EquiNovice’s Guide to Good Horse-Leasing

I haven’t leased that many horses but my leasing arrangements have all been so positive and both parties really felt like they benefited from the situation. This is the goal, after all, but for some reason it seems like for every good lease story there is a horror story that makes owners never want to lease out their horse. It breaks my heart. Leasing out your horse is not for everyone, nor for every horse, but if you should find yourself in a situation that is conducive to a lease arrangement… I hope you find me, or someone like me. If you are considering leasing a horse, here are my suggestions for maximizing the situation on both sides. These are the un-written things, not often in the contract, but just as important.

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  • Enter the discussion with compassion. For some owners it can be a very difficult decision to lease out their horse and it’s not a bad idea to acknowledge that.
    • After answering an ad for my first leased horse, I found out that the owner had never leased her out before. She bought her and trained her all on her own. After a successful first meeting and trial ride, I wrote the owner an email- much like you would after a job interview- thanking her for letting me try Kate. In the email I included a short note just acknowledging how tough the decision to lease her horse must have been and that if she should decide that I am a good fit for them, she would not have to worry because I would care for Kate as if she were my own. You would think this kind of stuff is obvious and can go without saying but the owner told me later that this was a big part of the reason she chose me. She chose me, not necessarily because of my riding skills, but because I was a real human being about it. Empathy: apply liberally.

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  • Be honest with yourself about your riding skills/horse knowledge. This one is a good one whether you are leasing or buying, but the more honest you are to yourself, and the owner, about your current level, the better it will be for everyone.
    • I am very open and upfront about my level of riding to the owner because I want a good fit. A leaser most commonly wants a horse that is at or slightly above their riding level. The trouble is, I would venture to say an owner wants the same thing- a rider that is at or above the horse’s level. Luckily, if you are open and honest, many owners are willing to settle for the “at” category.
    • This year I had to admit defeat on a leasing situation when a horse I was riding started exhibiting behavior I wasn’t equipped to deal with. My first steps were to immediately notify the owner with a detailed description of what was going on, ask them to come watch me ride, and employ any suggestions they gave to help remedy the situation. When a few attempts at all of these steps still didn’t yield a positive result, I peacefully exited the lease. All parties are content. No harm was done, it just didn’t work out long-term when the situation changed.
    • Take lessons if you can. If the owner takes lessons, see if you can work with the same trainer.
    • If Peaches requires a lot of special care then I have “real talk” time with myself about how prepared I am to handle that care. I would like to learn more, and some situations might be great for that, but it is best to be realistic about this aspect as well.

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  • Be flexible and don’t take advantage, you’ll be handsomely rewarded.
    • If it is a paid lease, pay on time without having to be reminded.
    • If you are partial leasing and have set riding days, stick to the days but (if your schedule permits) let the owner know that you are flexible. My flexibility has been rewarded in all of my leases by the owner offering me extra rides for being willing to shift my schedule.

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  • Always leave borrowed stuff in better condition than you found it. If you are borrowing tack, brushes, etc. then they must be returned in good condition after each ride. The dressage trainer who helped organize my lease of Tyco told me the other night that T’s owner just loves me but jokingly feels the pressure now because she noticed that I even put the brushes away neatly and she never does. I didn’t intend for it to be quite so noticeable (not trying to create pressure), but I am perfectly happy knowing that the owner can see that I respect her equipment.
    • Wipe tack after rides and put away neatly
    • Keep brushes clean and put away neatly…maybe not too neatly, though 😉
    • Respect the facility: sweep barn aisles; clean up after your horse in the arena, etc.

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  • Don’t forget the horse in the equation. So much talk of benefit on “both sides” but please don’t forget the horse. This isn’t all business, be in it for the horses’ benefit too.
    • I am not a professional rider and so, for the most part, the horse is lending his expertise to me during our rides. I will make mistakes. I will confuse the horse. I may ask for too much sometimes. I may even unknowingly cause pain. I can’t guarantee that these things will never happen. What I CAN do though, is my very best to ensure that the horse is comfortable and happy in his work and I can guarantee that my intentions are always good. Even the most novice leaser can and should have the well being of the horse as one of their main goals.
    • Kindness goes a long way. I’d be willing to bet that the majority of owners looking to lease out their horse would choose a kind amateur rider over a harsh pro rider any day.
    • I know you want your money’s worth, but don’t undervalue just spending time with the horse. You will always feel like you are gaining if you can keep in mind that this is “leasing” which is a step more towards ownership. Owners are there during the ups and downs, horses get injured, sore, tired and can’t always be ridden. So if you half-lease don’t always count rides- give the horse a bath on your day or try some groundwork every now and then.

