Once you have taken lessons for a while and can ride independently, you may begin to think about taking the next step in your equestrian journey: leasing.
Leasing is also called “loaning” depending on where in the world you are but in general both these terms describe similar arrangements.
The idea behind leasing is that it gives you a chance to develop a partnership with a specific horse without taking on the full responsibility or cost of ownership. It’s a lot like owning a horse but without a lot of the risk or long-term commitment!
Leasing is an excellent way for novice riders to develop their skills but it’s also a really good option for people whose circumstances simply don’t accommodate horse ownership very easily; for example those who expect to relocate in the future or students planning to leave for college/university.
It’s also a great way to gain more in-depth experience on a variety of horses since it doesn’t require you to make a long-term commitment to just one. For example you can lease a schoolmaster to develop yourself as a rider and later lease a less experienced horse to develop your training capabilities – all without worrying about the hassle of buying. In some cases you will be required to lease a horse to continue to progress with your riding, whether that’s in order to be allowed to attend shows or to move up the levels.
Leasing is also a really wise stepping stone towards ownership – it can help you become a lot more familiar with what ownership entails beyond simply riding, which may well be the bulk of what you’ve learned in lessons up until this point. In reality, riding is a tiny fraction of what there is to learn about horses!
Whatever your situation, leasing is a fantastic way to advance your riding and horsemanship in general.
Am I ready?
Before you decide to go ahead and lease you need to ask yourself a few simple questions. Even though leasing is nowhere near the commitment that ownership is, you’re still taking on a responsibility and having knowledgeable people around you and a certain level of experience to ensure your (and the horse’s) wellbeing is still important.
Here are a few considerations before you go ahead and start looking for a horse to lease.
What kind of lease arrangement will you be looking for? There are countless variations on leasing or loaning. Some cost more than others and some will give you more or less responsibility for the horse’s living circumstances and care. Make sure you know what you’re getting into before you go ahead with a lease and if possible put expectations down in writing (e.g. in a formal contract) so all parties involved understand what they are agreeing to.
What do you hope to get out of leasing? Having clear goals in mind will help you decide whether a lease is right for you – as well as what type of horse would be appropriate. If you want to really advance your riding and compete at a higher level, you may be after a different kind of arrangement than if you want to learn more about developing green or younger horses and improving your horsemanship and training skills as a whole.
Do you have a support network to guide you through this new experience? Depending on your lease agreement, you may be almost entirely responsible for the horse’s care. Are you confident that you’re going to be able to make decisions about nutrition, spot early warning signs of illness or behavioural problems, deal with injuries and administer first aid, and so on? Riding is really only a tiny fraction of what you need to know about if you want to look after a horse… And it’s really one of the least important parts if you think about it! A horse doesn’t have to be ridden – but getting fed and cared for is definitely a requirement!
Will you be safe? Handling horses can be dangerous. Any lease arrangement you agree to needs to be one suitable for your skill level both on and off the horse. You need to be confident that you’re going to have people around you – such as your trainer – who will be able to help you avoid taking on more than you can handle safely. Don’t bite off more than you can chew and be honest with yourself about your knowledge and experience.
One of the biggest downsides to leasing is the same aspect that makes it a wonderful option for so many: and that’s that you don’t own the horse.
You need to remember that, at some stage, you’ll have to return the horse. When the time comes, it may not matter how attached you’ve become, or how close a relationship you’ve built, or how hard you’ve worked for everything you’ve achieved.
You need to be prepared to meet the owner’s expectations and follow their rules as set out in your formal agreement. You won’t have full control over decision-making and there may be times you don’t agree with the owner’s outlook.
And even though you won’t own the horse, you have a duty and responsibility towards both the horse and the owner and you have to accept that it’s “their horse, their rules”.
With all that in mind, it’s really not surprising that many people end up buying their lease horse!
Leasing is a fantastic way to gain experience and develop your skill set but you need to make sure the experiences and skills you gain are actually useful, ‘correct’, and valuable! All experience is experience… But not all experience is good experience. So it’s really important that you have guidance – ideally from a professional – when you embark on this new chapter.
If you want to make the most out of leasing, having a discussion with your trainer about the possibility is probably the best way to get started. Your trainer can provide you with a realistic idea of where you’re at in terms of riding, general horse care and handling, so you can go into it with a clear idea of what you can take on safely or what will be just a little too much responsibility at this stage. If you’re lucky, your trainer may even have a suitable horse you can lease or be able to point you in the right direction.
A good lease arrangement can be a life-changing experience and take your horsemanship to the next level. Enjoy the ride!