Owning a horse is like a dream come true, but what if you’re pressed for time? Or if it’s simply not practical for you to have your own horse at the moment?
When you don’t have enough time to exercise your horse sufficiently or want to get some help with either the workload or the cost – or both – you can set up a sharing agreement with another person.
In a sharing agreement, you’ll continue to care for and ride the horse at its current location and allow the sharer to come and ride your horse for a set number of days each week in return for a financial contribution and/or help with your horse’s care.
You’ll get help with your horse and the other person will get to ride, care for and create a bond with a horse while they gain more experience in horse care.
This can be a great way for someone who can’t afford their own horse to get access to a horse in a way that feels more personable than riding school horses.
It’s also often a stepping stone for young people to work their way up to buy a horse of their own.
Every agreement will look different, but generally owners are looking to offer the horse for riding 2-4 times per week for a financial contribution of around £100-200 per month.
This includes doing the duties, like feeding, mucking out and changing rugs on the day that the sharer has your horse.
Is sharing for you?
If you’re looking for a sharer because you can’t afford the cost of having your own horse, you need to consider what happens if the sharer ends the agreement and you can’t find another one – even if it’s just for a few monhts.
It’s really important that you have a backup plan so that you can cover that gap in time – someone else to step in and help with the work or some money saved to pay for several month’s upkeep for your horse.
If you’re really struggling to keep your horse you may have to consider leasing her out full-time or even selling her.
The months when you do have a sharer, you should take a portion of the money you get from them and set it aside in a savings account in case you need to fall back on it later.
You need to make sure that both your horse and your sharer are covered by insurance. You, as the owner, already have some legally required and other insurance, but getting a sharer is a good chance to look it over.
You should demand that your sharer gets suitable coverage for themselves and make it a part of the sharing agreement. Discuss the insurance and ask to see copies of the sharer’s insurance to make sure everyone is protected before signing the contract.
Before you sign a contract, have your sharer bring both their photo ID and a copy of it to be filed with the contract.
If your horse is at livery, check with the property owner or manager that it’s okay for you to get a sharer and find out if they have any requirements.
Be sensible about what you tell your sharer and set the right kind of expectations.
Your horse will most likely be fine with two riders and not be disturbed by this at all.
Make sure that you and your sharer both have each other’s emergency contact numbers, next of kin information as well as any emergency numbers related to the property and your horse.
Keep a copy of all the relevant contact information at home as well as at the stables.
Make your sharer feel welcome
Once you’ve settled on a sharer and signed the contract, show them around the stables and introduce them to other renters and staff so they know who the new person is.
Also, make sure the staff have the necessary contact information for both you and the sharer.
Make room for your sharer by rearranging your things to make space for them to store their own riding kit.
Take the time to explain where everything is and how things work or are used. Make sure to be clear about possible restrictions (such as using the arena while lessons are in progress at a riding school).
Writing some easy-to-follow instructions that can be stored in the grooming box or tack room is very helpful.
Get a friend to ride out with the sharer the first few times so that they can show them how to get to the hacking trails and which ones are the best.
If you feel like your sharer may need reminding about paying the fee, you can suggest that they set up a standing transfer into your account each month.
Talking about money is only as awkward as you make it, and nipping issues in the bud is the best thing for everyone involved.
Things to consider as a horse owner
Before you decide to commit to a sharer, there are a number of things to consider.
The best thing for you is to find someone with similar riding skills and a personality that you get along with.
Lack of spontaneity
If you woke up on a nice, sunny day and felt like it was the perfect day for a ride, but know that today is your sharer’s day – how would you feel?
Once you’ve agreed on a schedule, changing it around won’t necessarily be that easy anymore.
Learning to let go
Someone else has the responsibility for your horse and will inevitably do things a little differently than you.
Getting used to someone else handling your horse in a different way is a part of having a sharer and you should know what you’re getting into before signing the agreement.
Set clear boundaries and expectations
Agree with your sharer beforehand what you allow them to do with your horse.
