by Michelle Kingston
When I started out with horses, there were two options. I could ride lesson horses during a lesson, or I could buy a horse. There were no other choices. Years later, I learned about leasing.
Leasing a horse is a great option for students progressing beyond beginning lessons. Leasing can be an excellent way to see if you or your child are ready to commit to a horse: you effectively act as the owner of the horse, yet you have a safety net of sorts. If it doesn't work out, the horse still has an owner.
Leasing allows you to develop a bond and a relationship with a horse similar to owning. There is an intimacy in the relationship which you don't get in a lesson format. You will learn about health care, supplements, hoof care, tack and horse comfort in a much more practical way than in a lesson. Leasing teaches a rider the importance of these components of horsemanship that otherwise seem abstract when not actually affecting you and the horse for which you're responsible. Alternatively, a more experienced student might lease a horse for competition or to master a particular skill set.
Leasing offers real benefits for the horse owner as well. Thoughtful leasing arrangements allow you to provide a great situation for your horse even if you're not able to devote a significant amount of time to that horse or are no longer riding. You can maintain control of your horse and ensure the lease arrangement provides him with a positive, healthy environment. If something changes in his situation, you still control what happens to him. A written lease is crucial to protect you, your horse and the person leasing your horse.
For the horse, having more people invested in his well-being is always better. It's always good to have more than one person taking financial responsibility for a horse.
To ensure that the lease is successful I suggest two things. Show the agreement to someone who is familiar with them before you complete your arrangement, just to see if they have any further thoughts or suggestions. A detailed and thoughtful agreement will protect everyone involved in a lease arrangement. Also, a "drop-in-unannounced" clause needs to be in the agreement, so that the horse owner can check on the quality of a horse's care and living arrangement - and then the owner needs to check in on their horse, and keep checking! Extra eyes on any horse is always a good thing.
Leasing can be a positive arrangement for anyone. I currently lease a horse - I own my horses AND I lease one. This horse has something to teach me, and in return he has more people in this life to advocate and care for him. When done thoughtfully, leasing can truly be a win-win-win situation horse, owner and rider.