Tell people you own a horse and inevitably at some point you’ll hear, “Cool! Can I ride him?”

The way you probably feel about that question depends on several factors: You, your horse, and the person asking. As you ponder, “Should I let So-and-So ride my horse?” your inner response may well be, “Yikes! NO! But I don’t want to be rude…”

However you feel, it’s OK. Don’t ever feel bad for saying no, graciously but firmly. You can explain that it’s a matter of safety or continuity. A person who’s put off by that clearly doesn’t get the whole horse thing anyway.

Some horse owners tell anyone no. Maybe their mount is green, high-strung, or finely tuned. Maybe they’re an amazing rider and/or they’ve put in a lot of hard work toward their discipline and so most other riders would undo their training. In such cases it’s a good idea to limit potential riders.

If you’re in this camp, maybe you’re concerned about liability—a real issue. Or maybe you just don’t want to share for any number of reasons. That’s OK too.

But other horse owners are thrilled to have someone else ride their horse. It often works well for folks with a laid-back, older mount that won’t be much affected by a new rider.

It’s also helpful if you’re super busy and just can’t get out to ride as much as you’d like…or as much as your horse needs.

The rest of us are somewhere in the middle: Not opposed to other riders, but picky about who those riders are. And you know what? That’s wise in most cases.

It’s one thing to put an experienced, fit rider up there to have some fun. Or a kid who’s absolutely beside herself with joy just being led around on horseback. (Obviously, be careful with kids and make sure you’re in a safe environment—but many horses instinctually take better care of them than they do adults.)

It’s another thing entirely to subject your equine pal to the unpracticed seat of your best-friend’s-cousin’s-overweight-dad-who’s-only-been-on-a-horse-once-in-his-life (and is wearing shorts with cowboy boots). Unless your horse is a saint, he’s likely to find something about that arrangement objectionable and then you’re just asking for trouble.

Regardless of who besides you—if anyone—rides your horse, make sure they wear a helmet and sign a liability waiver. (We have those in the office.) Horses are live creatures with minds of their own, and stuff happens. Even the calmest, most bulletproof babysitters can spook or misbehave—and with an unfamiliar rider the risk of that happening goes up.

Nonetheless, life changes happen. We move farther away; we get new jobs or go to school; we get injured or sick; we have babies. So even if you’re someone who isn’t thrilled about the idea of anyone but you or a professional trainer riding your horse, there are times when it’s a choice between bringing someone else on board or selling. Because it just isn’t fair to keep a horse (other than a retiree) that nobody rides.

If you find yourself needing an extra rider for whatever reason, read our next blog for advice on how to pick a great leaser for your pony. (Because if you’re going to let someone else ride your baby, why not get paid for it??)