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Loaning a horse - pros and cons

Horsemart reader and blogger Nicola Strong writes about the pros and cons to loaning a horse.
Loaning and part loaning horses has become more and more common in recent years, owing largely to people being stretched financially and for time. Both situations can potentially work very well for both parties - but there are plenty of factors to be considered.
The part loan situation suited me very well. It allowed me to keep my horses where they were, and we would decide at the beginning of the week what days we would be riding, on the understanding that if you were riding, you would feed and do rugs etc. All in all, it meant the horses were being exercised more; I had a few nights off a week, and a small contribution towards their costs. 
Fantastic! However, I've also experienced the flip side - people who don't pay, don't help out with feeding etc, are unreliable and treat the horses like machines. Needless to say that particular arrangement was very short lived! There are so many things to be aware of when looking for sharers, and that bad experience made me ultra cautious in future. I also think it's important to establish ground rules from the start so everyone knows where they stand - who is responsible for what, how much input they can have. If you share a horse and start telling the owner to change things, they might just get a bit peeved, but equally the sharers need to feel that their opinion is valued and aren't afraid to raise issues. 
I chose to full loan my horse as he required a 1-1 relationship and consistent work, and I have been very lucky to find the perfect loanee. She is an instructor with a great reputation, so not only is my horse in good hands care wise, but I know he will be well schooled. It was not an easy process though, and I had to turn away a lot of people who were not suitable or were too far away, or even those who seemed a good match on paper but I wasn't convinced they were a good match when they rode him. I never worry about him at all now, and since we have a good relationship we speak weekly so I hear all his updates. Other people are not so lucky though, and there have been some truly awful cases where people have sold horses they were loaning without the owner’s knowledge, or mistreated the horse in some way. Similarly I know of cases where horses have been taken back, much to the dismay of the loanee. There are plenty of pitfalls for both parties to be aware of.
In essence, I don't think there is a magic formula to loaning or part loaning, but there are some steps you can take to make life easier from the outset. Firstly, I found I had to be very clear in my advert what my horses were, and what type of rider they would need. Don't be afraid to say no if you don't think someone is suitable - in actual fact being very particular means you're more likely to find a long term situation to suit both parties, so if you're unsure at the start, go with your instinct. It's usually right! 
Trials are essential - people and horses can both be very different in reality than they sound, either because of different interpretations, or sometimes because people aren't being honest. One person's 'competent' rider is someone else's novice, and your definition of an easy horse might be someone else’s nightmare! The two most important things, though, that I cannot recommend enough, are references and loan agreements. If you are loaning out your horse, you need to be sure that they are in safe hands, with someone experienced and trustworthy. The loan agreement details all the terms and conditions, and I would never ever loan a horse without having signed copies of this. A sample loan agreement can be downloaded from the BHS website.  
Horsemart reader and blogger Nicola Strong has been riding for 23 years and is taking her first steps into the world of British Eventing and British Showjumping with her main horse Willo (Caherpuca Star) and is supported all the way by trainer and sponsor Sharon Kilminster.  She has her own blog at www.headstrongequestrian.com.
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