Horses are expensive. Not just in terms of all the obvious outlay, such as vets bills, feed, farriers, bedding, clothing and so on, but also in terms of your time. You love your horse, but perhaps you have a youngster to bring up, or have taken on a new job, and can longer dedicate the amount of time he needs. A solution, if you can’t bear to part with him completely, is to send him out on loan.
Unfortunately, these sorts of agreements can go wrong. We’ve all read about people who’ve loaned their horse in good faith, only for the loanee to sell it on, or the horse to be returned in a distressingly poor state. But there are safeguards that you can put in place to help prevent these problems.
The first thing is to make sure your horse is identifiable. If he was passported before July 1, 2009, he won’t necessarily be microchipped, so it is worth either getting him chipped or freeze-marked. Remember if you have him chipped that the implant site must be added to the silhouette on his passport.
The next step is to find a loanee. Although you may have to spread your net more widely, it is worth trying to find someone locally first. Put up cards in feed merchants and tack shops, and ask your vet, farrier and local riding club — or Pony Club branch — if they know of anyone looking for a horse to take on loan.
If someone comes forward, don’t be too quick to accept them as the loanee. Watch how they interact with your horse, and how he reacts to them; visit the place where they intend to keep him; ask for references and make it clear that you intend to follow them up.
When you’re happy that you’ve found the right person, it is imperative that you both sign a contract. Even if that person is known to you, be pedantic about putting everything in writing. A written agreement is not only a safety net if a friendship turns sour, but can actually protect a relationship from the strain of misunderstanding by clarifying exactly what is expected from each party.
The British Horse Society offers plenty of helpful advice and has a template of a contract, which is a good place to start. Go to: www.bhs.org.uk/welfare-and-care/buying-and-loaning-horses
“I have sent out several horses or ponies on loan and on the whole everything has gone well, but I do have a fairly comprehensive loan agreement,” says Trisha Smith. “However, recently someone wanted to return one of my ponies at short notice and I had to point out the terms of the agreement — two months’ written notice. Fortunately, he has been re-homed to a super competitive family. Another pony was loaned to a friend and I found out through Facebook that he had gone to a new home!”