The first time I leased out my mare, I found the absolute ideal person as my lessee. She was a young lady in her mid 20's, finishing up nursing school and she had moved to Colorado from back east. She had grown up riding competitively but had to leave her own horse back at her parents' home. She wanted to ride in my barn's arena a couple times a week, paid her fee on time every time, had tons of experience and her own tack, and had NO drama to bring to the table. I was so spoiled!
The second time, it didn't go quite so well. I was pregnant with my first child and during my sixth month injured my tailbone (not on the horse, by the way). Since I could no longer ride for at least a few months, I wanted to make sure the mare got her necessary exercise. I was duped into leasing to a man who claimed he had a lot of show experience. He probably did, but he also had a lot of horse drama experience and got so full of himself he tried to move my mare to another barn without my approval. He bought tons of equine items without consulting me first, then wanted to subtract their costs from our lease agreement. I received at least a couple emails from him every day for two months, usually with a new demand or complaint. It was a ton of emotional stress on a soon-to-be new mom who just wanted someone to come out and ride a couple days a week. The lease barely lasted three months. In the end I learned a lot about who I am looking for when I lease out my horse.....and who I am NOT.
Please understand, I am not sharing these stories to vent my complaints or to "school" a potential lessee. I share them to open everyone who may be new to horse leasing to the very real possibility of a happy arrangement, or not so happy one. Each are equally possible. That is why it is IMPERATIVE that you do as much due diligence as you can before you sign your name on a lease's dotted line.
From this point forward, I am writing this post from the viewpoint of the lessee (you who are looking for a horse and may want to consider leasing before you buy) so that you might learn something new you perhaps were not considering. Remember, these are just IFs...possibilities...and IF you do the work to ask the right questions of a potential lessor or seller you can work to negotiate an arrangement that is best for your situation.
So, below is my bullet list of the good and bad (and perhaps ugly) of leasing. Read on.....
LEASING - PROS:
- Obviously, the biggest pro of leasing over buying is out-of-pocket costs. Besides your initial layout for the horse purchase, you can save around $400/month over owning and boarding if you get a part-time lease (2-3 days per week) for $250/month.
- You get a built in "try before you buy" option. Since you are not buying the horse, you are not burdened with the possibility of buyer's remorse should you find the experience either isn't what you expected or not as enjoyable as you thought (or your six year old daughter suddenly decides she wants to take dance lessons instead of riding lessons!). You can and should negotiate any lease as a month-to-month arrangement that allows you to cancel the lease with a 30-day notice.
- If you live in an area with quite a few larger boarding barns nearby, your lease options may be pretty extensive. Professional barns tend to offer their lesson horses as leases year-round since these horses need to be exercised daily to keep them in top lesson form. Larger barns could have 6 to 10 horses at all different experience levels to choose from. In contrast, if you want to buy a horse you may be limited by how far you are willing to travel to find the right horse for you, and since you should ALWAYS do a "test-drive" on any horse purchase (at least a two week trial period, during which you should have a vet do a general health & soundness check) that could limit your options even more to only the animals available locally.
LEASING - CONS:
- IT'S NOT YOUR HORSE. I have heard/read stories about lessees enjoying their horse one week, and the next the horse is no longer available and the owner didn't give them a chance to say goodbye. If you have bonded with an animal that can be a pretty tough situation. Now that example is extreme, but even I had one lessee, when we were moving out of state, who I tried to give every opportunity to say goodbye and have some "alone" time. She still had a hard time letting go.
- Most leases limit the time you can ride by the day(s). Be prepared to fit into the lessor's planned schedule, especially if it is a horse at a lesson barn. You may only be able to ride on Wednesdays and Fridays between 4pm & 7pm. My lease is more open-ended, allowing the lessee to ride any day during the week. Then again, I require a rider with much more experience since my horses are not "lesson" horses or necessarily "kid broke".
- IT'S NOT YOUR HORSE.
- The lessor will probably have some specific training requirements to follow, especially if this is your first horse. Expect to be required to take riding lessons from the lessor's selected trainer at least once a month. In truth, if this is your first experience with horse ownership/leasing then you would be pretty crazy not to want lessons. This probably should be viewed not so much a con as a realistic expectation.
- You are limited to the tack the owner makes available. If your rider is a child, the owner may not have the appropriate size gear. You may have to invest some money into tack that is sized both for your rider and the horse (saddle, or gear that adjusts any saddle to a child). If you decide horses aren't for you be prepared to either eat these costs or sell/consign this gear online or at a local tack shop. The good news is high-quality riding gear in good condition has a high resale value, is usually in demand & typically easy to sell.
- If the horse gets injured while under your care you may be held liable for vet costs. If your lease doesn't require you to buy insurance you may be out some big money. Just buy the insurance. It's usually around $200-$500 a year (depending on the value of the horse) and is soooo worth it!
- You may get along great with the horse, but find the owner is another story. Ask lots of questions before you sign a lease agreement, and don't let emotions get the better of you when looking at or riding the horse. If you have any reservations working with the person/barn, don't sign. It's just not worth the headache, and you will find another horse that you love just as much.
- Did I mention IT'S NOT YOUR HORSE? Sorry to beat a dead ....uh ......horse but this is your biggest consideration, especially if you are considering leasing for your child. You WILL bond with this animal and most likely you WILL at some point have to say goodbye. Be emotionally prepared, and help your child to do the same (which is expecting a whole lot if this is a young child....).
I certainly hope this list helps you decide whether or not leasing is right for you! This is by no means an exhaustive list of what ifs.....I really just tried to hit the basics and big deals. If you have any further questions PLEASE do not hesitate to comment below, and I will be happy to answer them for you!
If after reading this post in my 3-part series you have decided to give leasing a try, please stay tuned for the last post in the series. Next, I will guide you with a "to do" list to help you foray into a successful lease! Thanks for reading and stay tuned......
~ Keep calm & ride on, Denise