Loaning A Horse Successfully - Loanee 'Do's And Don'ts' For Making It Work
While the option of loaning a horse – rather than buying – is often dismissed as a risky endeavour, with the right guidance, loaning or part loaning/sharing a horse can be a great opportunity for all three parties; the owner, the loanee and the horse itself.
I started out my equestrian journey by loaning my little Welsh pony, Buster – who is actually still living with me after we made him a permanent part of the family many years ago – and I have been loaning two ex-racehorses, Jake and Tarra, for quite a few months now (you can meet them in a previous article of mine, ‘When Most People Think Of Thoroughbreds...’).
So, in order to help you have a happy loaning experience, I have put together a list of my best do’s and don’ts for those thinking about loaning a horse.
But first, a bit of basic information about the main types of horse loan...
Part Loaning / Sharing
If an owner is struggling for the time to ride and care for their horse as much as they would like or need to, but they don’t want to lose access to or ownership of the horse, a part loan or share arrangement can be a really convenient solution. It’s is a great way to get someone else involved who can look after and ride the horse as much or as little as needed, depending on the agreement.
For the loanee, a part loan can be an excellent opportunity to love and care for an equine as their own if they are unable to cover the initial costs of buying a horse or commit to the fulltime care required. Or if they’re looking to buy in the long run, it can be a useful way to trial horse ownership and the responsibilities involved before making the final commitment. For those who already own a horse, it’s also a great way to add some more horsey antics to your life without purchasing a second (or third) horse!
A part loan or share usually means the loanee would be responsible for exercising and caring for the horse for a number of days a week – the horse usually remains at its current yard – while the owner would look after the horse for the remaining days. The number of days a week, duration of the loan and required duties/financial contributions can vary greatly based on each individual agreement.
Unlike a part loan, a full loan arrangement usually involves moving the horse to a yard that’s more convenient for the loanee (normally this would be chosen in agreement with the owner) as they will be responsible for the full care of the horse, including everything from livery costs to healthcare and beyond.
Again, this can be a great option for those who can’t afford the initial financial outlay of buying their own horse, but it’s a huge commitment for the loanee and a decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly; it’s basically the same as owning a horse in terms of time and monthly financial commitments! For details of the ongoing costs you can expect in keeping a horse, see ‘Horse Prices: How Much Does A Horse Cost’. A full loan, however, may well be a better short-term solution than buying, for those that are planning to move away or travel in the near future.
Making it work
Obviously, for anyone looking to loan, finding the right horse is the first step in the process. This should be approached in the same way as one would approach buying a horse, whether for a full or part loan; as it’s still a commitment to caring for a living being and the interests of all parties need to be protected.
For information and advice on finding ‘the one’ and the checks that should be made, see ‘Tips For First Time Horse Buyers And Owners’ and ‘The Ultimate Guide To Buying A Horse – Everything You Need To Know!’
Once you’ve found the right horse (and owner! – More on that later), the success of your arrangement will depend largely on the agreement that is put in place before the loan begins, as well as your ability to communicate with the owner over any issues that may arise.
So here are my loanee tips for making it work; they apply mainly to part loan or share situations but there are some important points that even full loanees should consider, especially the first one...
DO make sure you are both clear on the arrangement in a loan agreement:
To protect both yourself and the owner of the horse if anything goes wrong or if a dispute arises, it is always sensible to make sure a loan agreement is drawn up and that both of you fully understand what the rules are. Talk to the owner and establish what you can and can’t do with the horse and other essential details such as; how many days a week the loan is for and which days the horse will be available, whether yard jobs are required on the days you come, whether a financial contribution is required, what the horse is capable of and enjoys doing, and any essential knowledge you might need to know to keep everyone safe.
The BHS (British Horse Society) has an excellent loan agreement template that I recommend using if you need somewhere to begin; it’s really useful, if even simply to highlight the points for consideration. However, once you feel ready to make the commitment, it’s advisable to get your loan agreement professionally drafted so as to ensure it covers everything that’s relevant to your specific arrangement.
DON’T be afraid to seek help or advice:
The owner knows their horse best and they also want the loaning experience to be enjoyable for their horse as well as for the loanee. So if you are loaning a horse and find yourself in a bit of difficulty or feel confused about something, don’t be scared to send the owner a message; they will most likely be happy to help you, and it could be something as simple as knowing which corner of the stable to put the hay in! Similarly, if you feel like anything isn’t quite right, speak up and don’t just ignore it. In order for the loan to work out, you both need to be able to communicate with each other about how you feel so that any issues can be fixed before they turn into big problems!
