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Hannah Burton of Carter Jonas Rural sets out how to tackle notification form a landlord of a charity horse ride across rented grazing
Q. We have had grazing on a grass keep agreement from an estate for many years. Once a year the hunt rides over some of the fields when all the cattle are in for the winter.
We have recently been told by the landlord that they wish to have a charity horse trek through several of these grass fields, some already with ewes and lambs in, also across the land where the cows, calves and bull will be.
There is a yard but the chances of managing to get them all in there on the day might be difficult.
We are worried about the impact of about 50 horses and riders going through the fields in small groups and wondering where we stand on this.
A. The hunt riding across your land when there is no livestock grazing is very different to the charity horse trek going through while the livestock is out.
This clearly raises more complications and is much more difficult for you to accommodate and manage.
The key potential difficulties with this are around the livestock, liability and insurance in the event of an incident.
In terms of livestock, you’ll need to consider the risks of allowing the public into a field with cows, calves and a bull.
It’s also worth noting that it is an offence to allow a bull in a field crossed by a public right of way if it is a dairy breed (if the bull is under 10 months old or it does not belong to a recognised dairy breed then it’s excluded from this rule).
It is good practice to display signs informing the public that there is a bull in the field.
As a grazier, I would also be concerned with gates being left open as the trek rides through, and livestock getting mixed up or escaping further.
If an incident did occur, there is an issue with liability and insurance. I would always ensure the removal of livestock (especially cows, calves and bull) from the field if such an event was to take place.
The organiser of the event should also hold the appropriate insurance and it would be advisable for the landowner and grazier to also inform their insurance providers of the event.
Check your agreement
In terms of practical steps you can take, the first thing that I would do would be to check the agreement. The terms may regulate hunts or charity horse treks.
Once you’ve established this, I recommend you speak to the landowner as soon as possible to discuss the proposal and raise the issues outlined above, as well as any other concerns you may have.
If you can have an honest conversation with the landowner then I would hope that you could reach a sensible compromise – for example, removing the cows, calves and bull from the fields on the day of the trek and horses keeping to a set route to reduce impact on the land, or the trek being delayed until a more suitable time for you and your livestock.
You could put an agreement in place whereby if damage is caused to the land, liability to reinstate the land would fall to the landowner, or even that you are compensated for any loss of grass.
In past examples, we have agreed that the organisers ensure that there are stewards at key points to keep an eye on gates, crossing points and so on, also that in the event of bad weather and the ground becoming waterlogged the event would be postponed.
Both of these would be worth discussing with your landlord too.
The key here is for a good level of communication and understanding between parties from the outset, so that you and the landowner can continue your relationship on good terms.
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