I saw a lease advertised on Facebook, and it rubbed me the wrong way. It was a “Free Lease,” but the leaser was required to pay all the expenses of the horse during the lease. This included board (on the owner’s property no less) and medical bills (the horse had a prior injury that required ongoing treatment). The total amount of this lease was greater than $1,000 a month. Also, due to that injury the horse couldn’t be ridden at it’s former high level and had to be restarted over jumps. So they can’t really call it a school master type horse that might justify that kind of payment.
That is not a free lease. That is a “Restart my horse for me and pay all its bills,” lease. I have no idea if someone, anyone, would find that option attractive, but it reminded me of something my former friend did.
She had a barn full of horses, many of which she could not ride. One of those horses was a two year old. Obviously a two year old isn’t going to have much training at all. Imagine my surprise when one day she complained to me that the leaser of this horse was not coming out to train the horse. I think my jaw dropped. Someone was actually paying her $200 a month for the privilege of “training” this two year old horse.
I inquired further into the situation, and it turned out that one of her work coworkers was mildly interested in horses, so she offered to let him lease this horse. This man was a complete beginner, never even ridden a horse before, he was paying to hang out with someone else’s horse, and she was upset he wasn’t training it. As if he’d even be capable of that.
It really bothers me to see people taken advantage of. I don’t think this kind of situation is unique; I see people from all over the world complaining online about scenarios where they feel like they are being taken advantage of by some horse person. Which is why I have now decided to write down a guide to leasing a horse, which will hopefully help those who are newer to horses understand what their experience should be.
This isn’t a guide for those who are experienced riders who are perhaps leasing a horse for shows. That level of leasing is way more intricate and involves very expensive horses and thousands upon thousands of dollars. Get a lawyer for those contracts.
This is for the weekly or more lesson student who wants to get more ride time, and can’t decide if leasing a horse is right for them. (Although you’re always free to consult a lawyer for any concerns).
Leasing a horse is a great way to experience the joy of horse ownership without the full commitment of buying one. It can also be a good way to try out different types of horses or riding disciplines before you decide to buy your own. However, leasing is not without its challenges, and it’s important to weigh the pros and cons carefully before making a decision.
Your Reason for Leasing
Before jumping into a lease, think carefully about your motivations. Why do you want to lease a horse? Are you wanting to try “owning” a horse before jumping in? Are you just trying to get more ride time in? Are you trying to advance your riding? Or do you just want to have the opportunity to hang around horses more?
Your answer to these questions will help you determine the kind of lease to pursue. Or, it might make you think of alternatives you could try instead of leasing. For instance, if you just wanted to hang out at the barn, there may be working student positions you could look into. Or if you just want to ride more, it may be possible to network around and find people who need their horses ridden without having a formal contract.
It’s worth considering all options before entering into a lease. Your own skill level may be a deciding factor; if you still need guidance, leasing with the help of a trainer would be a better option.
The Types of Leases
Leasing a horse can mean different things to different people. The standard lease originally used to be something like a car lease – you paid a fee, and took the horse home. You paid all its expenses for the length of the lease, and then you returned the horse at the end of it.
Now leases come in many options, so be sure you know exactly what your lease involves before you sign. Leasing at a lesson barn could mean the horse will be available to you for 2 days a week to ride, with no further obligations or expenses on your part. It could mean that you are tied into a structured program of riding with a trainer, with lessons and free rides built into a schedule. It could mean you share the horse with another leaser, and you each get specific days to ride.
For a private owner, it may mean the horse is still completely under their care, they maintain the horse, but you pay a set fee to come ride it.
Or it could mean that you pick up the horse, and are completely responsible for its board and care.
Never assume what the lease means. Always make sure it is extremely clear who is responsible for what.
The Benefits of Leasing
- Financial: Leasing a horse is typically more affordable than buying one. You will not have to pay the upfront cost of purchase, and you will only be responsible for the monthly lease payment and/or maintenance.
- Minimal Responsibility: Leasing a horse can mean that you will not have to worry about all of the day-to-day responsibilities of horse ownership, such as feeding, grooming, and turnout. This can be a great option for people who are busy or who do not have the time or resources to care for a horse on their own. If something goes wrong during the lease, you can usually return the horse with no additional obligations.