Think about what your sharer can bring to your horse that you maybe don’t but be clear about how you will and won’t allow your horse to be used.
Write it into the contract so everyone knows exactly what to expect.
You can also tell other staff or horse owners what you’ve outlined in the agreement so they also know what to expect.
Your horse behaving differently
Finding out that your horse doesn’t spook at a big rubbish bin in the yard with your sharer, when your horse refuses to go anywhere near it with you can be frustrating.
It can also be difficult to see someone else forming a strong bond with your horse.
Be honest with yourself about how it will make you feel.
If you’re genuinely fine with sharing your horse and think the more the merrier, you can find a really great friend who knows your horse almost as well as you do and loves all the same things about him as you.
Keep an eye out for changes in your horse’s behaviour and habits after your new sharer begins their schedule.
If you start seeing unwanted habits or behaviour, talk to your sharer about it to see if they’re the cause of these changes.
If it all goes terribly wrong, with a good contract you’ll retain the right to terminate the contract without notice.
Don’t become dependent on your sharer
If your sharer ends their agreement, how would you cope?
If you become too reliant on them either financially or for time, you could find yourself in a difficult position if you can’t find someone to help out.
How to find a sharer for your horse
- Work out exactly what you want to achieve – be completely honest with yourself.
- Look for a sharer by asking around – if your horse is stabled at a riding school this may be a good place to find someone eager to get more horse time. Put up an ad in local tack shops or try online.
- Evaluate the sharers before you invite them to visit your stable – for the sake of security and to save your own time.
- Make time to introduce the sharer to your horse, if you feel like it can be a good fit, invite them back a few times to hack out together and to have them take a lesson with your horse. Make it a point to see them doing all the kind of activities they’ll be doing on the share.
- You retain the right to end the contract at any time (make sure it’s stated in the contract) but you can set up a review time a few months after the contract has begun to talk about how things are going. In any case, it may be a good idea to have a chat a few times a year to make sure that everyone is happy with the arrangement or if adjustments need to be made.
Questions to ask sharers:
- What made you decide that you want to share?
- What previous experience with horses do you have?
- Have you done any equestrian exams or training?
- Have you shared before? Why did that contract end?
- What kind of riding do you want to do?
- How flexible are you time-wise?
- How often do you want to ride?
- How heavy and tall are you?
- What are your time commitments with work/family/hobbies etc.?
Things to consider as a horse sharer
If you can’t afford a horse of your own or it simply isn’t convenient for you, sharing can be a great way to get more time in the saddle.
Sharing is cheaper than having your own horse, but it can still be costly. Finding a horse that is suitable for your skill level and an owner that you get along with swimmingly, will make sharing the horse a great experience.
How often do you want to ride?
Do you want to have a guaranteed number of riding days every week?
The horse may have occasional periods where it can’t be ridden but unless you end the sharing contract, you’ll still be liable to pay the fee and do any agreed chores even if you can’t ride.
Talk to the owner about how often they want you to take the horse and is it possible for them to be flexible or negotiate times when the horse is out of work for a period of time.
If you’re keen to develop your own dressage riding, getting a competing dressage horse may not be the best thing for you.
If you really hit it off with the horse, it’s unlikely that the owner will give up their own competing to allow you to compete on the horse instead.
How much time do you have to commit?
Different owners put up their horses for sharing for different reasons.
Have an open and honest conversation with the owner about what they want from their sharer and what they expect from you besides riding the horse.
If the horse is ridden by the owner in a certain discipline, can you ride the horse in another for variety, or does the owner only want you to do hacking out?
What chores and how often do you need to do and do you have time for all of that?
How flexible are you?
If you’re the happy-go-lucky kind who’s fine with a fluid schedule and adjusting things as you, on the week or even day of, don’t start sharing with someone who likes to run a tight schedule and keep a strict routine no matter what.