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  • BE reassurance that the owner made the right choice/that their horse is being well cared for.
    • Send the owner pictures of the horse every once in a while.
    • Email/text the owner to compliment the horse (I’m pretty sure I’d love to receive a text about “how polite Muffin stands in crossties” or “how steady Buddy was out on a new trail” especially if it is something I “installed” myself!!)
    • Help be the owner’s eyes when they aren’t there- is the horse not acting quite right? Does it seem like the barn staff is forgetting to feed or missing a supplement? Communicate. Maybe it’s nothing, but some owners would prefer to decide that themselves. Ask for help providing correct care- it’s a great opportunity to learn and also shows the owner that you care.

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  • Maintain some emotional distance. This one is a tough one. At the end of the day, Snowflake isn’t your horse.
    • I bet I push the limits here just a bit. Should you post pictures of your leased horse everywhere? Should you even take them? How often should you send the owner photos? I don’t know the answer. Every owner/situation is different, so you’ll have to adjust as you go. I think it ends up being a “good pain” scenario, like when I nannied for 3 boys one summer and one time when mom came home the three-year-old told her to go back to work because we were playing! I imagine mom was gutted by the statement but also comforted to know the boys were so happy.
    • Occasionally, lease situations turn into sales, but more than likely the day will come when you will have to thank Snowflake for everything and say goodbye.

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  • Have fun and learn all the things! What an amazing opportunity you have to become a better rider, learn how to care for a horse, compete at a higher level, try before you buy, or maybe even all of these things! Don’t take it for granted and enjoy the moment.

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Am I forgetting anything glaring, fellow leasers? What’s your take, owners? Anything you wish a leaser would (or wouldn’t) do?

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6 thoughts on “EquiNovice’s Guide to Good Horse-Leasing

  1. Nice post! You brought up a lot of things I never would have thought of. If someone was leasing Connor, I’d be inordinately tickled to receive photos and texts – usually when I get texts its a picture of him doing something naughty so…

    • Hahaha Conner?!?! Naughty?!? Noooo. I have sent the occasional “naughty” pony pic but usually just to make the owner laugh- then we can commiserate about it.

  2. I leased horses for years and did even more “catch riding” when people were on vacation, just couldn’t make it out to the barn that day, etc and once I had my own horse, I also leased him out for a summer once to help with funds. I think you hit all the great points, as well as some I hadn’t thought of. I LOVE sending the owners a quick text or photos. I think as long as you don’t go overboard, it’s so nice to know. I know when I leased my own horse out, I rarely got updates and was always wondering, “did they ride?” and “I hope he was good…” because my horse, while being usually very good, has a naughty pony (he’s a TB but he’s 15hh with shoes so I think the “bad because he’s closer to hell” saying is appropriate still) side. Also empathy and understanding is key!

    Great post.

    • There is definitely a sweet spot for amount of communication. I half lease right now and ride 3ish days a week. I probably talk to the owner once a week. Sometimes it’s scheduling, sometimes I send a pic of Tyco being cute or a video still from my ride. I think she appreciates it, but I have to actively try not to go overboard. Lol

  3. omg that picture of the cat! i am *constantly* imagining isabel saying (in a verrrrry snotty voice) ‘you’re not my real mother.’ constantly haha.

    but seriously tho – great post. i never set out to lease before my current situation kinda fell in my lap – and it’s been the most amazing experience. actually i’m not sure i’ll lease again bc i doubt i’ll ever find a situation nearly as good!

    i check in with isabel’s owner all the time – letting her know about my schedules and plans, and if there’s anything i’d like done w the horse (like supplements or feed changes). i’ve also been very open to modifying our agreement as time goes on – like which things i pay for and why. and isabel’s owner knows she can come to me at any time if she has any concerns. it’s a good thing!

  4. I love reading your blog because I went through a really rough lease and it totally soured me. I leased my previous horse out and it did not end well and I vowed to never, ever lease a horse I owned again. But through reading your blog, I’m beginning to remember that not all leasee’s are bad eggs 😀 So THANK YOU for this

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