It’s worth considering this point in your search for the right loan horse; as communication will be key to creating a good working relationship between you and the owner, it’s important to ensure you get along with them from the outset. If you are both of a similar mindset about the horse’s care and training, problems will usually be resolved more easily and disputes are more likely to be avoided.
DO care for the horse like it’s your own:
When you are at the yard, that horse is your responsibility, so look after it, care for it and love it just like it is your own. For many people, the beauty of loaning (or at least part loaning) is that it is much less commitment, both in terms of time and finances, but that doesn’t mean you should miss out on the chance to build a loving bond with your loan horse. On the days when you are loaning, you can fully immerse yourself in the experience and treat the horse just like you would your own.
Loanees can often build really meaningful and special relationships with their horses just like owners can, and it will make the experience feel all the more special when you two do begin to understand and really care for one another. Spending time grooming and caring for your loan horse will also naturally strengthen your bond and in turn, improve your training and performance partnership.
DON’T expect it to be forever:
This is a rather melancholy point but an important one nonetheless because many of us can easily lose sight of it when we are so deeply in love with our loan horses! Whilst it is often a benefit that loaning isn’t the lifelong commitment that buying a horse is, it can also be one of the downsides. As much as you love the horse and care for it, it is important to remember that you do not own it, so there is always a chance that the owner could decide to stop the loan or even sell the horse on to someone else. It is heart-breaking when something like this happens, especially when it comes to longer term loans where the loanee has been with the horse for years.
For this reason, it can be beneficial to set out the terms for the expected duration of the loan, or at least the terms of a set notice period that both parties would need to give to terminate the contract, and under what circumstances this would be allowed. While this doesn’t make it any less difficult to part with your beloved loan horse, it goes some way to providing a buffer against the horse being taken back by the owner without warning or due cause. It also provides the owner with protection against the horse being returned to them suddenly when they may not be equipped to care for it fulltime or have a chance to find another alternative.
You shouldn’t let this worry you or put you off loaning, but you should keep it in the back of your mind, just so you aren’t completely blindsided if it did happen.
DO ask for what you want:
It goes without saying that, unless you’ve been given full permission to do whatever you want whenever you want – which may well be the case if you have your horse on full loan – you should ask before you whisk the horse away to somewhere like a competition or a camp. However, in order to get the most out of the loan, you should also be sure to ask if you want to do something new or not previously discussed. You never know what the outcome may be and you don’t want to accidentally break the rules or put yourselves in danger by accidentally doing something that might not be suitable for the horse!
Granted, it is unlikely that the owner of a horse you part loan twice a week will suddenly agree to letting you have the horse on full loan to live at your house, but if you want to go to a stay-away show in the summer or your loan horse has never done cross country and you want to give it a try, ask! Whether it seems mundane or totally crazy, the worst they can say is ‘no’, so don’t be afraid to ask.
Final tips for loaners and loanees;
- Consider a trial period before the loan agreement begins, in order to establish both parties are happy.
- Both the loaner and the loanee are in charge of ensuring the loan agreement is agreed and signed before the loan commences.
- Loanees should ensure they have proper insurance (third party liability as a minimum) and should not be offended if the owner asks to see proof of this. Owners; don’t be afraid to ask to see insurance documents.
- Make sure you discuss what would happen in the event that the horse needed to be urgently destroyed for its own wellbeing; can the loanee authorise this or not, and under what circumstances?
Those are the main points that come to mind when I think about the advice that I would give to someone loaning a horse and I hope they prove useful for anyone considering entering a loan arrangement. It goes without saying that every owner and every horse is different, so there is no single rule dictating what you can do with your loan horse, where your loan horse can live and how much freedom you have with them but, above all, make sure you are in an arrangement that you are happy with and that is giving you what you want. After all, the point of horses is supposed to be that they are fun, enjoyable additions to our lives!
Browse our latest Horses For Loan now to find your next companion!
If you’re looking for further guidance on loaning horses, the following articles can provide more help and advice;
For tips from an owner who has experience with full and part loaning her horses, please see ‘Loaning Your Horse – The Pros And Cons’.
For help with writing your loan agreement contract or tips on what to include, please see ‘How To Write A Loan Contract – Sample’.