Riding Out The Credit Crunch

Chrissie Turner By Chrissie Turner, 26th Feb 2014 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>Pets>Horses

Hints and tips on keeping horses on a tight budget - including sharing / part loaning.

Keeping Horses On A Tight Budget

The media is full of sorry tales at the moment of people being forced to sell their beloved horses due to the credit crunch. For some, this heartbreaking scenario is a boon – horses are being sold at well below their true value which means that those people who are in a position to buy can get much more for their money! Sadly however, in some situations, if the horse is too old or otherwise unsaleable, the heartbreaking choice is for euthanasia.

Feed and bedding prices are rising which is also having a severe effect on riding schools etc., especially as people find themselves less able to afford their weekly lessons and hacks. Dealers are having to lower their prices or face having to keep horses for much longer than usual.

Some factions of the media have been running emotive stories of people abandoning or having their horses euthanised because they cannot sell them nor afford to keep them. The rescue centres are full to bursting and there is an increase in welfare issues. Yet, with a little planning and fore-thought, such scenarios may be avoided.

Some costs can be cut by compromises. If the horse doesn't have to do road work, have the shoes removed – trimming is cheaper can can be done at longer intervals than shoeing. Many horses can cope with being shod only in front – an alternative to being totally unshod. Up to 75% of foot care costs can be saved in this way. Keeping a horse out is cheaper – though in the winter months there is no value in grass – but if the horse can be turned out as much as possible in the daytime it will save on bedding. Deep littering, done properly, is warmer and saves bedding too. Use extra rugs to ensure that the horse isn't using fat reserves for warmth. Save money here by using one good quality stable rug with a roller and adding blankets or duvets bought cheaply from charity shops. Digesting hay generates warmth so feed more hay and less concentrates... bulk hard feed out with chaff and soaked sugar beet... Worm counts, done periodically, have shown that, in many cases, automatically worming your horse simply because 'it's time', isn't always necessary. Good field management, removal of droppings etc., can reduce the need to use expensive chemical wormers quite so frequently. If worming is deemed necessary, try to get together with other owners and buy in bulk to reduce the cost. Feed and bedding costs may also be reduced by bulk buying in conjunction with other owners...

Study your horse's regime – feeding, bedding, exercise, turn out etc. and think about what is truly necessary and what may be done without – even if only for the short term. Perhaps turn the horse away for a while? In a well sheltered field, with a good rug and ad lib hay, the horse will survive even the worst weather. Perhaps give a warm feed once or twice a day if necessary. Okay, it may mean that you ride less, compete less etc... but it will mean that you can save much needed funds and, hopefully, still keep your horse... Look on the bright side! Spring isn't TOO far away.....

However, there will still be scenarios where such a radical change of regime simply isn't feasible. One alternative to selling your horse – thereby losing a much loved friend forever – is to loan it to someone trustworthy... but the media is full of horror stories of bogus loaners, horses being sold on or illtreated etc. So what else is there?

Someone To Help Bear The Load

Over the years, rising fuel prices, inner city congestion, global warming etc. have prompted people being urged to 'car share' to offset these problems. And sharing could be the key here.

Whatever the level of horse ownership, a properly thought out horse sharing scheme could help many to maintain their horse in the manner to which it has become accustomed. Even elderly or retired horses and ponies may still be able to attract sharers – and the horses will be fully appreciative of the extra attention! There are many people who would happily pay to simply be allowed to groom a horse, even if they can't ride it...

Key factors to consider when setting up a share scheme are:

1. A realistic contribution towards costs.

Work out the average costs of keeping the horse then apportion it fairly between owner and sharer(s) in relation to how much each is involved with the care and usage of the horse. This could be simply a proportion of livery and feeding costs or could include shoeing, worming, dentistry & etc. Decide in the beginning how to factor in unexpected costs or price increases and how these will be met if necessary.

2. Insurances – public liability etc.

If you are a member of the BHS, BSJA or BD, automatic public liability comes with membership. Or your own insurance may have this option attached. However, check the terms carefully. It is a good idea to suggest to your sharer(s) that they take out their own 'Rider Policy' too! Make sure that veterinary cover is included in the insurance.

3. Competence levels in relation to the horses involved.

Too often, people are 'over' or 'under' horsed for their level. Over-horsing is downright dangerous... under-horsing could result in a bored sharer or a horse being asked to perform beyond it's capabilities. Make sure the sharer(s) is right for the horse – watch them with the horse until you are satisfied, ask for references etc. Also be honest about your own competence in the event of your sharer being a novice around horses – people can be very good riders but not have any idea of how to deal with a horse from the ground. By the same token, there are people out there who know a lot about horses but wouldn't have a clue how to ride them! Ensure you are happy with taking on the responsibility of teaching someone the ropes if needs be. Not only make sure your sharer is compatable with the horse – but that they are compatable with you too - Personality clashes could cause problems.

4. Ensure that everyone is clear on the roles of all parties concerned.

Who does what and when? Who pays for what and when? Does the financial contribution cover everything or are there extras? What happens if the horse is unrideable for any reason? Especially if it's likely to be for any length of time. Does the sharer have to be supervised? To what level? How much notice of termination would be required? Are there limitations of use?

No horse is absolutely 100% in every situation. Make sure all the horse's 'foibles' are well known, even if there is just a one off incident from way back, talk it over. For example, if the horse has an aversion to pigs, mention it, even if there are no pigs around... you never know!

5. A written agreement.

This is vital. Firstly, to ensure that everyone is clear on their commitment and, secondly, to clarify the fact that the arrangement is one of sharing / loaning a particular horse or pony. Otherwise, you could find yourself falling foul of the local licensing authority. The law states that the keeping of horses for hire or reward requires the appropriate licence. A properly signed loan / share agreement will clarify that this is not the case. Don't be tempted to offset your costs by running a 'mini riding school' for local kids... you will need a licence! The British Horse Society has a good agreement downloadable from their website which can be easily adjusted to suit each individual scenario.

Most people would be able set up a share scheme. For the private owner, it would simply be a means to an end – enabling a much loved family member to remain with the family. For the professional, it would not only help secure a regular income but could even even help with cash flow indirectly by reducing staffing costs since many sharers would probably be more than happy to lend a hand around the yard. Advertise in your local equestrian press, tack shop, on line forums, even local newsagents.

It is not only the horse owner who benefits from such a scheme – it enables the 'weekly rider' to further their experience with horses and go 'beyond the riding school'. It enables people to experience horse ownership without the massive time and financial commitments involved. And, done properly, it will benefit your horse too!


Equestrian, Equestrianism, Equitation, Horse, Horse Care, Horse Loaning, Horse Ownership, Horse Sharing, Horses, Riding, Riding Horse

Meet the author

author avatar Chrissie Turner
I am an experienced horse trainer / instructor. I have been involved in all aspects of horse care and horsemanship for 45 years.

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