What do we need to know about shareboarding?
December 19, 2012 7:28 AM   Subscribe

Have you ever shareboarded? We're thinking of shareboarding a horse for our daughter to ride, and we want to know your experiences, advice and suggestions.

My daughter is 17 and has been volunteering weekly at a therapeutic riding stable for over 3 years. She loves horses, loves to ride, and loves being at the stable. The owner of the stable has suggested that she shareboard her favorite horse.

Being transplanted city folk, I'd never heard of shareboarding, so googling reveals it to be a legitimate thing. But we're still wondering if this is a good idea for my daughter and for our family.

Have you shareboarded, or been close to a shareboarding situation? Can you give me advice on what to consider? What should I discuss with the stable owner? What are the downsides? My searching has not really turned up anyone who regretted their decision to shareboard (other than minor disagreements about rates and horse availability). Did you regret your decision to shareboard? If we go through with it, what do we need to be aware of?

My daughter is pretty much a typical quiet, nerdy 17-year-old who gets good grades (A's and B's) and wants to be a veterinarian. She doesn't have a job or any money of her own.
posted by SuperSquirrel to Pets & Animals (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I don't know anything about shareboarding, but could you do out the math to compare the cost of shareboarding vs. the cost of riding a horse she doesn't own X times a week? Also, consider how likely she is to go to a distant college in a year or two, and what would happen with the shareboarding situation then.
posted by fermezporte at 7:53 AM on December 19, 2012

Yes, I have done this. I never regretted doing this either; you get access to a horse without having the lifelong responsibility for it, and you have someone to share expenses with. It's also a good opportunity to take more responsibility for a horse and to see if owning a horse is something you might want to do in the future.

I have also, since becoming a horse owner, been on the other end of it by sharing him with another rider who paid me for access to him. Both have been positive experiences.

The main things to think about are costs, as you already know, and the times that your daughter will have access to the horse. My usual experience was that I paid half the board and half the shoeing costs, so you need to think about the fact that lessons, if she takes them, will be an expense on top of that. Find out about vet bills: will you be expected to contribute? These can be high if there's an accident or a colic. I can't remember being expected to contribute to vet bills and I did not require this of the person who shared my horse, but YMMV. And there are things like horse supplements: will your daughter be required to pay half for those as well? (In my experience, the answer was no. I have never paid anything more than half board/half shoes.)

Also, tack. Does the owner plan to share saddle/bridle/grooming kit, or is your daughter expected to buy her own? She may be required to buy her own saddle, so ask about that. I remember with my first share that I had to buy a saddle and my own grooming kit. We shared the owner's bridle.

Make sure you have a schedule so that you know exactly what days/hours she has access to the horse, and an agreement about some sort of notice if this needs to change. Also, have an agreement about what happens if the horse becomes sick or injured and is going to be unrideable for a period of time; will you still be responsible for sharing?

Sharing is a really great way to get closer to a horse, to learn to care for it and to have the experience of owning without the longterm expense and care. Just about every horse owner I know started out this way, and I do recommend it as long as you have a good plan in place that keeps things fair for both sides.
posted by OolooKitty at 8:04 AM on December 19, 2012 [5 favorites]

I half-leased a horse in high school, which is pretty much the same thing as share boarding and it was a really great experienced. I had access to the horse on three pre-defined days a week. I think it cost about $250 a month in 1998 dollars, which was inclusive of my share of vet bills and farrier bills and what have you. We didn't have any emergencies with my horse, but if there had been, I would not have been expected to contribute towards the bills.

I had my own tack at the time, but I think I probably could have used my horse's owner's tack if I needed to. One thing to keep in mind is that most leasing or share boarding agreements do NOT include lesson costs, so you'll have to factor that in on top. I took two lessons a week and also rode my horse solo on a third day.

Make sure that if she's not going to be able to make it to ride the horse on her assigned day that she lets the owner know. My owner would get annoyed when I flaked without telling her and she found a frisky unexercised horse the next day.

For what it's worth, my parents paid for my lessons but I was on my own to pay for leasing the horse and I learned a lot about working and managing money during the two years that I did it.
posted by fancypants at 8:11 AM on December 19, 2012

I had to retire my horse about a year ago and I am half-leasing (or shareboarding) another horse now. I have exclusive use of the horse three specified days a week. I am required to take at least one lesson a week, the cost of which is not included in the lease fee.

