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Loaning a horse can be a rewarding experience for all parties, with the horse, owner and loaner all benefiting. However, for some people, loans turn out to be fraught with problems, which can be difficult to resolve without a written loan agreement.

A recent case in which a horse was sold for slaughter while out on loan highlighted some of the problems associated with loaning. The British Horse Society (BHS) strongly advises any horse owner, or person who is contemplating having a horse on loan or lease, never to do so without a written agreement.

Wendy Peckham of the BHS says: “Frequently loan arrangements are made by word of mouth only, and when something goes wrong it can be the animal that ultimately suffers.”

Horse owner Emma Thomas has had positive and negative experiences of putting her horse out on loan. “The first time I put Jack out on loan, he came back in a terrible state. I was shocked because I thought I had done everything right, getting a written loan agreement and checking out the home thoroughly.

“Luckily no long-term damage had been done and he is now in a fantastic home where his loanee absolutely adores him. My other commitments mean I couldn’t give him the time and attention he deserves and is now receiving in his loan home. He is really happy and so am I.”

A free welfare leaflet on loaning or leasing a horse is available from the BHS, which also has a sample loan agreement available on its website: www.bhs.org.uk

Top tips for loanees

  • Make sure you have done your sums. Loaning a horse might appear to be a cheap option, but the only money you save is the purchase price. The ongoing costs will be exactly the same
  • Make sure you have adequate insurance and don’t be offended if the horse’s owner asks to see the policy
  • Have a written agreement which clearly explains who is responsible for what draw up before taking the horse home. Although it doesn’t have to be written by a solicitor, it is advisable
  • The owner is likely to want to see where their horse will be kept, before agreeing to the loan so if you are planning to put the horse on livery have this already organised
  • You could consider getting the horse vetted. If the horse has an underlying problem it could result in expensive vets bills
  • When taking a horse on long-term loan expect to pay all keep, feed, veterinary, insurance and farriers’ bills
  • Be sure to discuss with the owner what would happen if a serious accident or disease means the horse would have to be urgently destroyed
  • Get written permission from the owner about the type of activities the horse is and is not allowed to take part in and make sure these activities are covered by the insurance

Top tips for owners

  • Under no circumstances should a horse be put on loan or out to lease if it is suffering any kind of illness or lameness. The horse should be sound and fit for the purpose for which it is being loaned or leased
  • Consider the reasons why you are loaning the horse out. If the horse is old or infirm humane destruction might be the better option, so discuss your plans with your vet
  • Always thoroughly check out the person and home where your horse will be going. Ask for references and follow them up
  • Never allow your horse out on loan without a written agreement, which states that you retain the ownership of the horse at all times
  • If you don’t want the horse to take part in particular activities, such as hunting or polo, make this clear and include it in the written agreement
  • Discuss what will happen if the horse becomes badly injured or ill and needs to be put down on humane grounds
  • The loan agreement should include terms under which the horse can be returned to you by the loaner, or under which you can ask for the horse to be given back

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