- Flexibility: Leasing a horse can be a good way to try out different types of horses or riding disciplines before you decide to buy your own. This can help you to find a horse that is a good match for your skills and interests.
The Disadvantages of Leasing
- Lack of control: When you lease a horse, you are not the owner, and you may not have as much control over its care and training as you would if you owned it yourself. This can be frustrating if you have specific ideas about how the horse should be cared for or ridden.
- Losing Your Ride: You may end up really loving your lease horse and find them perfect. But, at the end of your lease, the horse may be already committed to either another leaser or the original owner now has plans for the horse. Since you aren’t the owner, you have no legal right to the horse, nor any compensation for any training you may have put on the horse. Just as you could walk away from the horse, the owner can pull the horse from you. It might be an emotional blow to lose a horse that you connected with.
How to Decide if Leasing is Right for You
To decide if leasing a horse is right for you, you should consider your individual circumstances and needs. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What is my budget? Lower budgets may mean part or share leasing. A higher budget may give you access to a highly trained horse to learn on. Don’t forget that you’ll still need to pay for lessons and horse shows, if that is your goal.
- How much time and energy can I commit to caring for a horse? Are you interested in taking on all the care a horse requires? Or are you mainly interested in more ride time?
- What are my riding goals? What level of rider are you now, and what are you hoping to achieve? Are you going to be showing?
The Right Horse to Lease
Not every horse is going to be suitable for lease, even if the owner thinks it is. Don’t be blinded by a beautiful horse and jump in without careful consideration.
The perfect lease horse will depend on your reasons and goals for leasing. If you are a newer or inexperienced rider, you should be looking for a horse that will take care of you. In no way should you be looking at horses that require training. In this instance, you, the rider, are the one in training, and the horse is your teacher. Don’t let someone (including yourself) convince you that this is an opportunity for you to learn how to train a horse. People like my former friend do exist, looking for someone to pay them to train their horse.
Just like in owning a horse, there are different horses suitable for different levels of riders. Many of the horses available for leasing, especially at lesson barns, are lesson horses. They are well trained, and able to take care of their riders so they learn how to ride. There are also horses suitable for more intermediate riders, which may be more sensitive to the aids.
Also, in rare circumstances, there are green horses. These types of horses can sometimes be a free or low cost lease to an experienced rider. A rider could be very experienced and know how to train a horse, and for whatever reason they don’t currently have a horse to show. So, a friend offers to let them borrow their talented horse in return for training it. Usually just the exchange of services is payment for both parties involved; the owner understands that the rider is essentially training their horse for them, and the rider understands they are getting access to a talented horse. It’s a mutually beneficial arrangement.
Always keep in mind that if you are paying for a lease, you should be benefiting. You should be learning to ride better, or getting more ride time in. Be suspicious of trainers or people who suggest you work with their untrained horse, as you will not be getting a good deal. Of course, every situations are unique, and if you feel you are getting something out of the deal, proceed with caution.
- Be honest with yourself about your skills and experience. Don’t try to lease a horse that is too advanced for you.
- Get everything in writing. Before you sign a lease agreement, make sure that it clearly outlines all of the terms and conditions of the lease, including the following:
- The lease term
- The monthly lease payment
- Who is responsible for the horse’s care and training
- Who is responsible for veterinary and other expenses
- What happens if the horse is injured or becomes ill
- Have a trial period. Before you sign a long-term lease, ask the owner if you can have some trial rides. Or you could start out with just one month of leasing before committing to a longer term. This will give you a chance to get to know the horse and make sure that it is a good fit for you.
Leasing a horse can be a mutually beneficial experience for all involved, as long as the terms are clearly understood and kept. You get to ride, the horse gets exercise and experience, and the owner knows the horse is being well cared for.
While leasing a horse is not as big of a commitment as buying a horse, there is still a lot of work and money involved. Make sure you approach a leasing situation cautiously, and it may ultimately be an extremely rewarding and fulfilling experience.
Prepare for your new lease horse: