Not everyone who wants their own horse can afford one. As well as the initial outlay of buying the horse, there are all the ‘extras’; rugs, tack, livery, feed, insurance, vaccinations – the list goes on and on. The recent economic downturn has seen more and more struggling owners entering into horse share agreements in an effort to keep their beloved horse whilst cutting down on some of the expense. Horse sharing can be helpful too if your circumstances change and your free time becomes limited through a change of job or perhaps the arrival of a baby in the household. But can horse sharing really work? The following tips and advice should help avoid the potential pitfalls.
Before you begin looking for a sharer, it’s important to decide exactly what you hope to get out of the arrangement. Be wary about financial arrangements. If the sharer pays you a fee each month for the use of the horse, this could be deemed to be a commercial arrangement which carries insurance implications. The best thing to do if you need help with paying for the horse’s keep is to agree that the sharer will cover the cost of things like shoeing, feed or bedding.
Every sharing agreement will vary slightly as everyone’s circumstances are different so it’s important to make your requirements clear when you draft an advert for a sharer. You could place your advert on the notice board in local tack shops, riding schools, competition venues etc; in your local ‘Buy & Sell’ paper or of course on-line. Sharing is a two way street and you must always be honest in your description of the horse you are offering as a share. This will save wasting your time as well as that of people who respond to the advert. If your horse is not a novice ride for example; make that perfectly clear in your ad.
Once you’ve placed your advert, draft a short list of questions which you can use as an initial screening test for people ringing up to enquire about your horse. The following are a good starting point:
1. How old are they? Make sure the caller isn’t a child ringing without their parent’s knowledge.
2. What height and weight are they? If you own a 14hh, lightweight riding horse you will not want a 6’3” man weighing 15 stone riding it!
3. What experience do they have of horse ownership?
4. How long have they been riding and at what level?
5. What do they want the horse for; hacking, lessons or competing?
6. Are they employed?
7. How far away from the yard where the horse is kept do they live and do they have transport?
8. How often would they be available to help with mucking out etc? It could be that they just want to ride every day and not do any of the hard work!
These ideas are fine for an initial screening over the phone but you will want to make a further, more detailed list of questions for use when you meet people face to face.
Never be tempted to just grab the first person who sounds likely. Make a short list of applicants for the share and meet each one. You can get a very good vibe from people face to face. Introduce them to your horse and see how each reacts. Does the prospective sharer seem nervous around your horse? Leave the horse out in the field and ask them to come with you to catch him. Then they could help grooming, tacking up etc. How confident and competent around him do they seem? These may not seem like big things but they will give a clear indication of whether the person’s alleged experience is genuine or exaggerated.
It’s a really good idea to arrange for them to have a lesson on the horse too. That will give both you and your instructor a good chance to assess the prospective sharer for suitability and compatibility. I would also like to take them out hacking if that’s what they want to use the horse for to see for myself how confident and experienced they are away from the safety of the school environment.
Once you’ve found someone suitable as a sharer for your horse, draw up a written agreement. The BHS website has several sample agreements for loan arrangements which can be adapted for sharing and there are some good posts here on OfHorse which explain in detail what to include. A signed, written agreement will prove invaluable in the event of any dispute.
Sharing can be a very rewarding and fulfilling arrangement for horse, owner and sharer but on the flipside it can also be a minefield. I hope the advice in this article will be helpful and thought provoking and good luck with your search for a sharer.