Borrowing Horses as a Horseless Rider

If you don’t own a horse, there are respectful ways to get your riding and barn fix with your horse-owning friends.

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I jokingly call myself a moocher because I ride horses, but I haven’t owned one for years. For nearly a decade, friends like Lisa Sherrodd have opened their saddles to me. Luckily, Sherrodd says she gets something out of inviting horseless riders to hop on one of her Norwegian Fjords or her Friesian/Percheron cross.

Two equestrians taking a selfie with Norwegian Fjords
Lisa Sherrod (left) lets the author borrow one of her Norwegian Fjords for a ride—and everyone wins!

“My horses get ridden and exercised, and in a few cases, are handled by riders much more experienced than I am,” she says. “I was going through a phase where I was afraid to ride, but watching Micaela ride my mare when she was being naughty really gave me confidence that I could handle her just as well (and I did). Where we trail ride can be rough country, and it’s good to have someone with you—lots can happen on the trail! And nothing beats the companionship and having a friend to help you solve your life’s problems from the back of a horse.”

Realizing there are many other borrowers out there, and many other generous friends, I decided to interview a few of them for their best tips on how to be a good moocher.

All Levels Welcome

Don’t get your feelings hurt if your experience level or riding style isn’t a good match for a particular horse.

“I like to know that they have the ability and experience,” says veteran trail rider Bonnie May of Livermore, Colo., who owns two Rocky Mountain Horses and a Tennessee Walking Horse.

“The only pet peeve I have is that I expect kindness to animals. If you’re yanking on their mouth, I’m not interested in that.”

A rider riding trail on her horse, who she lets her horseless friends borrow
Veteran trail rider Bonnie May (shown) lets others borrow a ride on her Rocky Mountain Horses or Tennessee Walker.

Some horse owners are happy to let the less experienced folks visit, groom and learn. Amanda Swenson of Jamestown, N.D., owns a 2-year-old Norwegian Fjord, Paska, whom she hopes to train as a therapy horse.

“What makes you a good ‘moocher’ is that you don’t solely come out to ride,” she says. “Instead, visit the barn with an open mind and expect to learn something about horses. Come brush them, take a walk with your friend and your friend’s horse, and just enjoy the fun day at the barn.”

Her friend Calli Stoudt brings daughters Delia and Quinn to visit Swenson’s Fjord.

“There is something deeply healing about horses,” she says. “They seem to sense emotions. Always express appreciation to the person who invites you or your children to meet their horse. Remember to treat the owner with honor and share in the joy of being around their horse together.”

Horseless Riders and Giving Back

The technical definition of a moocher is someone who takes while giving nothing in return. Given that, be a reciprocal borrower.

Marianne Mitchell of Fort Collins, Colo., owned horses most of her life and did fox hunting, polocrosse and eventing. But when she retired, she sold her last horse and has been borrowing rides from a friend ever since.

An equestrian on a hack in the fall
Marianne Mitchell (shown on a borrowed Appaloosa) advises other moochers to be kind to the horse and praise his good attributes.

If her friend trailers the horses anywhere, she chips in for gas. And when they took a trip with the horses, she also chipped in for shoes and a health certificate. In addition to helping out financially, she believes it’s important to ride other people’s horses in a way they appreciate.

“Don’t fuss so much with other people’s horses,” she says. “They may not be used to your riding. Be kind to the horse and praise his good attributes. Someone’s horse is like their child, so don’t say anything negative about him.”

Do things the way the horse owner wants them done, even if it’s different than you’re used to.

“Flexibility helps,” says Sherrodd. “Be willing to do the ride at the owner’s pace. Be prepared to come and groom the horse before the ride. Most of my ‘moocher’ friends are happy to horse-sit if I have to go out of town. That is much appreciated.”

Like everything in life, being a moocher has its perks and its drawbacks. You can’t always ride when you want to or the way you want to, but you also don’t have the daily commitments of upkeep and expenses.

At this time in my life, I like being a moocher. I’m happy to ride when the gift presents itself, and it’s the perfect excuse to get together with one of my best friends. Happy mooching!

This article about borrowing horses as horseless riders appeared in the September 2022 issue of Horse Illustrated magazine. Click here to subscribe!

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