Alternately, if you’re the one who thrives with set structure and dislike changes, don’t pick an owner that may want to change things a little here and a little there.
A horse that is used for competing by the owner may also not have a flexible training schdule and you’ll have to work your time around what suits the horse.
Think about how much flexibility you want and are prepared to give and choose a person that you’re on the same wavelength with.
Make sure that the contract you sign clearly states what it is that you’re both agreeing to. Having specific days every week will help both you and the owner organise your own schedules around that more easily.
How much are you ready to invest?
Before you start considering what it will cost you to pay the fee to the owner, calculate your other necessary expenses.
To be a trustworthy and responsible sharer, already take out insurance for yourself before you go and sign the contract – most owners will likely not sign without it.
Also ask about the owner’s insurance and find out how the horse is covered when in your care.
You’ll also need to buy riding gear if you don’t have it and cover the costs of travelling to and from where the horse is.
Once you know the other running costs, decide how much you can spend on the fee itself. You can always negotiate on how many days you want to share the horse in order to stay in your budget.
Also consider that if you’re sick and can’t get to the horse for a few weeks, you’ll still need to pay for the days you can’t make it unless you end the agreement.
Most owners will be flexible and let you arrange for days to make up for at least part of the time you were away. You can always also ask if the owner is going to be taking holidays during some part of the year or be away for a while, and if you can make up missed days then (this will also be convenient for the owner who won’t have to make other arrangements for the horse’s holiday care).
If you miss days because you’re away or because the horse is unavailable, agree with the owner a way of keeping track of the days that you’ve attended.
Having a simple notebook in the grooming box will also let you leave notes on the days you were with the horse and mark down what you did so that there’s a shared log of how the horse has been cared for.
Writing down things when they occur, such as the horse losing a shoe, getting a scrape or discovering a slight limp, will make it easier to track down the cause of a problem if the horse gets seriously ill and can help the vet formulate the best treatment with less guesswork.
How to find a horse to share
- Work out a budget for how much you can spend on sharing – both the fee and other related costs.
- Decide how much time you can commit on a daily/weekly/monthly basis.
- Be honest about your riding ability and the kind of horse that would suit you.
- Get insurance for yourself before and ask to see a copy of the owner’s insurance policy for the horse to make sure that you’re all fully covered before signing the contract.
Questions to ask as a sharer:
- What made you decide to look for a sharer?
- What is the horse like? Does he have any quirks under saddle or when handling? (Consider whether you’re confident handling a horse who is spooky or lively to lead, for example.)
- What is his relevant health history? (Certain conditions may affect how much you can do with him.)
- How fit is he? (You’ll want to know whether he’s fit enough to do the things you’d like to do with him, or competition fit and, therefore, perhaps too much for you to handle.)
- How often is he worked? And by whom? (There could be lots of different people riding him.)
- What cost contributions will be expected? Are these fixed? (Get to grips with the financial aspect upfront.)
- What notice period is expected?
- How can missed days be negotiated? (Can you make them up at a later date or will you get a discount/be reimbursed when the horse is unavailable?)
Different kinds of sharing agreements
Riding – this type of agreement is usually made when the horse is at full livery or because the owner wants help with riding and exercise.
As an owner, it can be a great opportunity to find someone more experienced who will help in schooling your horse.
As a sharer, a horse at full livery can mean higher sharing costs.
Riding and care – this is the more time-consuming option and gives you a greater sense of caring for your own horse.
By helping the owner with the day-do-day chores of having a horse you can usually pay a smaller fee.
However, make sure how much time you have to commit to this and make sure that the owner doesn’t become to reliant on your help.
Outline what you’ll be expected to do in the contract and talk openly about how to negotiate special circumstances.
Simple sharing agreement
Make two copies of the contract, one for you and one for the sharer, and sign them both.
This is a super simple contract for sharing your horse and before using it you should have it checked by a qualified legal adviser to make sure it’s binding.
If you need something more extensive, you can find ready-made legal agreements for horse owners to buy online.