While it is a huge step to send your horse out on loan, it is possibly no less daunting to take one on yourself, so it helps to follow a few, basic pointers.
Once you have decided to take a horse on loan, ask around. Local riding clubs and schools, Pony Club branches, the local hunt if you have one, plus tack shops and saddleries are all good starting points. Social media such as Facebook can be helpful too. But make sure you find what you are looking for — or as near to it as possible — and don’t settle for the first one you see.
You should quiz the owner about the horse in detail. This sounds obvious, but, as well as the usual enquiries about vet bills, dentist, farrier, insurance and feed, ask about his habits, quirks and likes and dislikes, too. For example, is he OK on his own out hacking, or does he prefer company? How tight does he like his girth? Rack your brains and ask as many questions as you can think of.
You should also be clear about what the loan arrangement allows you to do — whether you can take the horse to shows, for example — what the notice period is, for both parties, and whether you are responsible for taking the horse back at the end of the agreed period or if the loaner collects him.
It is just as important for you, as the loanee, to have a contract in place as it is for the loaner, because it protects you both. Loaning can be a wonderful way of experiencing horse ownership, or a great step towards owning a horse yourself, but a legally binding agreement where each party’s rights and responsibilities are specified in detail is a must. Visit the BHS’ website for a sample agreement, which can be tailored to suit your needs.
Trudi Johnson didn’t intend to take Jed on loan, but he was living in a field next door and when his young rider was told she was too big for him, he was offered to her on loan.
“So I became the loanee of a 13hh New Forest pony,” says Johnson. “We had a fantastic time, doing all sorts of fun things, and I loved every second. He was naughty with people who knew what they were doing, but a total saint for anyone who was nervous or a beginner. He had a wicked sense of humour, too. I miss him terribly.
“One day, out of the blue, his original owners came and took him back. We never did find out why and he ended up in a field doing nothing. It was very sad, but there was nothing we could do about it. I wish with everything I have that I could have bought him.”