I pay a fixed monthly amount which includes my part for vet and shoeing bills, plus use of the tack. The horse should have a saddle that fits it, and that's the one yoru daughter should be able to use. I am expected to clean the tack after each ride. All in all, it's a pretty simple arrangement, but I have ridden with the instructor (who owns the horse) for almost 10 years now and we know and trust each other.

If you are expected to pay all or part of any vet bills, be sure to specify that these will be for routine care, and you will not be responsible for any injury or illness that is not a result of your daughter's negligence, or that occur while the horse is not in her direct care. Routine vet care would include things like Spring and Fall shots and dental work. Make the terms such that you can stop the arrangement with 30 days notice.

I agree it's a wonderful way to have a horse, if only part-time. Just be sure you protect yourself from liability for things that are not under your control. There's a saying "Horses are born, and then spend the rest of their lives trying to kill themselves."
posted by Dolley at 8:23 AM on December 19, 2012

I took riding lessons and most of the horses in the stable were shareboarded. (I rode horses belonging exclusively to the stable.) All of the "owners" seemed to be extremely satisfied with their experience and enjoyed having access to the same horse for extended periods of time because they were able to develop a relationship with the horse. I loved taking lessons, but there were definitely two or three horses that I didn't enjoy riding as much as others, and when I'd arrive to find Penelope waiting for me to curry and tack I knew I'd be spending more time getting her to stop being afraid of one particular corner than working on my form or taking jumps. If I could do it over again, I would have shareboarded.
posted by xyzzy at 9:17 AM on December 19, 2012

I haven't done a private-owner lease, but I do ride at a stable where a lot of the horses/riders are involved in some sort of half-leasing (I wasn't familiar with the term "shareboard" but it seems to be basically the same as what I would call a half-lease). Before I bought my own horse I did something similar for a couple years where I paid a monthly fee and could ride any appropriate horse in the lesson program 3x week. It was a great way to get a lot of saddle time for less than the full cost of owning a horse. I can't think of anyone else I know who has leased a horse (or leased their own horse) who didn't enjoy it. The biggest downside is that the owner has control over the global situation and may decide to stop leasing, sell the horse, etc. and then you have to say goodbye to the horsey love of your life. Also, if the horse is still being used in the therapy program, that may make it a great beginner-safe horse but may not be an ideal mount for an advancing rider who's looking to refine their skills.

Obviously, it's important to know up front how fees will be handled or expenses split. If it's a flat monthly fee, then it's simpler (and I would definitely recommend that arrangement if you have an option). I'm would assume that since this is presumably a working horse at a working stable that's going to be the arrangement, but if there is some kind of cost-splitting involved, what costs are expected to be split (routine vet care? shoeing? extraordinary vet care? supplements, etc?).

Will there be restrictions on use of the horse? What happens if the horse is injured while in your daughter's care? What is the arrangement for scheduling use of the horse, and who has priority for use of the horse/use of the facilities (such as ring time)? What happens if the horse is lame for an extended period of time (in the horse world "lame" means any sort of illness or injury that renders the horse unusable temporarily or permanently)? Is the lease month-to-month or do you need to agree to a certain minimum term? Has the horse historically been sound and in good health? Make sure that your daughter and the owner have a clear understanding about grooming, warm-up/cool-down, use of tack, etc. It's important that your daughter have a good channel of communication with the owner and keeps them informed of anything she notices when riding, like if the horse seems sore or sour or is acting "off" in any way.

Probably the biggest question to ask yourself would be, is your daughter's level of riding experience suitable for riding unsupervised? You mention that she's been volunteering at the stable, but don't mention whether she's taken formal riding lessons herself. I don't think half-leasing is appropriate for a rider who has less than a year's worth of weekly riding experience (e.g., at least 50 hours of saddle time). Also have a discussion with her about the budget for extras to support her habit, such as upgrades to her own riding wear.

