Horses are expensive animals. We all dream of owning one, but sometimes the purchase price and the weekly livery costs—not to mention the workload—are prohibitive. Loaning works for some, but it can bring as many responsibilities as owning a horse, minus the purchase price.
However, there is another way that regular riding can be made affordable — horse sharing. Unlike loaning, this is an arrangement that sees the horse staying at its current location and the owner and the sharer reaching a mutual agreement about riding the horse at certain times and sharing the bills.
Many horses languish in fields while their owners work and are in desperate in need of exercise. Some require schooling by a competent rider, while others may be available for competing or Pony Club or riding club activities. Sometimes an owner may find meeting all the bills difficult and so horse-sharing can be the perfect solution and may even prevent the forced sale of the horse.
In many situations, it makes perfect sense. The sharer has the opportunity to ride the horse a certain number of times a week, probably beyond the confines of a school, while the owner has peace of mind that their horse is being kept occupied. What could possibly go wrong?
Many shares work out perfectly well, and, if they weren’t friends before, the sharer and the owner may strike up a great friendship over an arrangement that proves successful down the years. However, because sharing involves two people with different requirements, some arrangements fail, with both parties ending up seeking legal advice.
It could be that the owner feels that the horse is being exercised excessively, that the sharer is letting the horse get away with bad habits, or that the sharer is losing interest and doesn’t turn up to ride at the appointed time. In other cases, it is the owner who becomes too demanding and keeps trying to oust the sharer from their riding slots or raises the sharing fee excessively year after year. Sometimes, the two just fall out over tack that has been left dirty and the stable that has not been mucked out.
Luckily, there are ways to help prevent horse sharing going wrong, or mitigate the fallout if things do go pear-shaped:
1. Try the horse
Ride the horse several times before you enter a share agreement and definitely beyond the confines of the manège. This way, the owner can gauge whether the sharer is a competent rider and the sharer can ensure that they feel comfortable on the horse
2. Draw up a written horse sharing agreement
This could be based on the BHS’s sample loan agreement and needs to be signed by both parties. It should include:
- Information about the horse
- Where it will be kept
- Notice period
- How often the horse may be ridden
- An agreed monthly fee, plus any other cost responsibilities
- The activities the sharer is permitted to undertake with the horse
- The duties they will be expected to undertake, such as mucking out, poo picking, tack cleaning, feeding, rug changing, etc
- The fact that they are not allowed to let other people ride it without the owner’s permission
- Insurance cover
- Any issues with the horse or vices the sharer should be aware of, such as traffic shy
- Any other responsibilities
3. Be honest
Owner and sharer should be honest with each other. If the horse incurs a slight injury while out on a ride with the sharer, the owner should be informed straight away so that what starts out as a minor problem doesn’t escalate if left untreated.
4. Be responsible
The sharer should turn up at the appointed times to ride and care for the horse. If for some reason they have to miss a slot, they should give the owner plenty of notice.
5. Communicate regularly
If the horse sharing schedule means that the owner and sharer rarely meet, the owner should receive regular texts and pictures so they know that all is going well. This will ensure that good relations are maintained.
6. Be prepared to give and take
If the owner wants to swap riding dates sometimes, the sharer should be flexible and accommodating.
7. Come clean
If the sharer feels that the arrangement is not for them — maybe the horse is too sharp to hack alone — they should say so, rather than just not turning up to ride, which is guaranteed to cause bad feeling.
8. Be realistic
Work within the parameters of the original agreement. If the owner tells the sharer that they don’t want the horse taken hunting, respect their decision. If the sharer wants more than they are getting from the original deal then maybe it is time to move on to a different horse.
9. Part on good terms
The horse world is a very small place and if the sharer upsets the owner they may find it very difficult to enter into a similar arrangement with somebody else in the local area.