with you to devise a program that mitigates or transfers as much risk as possible,” Lopes notes. “We do this by educating the client, conducting risk management surveys, on site or virtual inspections, and proper placement of insurance. When we are done, our clients should know how they are protected and why.”
Every Kind of Insurance
Cheval Insurance is unique in its ability to offer virtually every kind of insurance relevant to owning and enjoying horses. They write policies for horses in every discipline from pleasure riding to high-end competition horses. Ranches, stables, trainers, riding clubs, outfitters and guides, dude ranches, campgrounds, recreational sporting programs, and various athletic competitions are just a few of the activities for which Cheval can find the best insurance options for its clients.
In her nearly 20 years in the business, Lopes has seen many changes, perhaps none more powerful than the effect of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. “That turned the entire insurance market entirely on its head,” she observes. “Several insurance companies simply went away because the losses they incurred were so substantial. And the market tightened up across the board.”
Cheval Insurance continues to thrive thanks in large part to a loyal customer base whose referrals account for roughly 70 percent of its business. Cheval is a strong supporter of the equestrian community through sponsorships of various events. Lopes is excited about the ways in which Cheval’s revamped website, designed by Riding’s Designs, has made it even easier for existing and potential customers to navigate the world of equine insurance. Increased options on the site include applications for many types of insurance and online payment features for existing policy holders. Requests for quotes for Horse Mortality and other types of insurance can also be submitted online.
Even with Cheval Insurance Services’ new and improved website, the personal touch delivered by Lopes and her staff remains the company’s hallmark. “Insurance applications can be daunting,” Lopes acknowledges. “We are happy to walk people through the process and translate the ‘insurance-ese’.”
For more information on Cheval Insurance Services, visit www.chevalinsurance.com or call 714-447-9191 or 800-97-HORSE.