Nov 01

The charity Horses4Homes and the British Equestrian Federation are working in partnership to help horses, owners and people seeking to share a horse through the project “Care to Share”.

As anyone involved with horses will know, horse ownership is fun, rewarding and challenging, but it also means an enormous commitment in time, money and emotion. Balancing a working and family life with a hobby like this can be difficult, but sharing your horse, or becoming a sharer, can provide the perfect solution – and Horses4Homes are here to help every step of the way.

ForPaddy based near Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, available for share: http://horses4homes.net/portal/en/details/paddy-17955 owners, reliable help with the care and costs of their much-loved horse can be a lifesaver, giving them an assurance that their horses’ needs are met when they take time for work, family and a social life. As Anthony, an owner from Buckinghamshire, puts it,

“I found a cracking sharer for my big lad a couple of years ago when I had him on livery. It wasn’t so much about the money but the time. She would go up 2, sometimes 3 times a week, and it meant I didn’t even have to think ‘horses’ for those days, which made life at home easier (non-horsey other-half) and renewed my enthusiasm for riding, as it didn’t all feel like a chore!”

For Emily, an owner from Norfolk, there are clear benefits: “additional financial income, security and confidence … knowing who is with your horse”. That peace of mind is particularly important when an owner is away, perhaps on holiday or for work, when a sharer can look after the horse as if it were their own, with the same level of concern and care that the owner would exhibit. Caroline A, a sharer in Nottinghamshire, says of her share horse: “I’ve looked after her while her owner’s been away and vice versa, if I go away her owner picks up the slack.”

An honest and reliable sharer can even make it easier for an owner to keep their beloved horse when circumstances are tough and rehoming might seem a sensible option, helping in ways both physical and financial. Karen describes how the owner of her share horse suffers from back problems, and “is struggling more these days, so my 3 days have become 4 more often than not”, but their friendship allows them to enjoy the horse together and help each other: “The owner has taken me to small local jumping and dressage shows. I suffer from nerves and my share horse has tested these several times, but the owner has always taken time out to help me.”

Lacey (Kent) currently available for share: http://horses4homes.net/portal/en/details/lacey-23324

Lacey  who is based in Kent, currently available for share: http://horses4homes.net/portal/en/details/lacey-23324

The benefits of sharing go both ways, of course. For many people horse ownership is not an option, whether for reasons of time, money or experience. Sharing thus enables more people to enjoy the thrill of riding and caring for a horse and to participate in a hobby that would otherwise be out of reach. As Karen says, “I’ve learnt to do things I doubt I could do in a school and really appreciate the opportunity.” Caroline A agrees:

“I really have got the best of both worlds and appreciate how lucky I am. Having the chance to ride without depending on an hour a week at a riding school is priceless, my confidence has soared, I’ve done things I never thought I’d do and met some amazing people. The experience I’m getting is invaluable.”

Sometimes it is not just owners who struggle for time to enjoy horses. Caroline, a sharer in Stockport, has a busy job that gives her little free time for horses, but sharing has brought her extra benefits:

“I look forward to going to the yard, love chatting to the other liveries, love ‘my’ boy, love hacking out with his owner on her other pony, and I feel VERY lucky to have found this set up! I look after him as if he was my own and sometimes looking forward to our weekly lesson is enough to get me through a horrific day at work!! I’ve never missed any of my days with him – I adore our time together.”

For Caroline, and many other people, the benefits of sharing clearly run deep. Successful sharing is about relationships, sharing a passion for horses with like-minded people and developing new friendships. Caroline says “My share pony I have now is perfect – an absolute dream who I love to bits. Probably more importantly, I also love his owners and the yard. We have a wonderful long-term arrangement and all get along so well.”

Alex, from Liverpool, has also made new friends as a result of her share: “His owner is lovely and a really good friend now, and so is the sharer of her other horse.” Emily’s sharers have become like family to her over the course of 5 years. She describes how “they share every emotion and anxiety, exactly as I do”, and have a relationship in which “everyone is striving for the same – whether you are a sharer or an owner, you all want a happy, healthy horse that can enhance your life”.

Duchess based in Shropshire; available for share: http://horses4homes.net/portal/en/details/duchess-23316

Duchess based in Shropshire; available for share: http://horses4homes.net/portal/en/details/duchess-23316

Ultimately, as Emily points out, it is the horse at the centre of the arrangement that is the important thing. Whatever the reason for the share, it benefits the horse’s welfare by providing him with a secure future in his present home. The combination of a familiar environment, more exercise and stimulation, and the attention of two dedicated carers can avoid the stress of rehoming while helping to produce a content, fit animal. As Caroline A notes, “the horse is the main priority”.

Shares come in a huge variety of forms, and their flexibility and the support they provide are part of their value. Some people, like Emily, have more than one sharer to shoulder the load. Rachael, in Surrey, has sharers for her daughter’s outgrown Pony Club pony, rather than passing a cherished pony on to a new home. As she says, “the experience of sharing a competitive PC pony is always going to be more complex, as you are dealing mainly with children and sometimes with non-horsey parents”, but “there are magnificent sharers out there … and a lot to be gained”. With imagination, virtually any situation can result in a positive outcome for both horse and humans.

Ensuring that a share arrangement works isn’t just a matter of chance, though. While some relationships simply click, for the horse’s sake the safest course lies in some kind of formal agreement. Rachael sums it up:

“Always have a good contract. Be clear in expectations up front. Communicate with each other. Be prepared to meet in the middle – but never compromise the horse. Don’t be afraid to walk away if it isn’t working.”

Colet based in North London, available for Share: http://horses4homes.net/portal/en/details/colet-23147

Colet based in North London, available for Share: http://horses4homes.net/portal/en/details/colet-23147

Horses4Homes’ sharing services make use of their extensive experience and knowledge in matching people and horses to provide the support to reach an agreement where all parties will thrive. The charitys’ access to a wide variety and number of interested people and horses helps you find the right match – horse to rider, sharer to owner – in the right location, while their checking process avoids pitfalls and time wasters, protecting all the parties involved, including the horse. The charity can also provide advice, including information on what is required in terms of, for example, insurance and health checks, and, finally, a sharer agreement template for complete peace of mind.

Entering into a share agreement is becoming increasingly popular as a way to spread the load of horse ownership. It can also have a hugely positive impact on equine welfare by keeping horses in loving homes with which they are familiar and ensuring they have the care and exercise that will allow them to thrive. For many people, the opportunity to enjoy new friendships, gain new knowledge and pursue a much-loved hobby with the support of others brings a new dimension to horse-keeping and riding.

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