If the arrangement does involve partial liability for extraordinary vet expenses, be aware that relatively common problems like colic or pasture injuries can cost hundreds to thousands of dollars in vet bills. You could potentially find yourself liable for a $10,000 colic surgery and aftercare for a horse that is no longer ridable and where you have no say-so in whether to continue treatment or humanly euthanize. What Dolley says at the end of her answer is absolutely true.
posted by drlith at 9:25 AM on December 19, 2012

Around here we wouldn't call it shareboarding, we would just call it a (half/part) lease. You will find many sample legal documents if you look up horse lease agreement. It is really just a fancy word for renting--you get to use the horse, but you don't have all the responsibilities of actually owning it. (The downside is that once your lease ends, any work or money you put into the horse is essentially gone. This can be a bit disheartening emotionally, but is not really a problem financially because horses really do not retain economic value very well.)

Even routine horse costs are pretty variable, you might see if you can get a flat rate lease instead so that you're paying a fixed cost per month. (As an example, even the most routine hoof care is dependent on how fast the horses hooves are growing. You don't want to suddenly be over budget because it was a mild winter and the farrier had to come every six weeks instead of every eight.)

Anyway, things to put in writing:
  • Who can ride the horse (typically only the lessee, i.e. your daughter, plus anyone else the owner gives permission to). Also who she can ride with--if she starts taking lessons with someone else, is the owner going to be angry? Can she ride alone or does someone else need to be around (this is more of a barn rules thing)?
  • What she can do with the horse (shows--what kind? jumping--up to what height? trail riding?). Does she get full use of any equipment on the property (riding ring? jumps?)? How about any of the horse's equipment? What is she required to do (what level of grooming? must she muck the stall? must she ride/groom on her assigned day or is it just an option?)
  • Where she can ride the horse (can she go off the property? on the trails?).
  • When she can ride the horse (is there any flexibility here?), also when can she use the riding ring (not during therapeutic riding, presumably--when is that? will the schedule change?). Can she ride all day on her days or is there a limit on how much work the owner wants the horse to do?
  • How does the lease work? Who can end it and when does that go into effect? If the horse throws a show and is unrideable for several days, how does that work? (If you've signed up for lessons during the period that the horse is unrideable, will she be able to ride another horse?) What if your daughter can't ride for a certain period (if she breaks her arm during the first week of the month, is that just too bad for the other three weeks? if you've paid for several months in advance, then what kind of refund would you get?)? How will your payment be calculated and when must you pay by? Are there late fees for missed payments? How will you pay (by check?)? How many months will you pay for at a time?
Also keep in mind who you're actually leasing the horse from. If the barn owner is the one who owns the horse, then you should be able to settle everything directly. If the horse owner isn't the barn owner, then some of the above is controlled by the barn owner and not part of the lease. (Plus things like lessons, which would be between you and the instructor.)

Personally, I like riding a variety of horses during lessons--the horses that I don't want to put up with every day generally do the most for my riding--but if leasing is the only way that she's getting more saddle time then I'd probably go for it.
posted by anaelith at 9:50 AM on December 19, 2012

I have done this several times, both as the part-boarder ("shareboarding" is a new term to me) and the horse's owner. It can work out very well for all concerned as long as the terms of the agreement are understood (and in writing). How much time will your daughter be given on the horse (commonly it's three days for the part-boarder, three days for the owner, and one day off)? Who is responsible for vet bills, especially if the horse is injured while your daughter is riding it? Who is responsible for farrier bills? Tack? etc. As long as everyone is on the same page, it can be a great and affordable way to get some of the experience of owning a horse. That said, it can be MUCH better for someone who is learning to ride to ride different horses on a regular basis, rather than the same horse every time. Riding one horse may make you a good rider of THAT horse, but riding several different horses is more likely to make you a good rider.
posted by biscotti at 10:06 AM on December 19, 2012

Thank you all for your great answers. Lots to think about, especially about owning her own equipment, which wasn't even on my radar as a question to ask. Thanks so much!!
posted by SuperSquirrel at 10:06 AM on December 20, 2012

Just checking back in to let you all know that we did in fact sign a contract to shareboard our daughter's favorite horse, which we gave to her as a Christmas gift. Thanks to all your advice and comments, we were able to ask the right questions, and have our concerns addressed in ways we consider fair and agreeable. The barn owner is pleased, we're pleased, and our daughter is ecstatic.

Thank you to all you horsey MeFites!!
posted by SuperSquirrel at 8:37 AM on December 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

That's great! Your daughter is one lucky girl.
posted by Dolley at 6:02 AM on January 17, 2013

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