Who’s riding your horse?

Riding someone's horse without their permission is stealing!

When I was a kid a neighbor of my grandparents kept horses in a pasture down the road from their house. I dreamed about slipping into that pasture one day, jumping on one of those horses bareback and going for a joy ride. I never did that but from what I’ve read on the Chronicle of the Horse Forum, there are other people who are not so restrained.

In an eye opening post last week several people shared stories of when they either suspected or found out that other people were riding their horses. The really scary part is that most of the time this happened with the knowledge and sometimes blessing of the barn owner or trainer. That’s right. The people tasked with caring for their boarder’s or student’s horse was using the horses for lessons or letting friends or family members take them for a spin.

Here are some particularly egregious examples.

a VERY similar thing happened to a good friend of mine. she was boarding with a friend (at the time) at her backyard barn, just my friend’s horse and the horse that belonged to the BO. she comes out to see the horse one day and finds him with a girth mark, her stirrup keeper on the saddle is broken, saddle is horribly dirty, her girth is wet and sandy, etc. it’s very clear that someone has ridden the horse, and things didn’t go well. she approaches the BO about it, BO denies it. my friend is still suspicious.

we found out later through a mutual friend that the BO had (foolishly) told about the incident that she had invited a friend over to trail ride. BO rode her own horse, and gave her friend my friend’s horse to ride. without ANY permission at all, which is totally unacceptable to begin with. but then as they were riding along the road my friend’s horse spooked, slipped and fell, dumped the girl and ran off. BO was apparently not planning on telling her any of this.


A local boarding barn opened here several years ago and the BOs really didn’t seem to understand that horses were individual PRIVATE property. He let anyone grab anyone’s horse and use it anytime. A friend of mine boarded there before everyone was aware of what was going on. She showed up at the barn one day to find someone else tacking up her horse. Her horse wore a new halter with a nameplate. The name on the nameplate was not her horse’s name. A similar nameplate was also found on her horse’s stall door. This person who was riding her horse when she was not around had RENAMED her horse and didn’t see anything wrong with it. Needless to say the situation ended then and there. Beginner kids were trail riding boarder’s expensive greenies because “he’s so pretty.” After a few rounds of people getting hurt on other people’s horses and lots and LOTS of angry boarders, the BO finally decided to change his tune.


I was paying full training board at a BNT’s farm and found out my AO jumper was being used in ‘lessons’ for another boarder….At my expense! The student wasn’t paying for the lessons I was. They thought it was good for my horse, I thought it was additional wear and tear and promptly left the barn.


I came out to see my horses on day 4 or 5 after the fall, and was planning to longe the mare for exercise, only to discover that some fellow boarders had her in crossties with some Mexican ‘charro’ guy getting ready to ride her. I am thinking WTF>!?!? Luckily I knew the man in question, not a bad or rough type, but definitely not the person I would have picked to help me with the young mare, had I felt the need for help. It gets worse. The fellow boarders were there, just beaming saying ‘We’ve had xxxx work with her while you were not able to ride’, as if they expected me to thank them or something. The barn owner (clueless newbie to horses) also thought that was just great. Another boarder, whom I thought had more sense also did not see why this was a problem. It gets worse still. I was told that the ‘trainer’ had also hauled her to his little ranchito for some offsite work. (can we say horse theft…and no one had a clue why this was not acceptable).


boyfriend of fairly BNT eventer (very high end barn; great care) had jumped my horse. I would not have known, except boyfriend innocently told me what a great jumper he was and how much he enjoyed riding him. I was pissed–not because the BF was a bad rider but because I wasn’t asked. Hello? My horse; my decision about who rides him.

Just thinking about it makes my head spin. First there are the liability issues. What if someone is hurt when riding your horse? Or perhaps your horse is injured? Or picks up some bad habits from a few bad rides? Who is responsible then? So, if you come and find your horse with girth marks, or even worse, arrive at the barn to find your horse being ridden by someone else, what should you do? In a word, leave. ASAP.

But it’s not a bad idea when you bring your horse to a boarding barn to make sure your barn owner and trainer know explicitly if you don’t want anyone else riding your horse. In fact it’s a good idea to submit that request in writing so there is no confusion over your feelings.

I once showed up at my co-op barn to find a woman I’d never seen before mounting another boarder’s pony. She didn’t look much like a rider — maybe it was the bright red plastic rain boots. Anyhow, I went over and introduced myself and asked if she had permission to ride. It turned out that she did. After that we made it a policy that all boarders needed to circulate the name of anyone authorized to ride their horse to everyone. Maybe it’s an idea that should catch on.

10 thoughts on “Who’s riding your horse?

