"We need to talk" - 5 things to consider when sharing a horse
The scenario: You want to do more riding but don't want to pay a small fortune to a riding school to have half an hour trotting round in circles on a horse that's less than enthusiastic. Buying your own horse isn't an option, so how can you get your riding fix?
The solution: The horse share. Our founder and editor-in-chief Hannah has recently been exploring this avenue, so read on for what she's discovered.
As our home and working lives seem to get ever busier, horse owners are increasingly looking for a sharer to help keep their horses exercised. In this article we'll look at 5 things to be aware of when deciding if a horse share is right for you, either as a horse owner or a potential sharer.
1. Different levels of riding experience
Probably the biggest potential stumbling block in a successful horse share, it's crucial that both owner and sharer are honest with each other about their level of riding experience. A big gap, for example between a novice adult-learner and an experienced rider who has been around horses since early childhood, can easily lead to frustration on both sides if not carefully managed, and can be confusing for the horse if what he's being asked to do (and how he's being asked to do it) isn't consistent.
Another big issue when sharing can be differing attitudes to discipline between owner and sharer. What may be acceptable behaviour to one rider may not be to another and, as with differing levels of riding experience, can be a barrier to a successful horse share. This is especially the case when the horse is younger or generally less experienced, and can be a big problem when it is the owner who takes a more relaxed approach to discipline.
More an issue if the sharer is riding the horse multiple days a week, discussing who takes responsibility for what is crucial in the initial discussions before any horse share is agreed to. If the horse is on full livery then it might only be the horse's work schedule and any financial contribution that need to be agreed. The situation becomes noticeably more complicated if yard duties are to be split between owner and sharer, as both sides need to be clear on what the sharer will and won't be responsible for (feeding, turning out etc.) on the days they are looking after the horse.
4. Will the horse tolerate having more than one rider?
An issue that we did not expect to find is where the horse is unable to tolerate being ridden/cared for by someone other than his owner. This seems to be a particular problem for younger horses who, understandably, are still learning about the world and their place in it. In our experience, the situation can get positively dangerous as the horse finds he can't cope with the different experiences of new people in his routine, leading to negative and scary behaviour as he tests the boundaries.
This can lead to the owner getting through a number of different sharers in a short space of time, thus causing the problem to get worse until the sharing option becomes a non-starter. No sharer is likely to want to continue riding a horse that actively wants to hurt them!
5. Insurance and liability
As with riding/management responsibilities, it's important to agree on who is liable if something happens while the sharer is in charge of the horse. Particularly important if the horse is to be taken off the yard for hacking or competition, the owner and sharer need to agree who is responsible for any damage to property, other horses or the public when the sharer is looking after the horse.
The owner should check their horse's insurance policy closely to see what provision is made for anything happening while the horse is in the care of someone other than the owner, or indeed whether the horse being shared would invalidate the policy itself.
The sharer would also be wise to take out their own insurance to cover themselves against any claims on them from the injured party should the worst happen on that sunny summer hack.
We hope this whistle stop tour hasn't put you off what can be a wonderful way of enjoying some extra riding, and that you will find it a useful reference if you do decide to share.