If you are thinking about leasing or half-leasing a horse, you NEED to read this. By Carla Lake.
Thinking of leasing or half-leasing a horse? Well, in case you weren’t aware, there’s a big pile of cray out in the horse world, especially when it comes to riding other people’s horses, and there are some key questions to ask yourself so you don’t end up stepping in it.
What Do You Want?
Maybe I’m just a little obsessive (okay, I know I am) but every time I ride, I have a goal—even if it’s something as simple as “don’t die,” or “stay inside the ring.” That lets me check at the end of the ride—did I survive? Great, success! Same thing goes with bigger decisions like leasing a horse—defining your goals will help you to narrow down your search, and will give you some benchmarks to look back on. Here are some starter questions to ask yourself:
- How many times a week do I have time to ride?
- Do I want an on-site or off-site lease?
- What kind of riding do I want to do?
- How much can I afford to pay each month?
- How long do I want to lease for?
- Do I eventually want to buy this horse?
What are Your Must-Haves, Your Nice-to-Haves and Dealbreakers?
OK, so you’ve got a basic idea of what you want and you’re ready to go try a horse. Exciting! So exciting, in fact, that it’s easy to overlook red flags. One DEFINITE no-no is if the person showing you the horse can’t or won’t ride it, or have someone else ride it, before you get on. Before you arrive at the farm, you should make it clear that you want the horse to be shown to you before you ride—even if the owner’s intentions are good, it never hurt anyone to err on the safe side.
But aside from basic safety, before you arrive, it’s a good idea to make a list of qualities you desire under saddle and ones you won’t tolerate. For example, I was looking for a horse I could learn dressage on and also do a little bit of jumping for fun—and the first horse I looked at had a very impressive resume in Grand Prix jumping and steeplechasing. But dressage? Not so much. He went around like a giraffe in a standing martingale and stuck his tongue out—like ALL the way out. It flapped while we cantered. I loved the place he was boarded at, and the price was right, but bottom line? It would have been an uphill battle for a dressage noob.
Having a set list of needs, wants, and no-nos can also help you to structure your test ride.
Whose Opinion Matters?
Ultimately, the answer is that you know what you want (and what you can pay for) better than anyone else. However, it’s also a good idea to ask a trainer or friend for opinions, since they may see issues or benefits that you didn’t. But don’t let anyone talk you into something you’re not sure about—at the end of the day, it’s your money and your time, not theirs!
One good way to avoid being pressured into something is to get a non-horsey friend to come along and take video, which you can show to your friends and trainer for their opinion later, once you’ve had some time to think about it yourself.
Is He Everything You Dreamed He’d Be?
Scrolling through endless Dreamhorse ads can be intoxicating—to the point where you’re tempted to look over a few minor things…maybe he’s just out of your price range…but you could swing it. Maybe he has a couple quirky habits…like rearing…but your trainer can fix that, right?
No horse is perfect, and most likely you’ll have to make some compromises. But this is where that list of must-haves, nice-to-haves, and no-nos comes in. If the horse you’re looking at is likely to cost you more in time, training and hospital bills than he’ll give you in enjoyment, keep looking.
Did You Triple-Check the Fine Print? I highly recommend drawing up a written lease agreement so both parties are clear on the terms—even between friends, as misunderstandings can lead to hurt feelings. Practical Horseman has a good template you can start from.
Not to be a pessimist, but one of the most important aspects is the “escape hatch”—you need to lay out how the lease will end if things go sour. There are a couple ways to accomplish this—you can renew the lease every three months, so you’re not stuck paying for a horse you don’t want indefinitely, or you can agree that either party can end the lease for any reason with 45 days notice.
Do you have anything else to add to this list? Share your leasing advice and/or horror stories in the comments below.
About the Author
Carla Lake is a financial media editor and a recent convert to dressage from hunterland. She leases an OTTB named Midnight who is an excellent teacher. You can follow their adventures at the Collegial Equestrian blog.