  1. That would NEVER happen where I am. The owner of the yard even reminds us about the consequences of ourselves ‘allowing’ others to ride our horses on his premises; proper footwear, injuries, insurance, etc. He has used (a suitable) one for a supervised lesson but not before asking permission from the owner. Another place I know reduces the livery bill for using the horses – which is a bit like the shared ownership idea and which works well for horses who would otherwise not be out for long periods due to their owners lack of time. I rode a beautiful perfectly mannered big Irish draft while staying in Kilkenny – owned by a 15 year old who only gets down to ride now and again. He loved to get out on a long hack and get a run through the fields and forest, get pampered and have a big feed waiting on his return. Obviously there are conditions attached, but it can be beneficial to all concerned.

  2. Just one more terrifying aspect of boarding stables! So many seem to be run by complete and utter newbies who have no clue what to – they just somehow ended up with land and a barn and decided to put pretty ponies on it. And then when you have BNTs that are untrustworthy as well – it’s very hard to find someone to trust in this business. Why, I don’t know.

    I once rode at a huge barn full of kids. We were all teenagers and keen on getting into trouble. Some kids owned, some leased school horses, some “half-leased” so they only had horses on certain days. What is interesting is that none of us ever “stole” one another’s horses. Even the kids who didn’t have a horse for the day – they’d show up in their jeans and boots and hang out, and if they found a horse someone was willing to let them ride, great – but they never dreamed of pulling a horse out of a stall without permission.

  3. I hope that no one ever rode my horse when I boarded. Honestly, reading about some people’s experiences, I don’t know!

    I have never ridden someone else’s horse without their permission. Even as one of those “keen to get in trouble” teens who hung out at the barn and was a working student I wouldn’t have dreamed of taking a horse out that I wasn’t approved to ride.

    I don’t know if maybe I’m showing my age and there’s been a shift in consciousness — a mentality of “entitlement” that makes your own actions justifiable.

    Lucky my horse now is a tricky ride. Not many people lining up to try him out 🙂

  4. This happened to me when I was boarding my OTTB at a full service barn. Barn had a strict policy of only employees or owners handling horses, unless there was a release on file signed by owner & approved by management. On top of that, I had written into my boarding contract that my horse would never be hard tied (cross ties were totally fine) as he freaked out and we hadn’t gotten that far in retraining. BO posted a sign on his stall/paddock: No tying. Crossties only.

    I was working long hours, but still went to barn 6 days a week. He had daily turn out, and loved to roll in mud. By the end of every day he looked like no one cared for him.

    A boarder took it upon herself to take him out and clean him up since she’d never seen him NOT muddy (I came out later, after she left. He was turned out before she came). She used her nylon halter and lead (I had a breakaway leather halter) and tied him to a post with a KNOT.

    I came out the next morning to a horse whose eyes were swollen shut: his whole head was swollen. Scrapes, cuts, bruises, limping, loose muzzle. He was a mess. He’d nearly killed himself, finally breaking the bullsnap on the lead and flipping over backward.

    No one called me. Or the vet. Boarder, an adult, just put him away. Manager missed problem on closing rounds.

    It gets worse. Boarder sues ME for emotional damages (BO kicked her out) and animal neglect. Fortunately, she also signed a contract saying she would not handle or feed anyone else’s horse, so it went no where.

    Thousands of dollars in vet bills later….he was fine, no brain damage that we could assess.

  5. OMG! The nerve of some people. I’m surprised she didn’t end up the one with brain damage. Especially after adding icing to the cake with a completely spurious lawsuit. Geesh!

  6. I like the idea of circulating names of who is allowed to ride. I had a friend who boarded and showed up one day to find her horse had been ridden. Apparently, a girl no one at the barn had seen before showed up, announced that she had permission (she knew the owner’s name somehow), and proceeded to work the horse.

    Needless to say, owner was PISSED.

    I’m generally pretty obtrusive around the barn. I know all the horses and most of the owners. If someone is hanging around that I’m not familiar with, I make it a point to introduce myself to them. If they’re supposed to be there, they think I’m friendly. If they’re not, they know I’m watching.

  7. dear people please I have this same situaation going on actually people rode her behind my back and ripped her hair out to get at me she has now been moved to a difrent paddock and I fear it will happen agian is there any way to stop the jumping on her and interfearing with her when there is no camera”s and I dont live there and the people who are going to be wathching her are the people I’m woried are going to be messing with her behind my back ?

  8. Kristy, the trainer and barn manager at Pennington Equestrian in Pennington, NJ learns the boarders schedules and uses their horses for lessons without permission. She even half leased someone’s horse without their knowledge! Multiple boarders have had this problem at this barn.

    1. we just had similar situation at our barn is there no laws against theses horse thieves despicable human beings

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