How to Lease a Horse (Plus Pros and Cons)
What Does It Mean to Lease a Horse?
Leasing a horse means that you are paying a fee for additional riding time on the horse of your choice. Many horse owners lease their horses out to help with the expense of ownership. Sometimes owners don't have enough time to ride and they want to keep their horse exercised regularly. This can be a great option for some riders and a better one than ownership. For some, leasing can be a stepping stone towards ownership.
Financial and Time Arrangements Can Vary
Each horse owner will have their own arrangements for leasing, both in terms of financial responsibility as well as the amount of time that the leaser will be able to ride the horse.
Some horse owners lease their horses out for a set fee, and that allows the rider a certain number of days per week that they can ride the horse. This is the way I do it because my horses are used in lessons and can't be committed to a lease rider every day of the week.
In these sort of situations, like mine, the rider will pay a set fee for the lease and then have designated days of the week. In this case, there is no additional financial responsibility. You are just basically buying additional riding time on the horse for a fee, and there is no additional cost. I consider this a partial lease.
In a full lease situation, the horse is leased out and only the leaser will be riding it. This obviously would cost more money. In some cases, the cost of the full lease would just be the cost of the horse's board. In other cases, it may also include the other financial responsibility, maybe with the vet or farrier bills.
Each horse owner will have their own expectations. That is the great thing about leasing—the two parties can work out an arrangement that benefits both of them.
Does the Horse Stay or Go?
Some full-lease situations will allow the horse to move to another facility. Others would have the horse stay where it is. Again, it is all dependent on the arrangements made between the two parties.
Also, while we are on the subject of moving horses, now is the time to mention that you should make sure to find out whether or not your lease permits you to take the horse off the premises for shows and other events.
Make Sure Your Agreement Is in Writing
Even if you are leasing a familiar horse at your normal farm, it is important to have lease agreements in writing as to avoid conflict. Make sure all the details are worked out and on paper so that both parties understand what is going to happen and what their responsibilities are.
Lease Term Length Can Vary
Some people in partial lease situations lease the horse on a month-to-month basis and the lease rider makes monthly payments. In other cases, especially if the horse is being moved to a new barn, the lease may be for a whole year with payments due at the beginning of the lease. Again, this all varies between the two parties involved.
If you are leasing a horse to use for shows, you would most likely want to lease it for the whole year or lease it for a certain show season. All of these things, as well as what the payment plans will be, should be spelled out clearly in the written lease contract.
You May Need to Buy Insurance
If you will be moving the horse to a different facility, or if you will be taking it out and about a lot, the owner may want you to pay for the horse to be insured. The insurance might be for medical needs or for mortality. The cost of a policy depends on the value of the horse you are leasing, so the price can vary greatly.
Who Pays for Vet and Farrier Fees?
Make sure that you are aware of if you are responsible for vet and farrier fees. If so, can you use the vet and farrier of your choice? Or do you have to use the owner's?
Again, detailing these things in a written contract might seem a little excessive, but it is always best to have it all decided beforehand (especially if you are friends with the owner of the horse you are leasing). It would be a shame for you to lose over a friend over a little detail in a horse lease agreement.
Why Lease Instead of Buy?
People always ask me why they should lease a horse instead of buying one. In my opinion, it is a great way for riders who are considering owning a horse to experience having "their own horse." It is a good way to find out if you really have the time to put into a horse without buying one.
Leasing offers you the opportunity to ride the horse you need now. In other words, if you are still learning, you can lease a horse appropriate to your level for as long as you need to, and then move on to another when you are ready.
If you buy a beginner horse, and then outgrow its abilities, then you will have to decide if you can afford a new horse. Or have to decide to sell your first horse to buy another one. Which is a tough decision, since we all get attached to our horses.
For young riders, leasing works well because they can get practice riding on a horse they are already comfortable with. This often works out better than constantly riding new horses at strange barns, which might shake their confidence.
The Cons of Leasing a Horse
If you are planning on buying a horse in the near future, it might not make sense financially to lease since you are spending money that you could be saving to buy a horse in the future.
For new riders, riding a variety of horses is an important part of learning to be a confident rider. If they only ride one horse all the time, they are missing out on the learning opportunity of riding different horses.
I sometimes offer lease programs, where basically the leaser just buys riding time and then they get assigned whatever horse is available to them when they come on their designated day (obviously, I make sure the horses are suited to their ability level). This is a great experience, but it's not for everyone since for some, the reason they want to lease is that they want to experience what it is like to have a horse of "their own." This isn't a feeling they'll get when they ride a different horse all the time.
Depending on the lease arrangement you may be limited on when you can ride and if you can take the horse off the property, and for some riders, this would be a deal-breaker.
The Pros of Leasing a Horse
The advantage of leasing is that you get all the benefits of horse ownership without the full financial commitment. Also, you get the benefit of horse ownership without the responsibility of having to make big decisions as far as the horse's health and well being.
Leasing a horse is going to be cheaper than buying one, especially if you are doing a partial lease since you most likely won't have to be responsible for vet and farrier bills.
You still get the fun part of owning, like spending more time with the horse and getting to buy things for it—color coordinating saddle pads and polo wraps, halters, and all that fun stuff.
Leasing agreements vary, so you can hopefully work with the horse owner to set up a leasing agreement that is ideal for both parties.
Try Leasing a Horse Before You Buy
I would recommend leasing a horse to any rider before they make the decision to buy. This helps them to find out if they have the time to commit to a horse. Not to mention, especially for young riders, time with a horse without the direct instruction of a trainer or instructor all the time. This will be a good indication of it they are ready for a horse of their own and help them build confidence in the process.
Some people opt to lease instead of buy because of the fact that they basically can get the same experience without as big as a financial commitment.
It is really a situation by situation type thing. Leasing is better for some, and buying is better for others. I would recommend if you are thinking about taking the next step to more time with horses, talk to your trainer or instructor. They know your ability level and the horses in the barn that may be available. They should be able to give you a better idea of what is right for you.
Remember, leasing doesn't have to be a forever thing. Using leasing as a stepping stone to horse ownership is a great option for everyone new to the horse world. For some people, it ends up being the best solution for them long term. Consider the options, and talk to your instructor. You will have a "horse of your own" before you know it!