How to run a hunter hireling service [H&H VIP]

  • Hiring out your most faithful hunter would not appeal to everyone. So, it is important to establish a few ground rules to ensure the arrangements can be satisfactory for both yourself and the person who may hire your horse.

    Carefully consider the horses you are going to make available for hire and before taking a booking, assess exactly who you are catering for and what their requirements are.

    There is an element of trust involved with both parties and you will have to rely on each other to fully explain the position with regard to the rider’s ability and the performance of the horse. Make it clear from the beginning whether your horse is suitable for novices and/or experienced riders and be realistic about his capabilities and scope.

    Your horse may need a different bit for male or female riders so ensure they are used to a variety as well as carrying heavier weights. It is vital to know how much riding and hunting experience the person hiring your horse has. Ask questions to ensure you are comfortable they are responsible enough to ride your horse and take references from people they have hunted with previously if necessary.

    Even the most experienced rider won’t necessarily want to pay you for the pleasure of schooling your horse out hunting so make sure that the horse you are offering for hire is well-educated and mannerly. The type of hunt country your horse is accustomed to can determine which packs you wish to cover.

    It may be that your horse can jump hunt rails all day out of 6in deep mud but isn’t keen on jumping hedges or ditches.

    If you decide to hire only to those coming out with the local pack where you are familiar with the hunt country, you will know if your horse is suitable for particular meets.

    Contact the secretary
    If you are willing to take your horse to other packs where you may not know the country, it is advisable to contact the hunt secretary beforehand.

    Some hunts have regular hireling providers and may not be aware that you offer this service so it is wise to make contact with local packs. Referrals from hunt secretaries can be a major source of business too.

    It is essential to discuss with each hunt who will make the necessary arrangements for the visitors — the hunt may prefer to deal directly with you so you can just confirm names or numbers and pay their cap, or it may wish to deal directly with the individuals concerned.

    It is not uncommon for people hiring horses to subsequently subscribe to a pack following a particularly good day. By taking out potentially new subscribers, most packs will be very appreciative and make you and your visitors very welcome.

    “It is so beneficial to have a local hunter hireling provider, not only for visitors but also for local farmers and subscribers if their own horse happens to be out of action,” says Phillippa White, secretary of the Grafton.

    “We welcome visitors and try to offer them guidance if required, however generally they are briefed beforehand or sent out with somebody more experienced.”

    Some packs may have a policy that newcomers and the less experienced should be accompanied. If you have two hunters, you may only be able to hire out one horse at a time and then ride alongside the hirer, to ensure you are responsible for their introduction to the hunting field.

    When things go wrong
    It is essential to establish what happens in an emergency and when your horse needs to be returned. When sending your horse off at the meet, make sure you have exchanged telephone numbers and have emergency contact details too.

    Some people routinely insure their horses but the viability of that depends on the number of horses covered and the level of insurance required. Owners with one or two horses are generally considered more likely to insure for vet fees and permanent incapacity, while those with numerous horses can find the costs too high and are willing to accept the risks.

    If taking out insurance, make sure insurance companies are aware you will be hiring out a horse to ensure this does not invalidate any future claims.

    There are many types of insurance cover for businesses and proper advice should be sought with regards to individual requirements. However, it is vital that you have a significant level of third party liability cover, as is recommended to all horse owners.

    Some hireling companies request that those hiring also have their own personal accident insurance cover while others require a waiver to be completed. These are usually to confirm that the rider accepts that hunting is a high-risk sport and effectively taking responsibility for their own actions.

    Essential considerations

    1. What time is reasonable for the horse to be returned?
    Most hireling providers will want their horse returned by 2.30pm or within an hour after second horses.

    2. How much can I charge?
    In the region of £200-250 for a half-day is the going rate, with some additional charges for fuel depending on distances. Some can also provide second horses at a full-day rate of £375-£400. In addition, the hirer will need to pay their cap to the hunt so must be aware of that.

    3. How often can my horse go out?
    A fit hunter should be able to manage five days a fortnight, depending on each day’s strenuosity. This should be assessed on an individual basis.

    This article was first published in Horse & Hound magazine (23 October 2014)