Owning a horse is a very large expense that is made even more challenging if the horse will have to be stabled and boarded privately. A reasonable compromise for many riders is to lease a horse from a stable or through the owner.
The obvious advantage of this option is that you do not have to pay for the purchase of the horse nor will you be responsible for the full cost of stabling, feeding, farrier costs, training and vet bills. The downside is that you do have to pay a percentage of those costs for the duration of the lease. In addition, there can be very real differences in how a “fair” contract or written lease agreement will look to all involved.
It is also important to enter into a lease only if you fully understand the terms of the lease and can commit to the requirements. Most leases, particularly through a stable or riding academy, require the individual with the lease to participate in a percentage of the management of horse or to pay to have these issues fulfilled by an acceptable third-party.
Leasing a Horse
The share-lease is perhaps the most common for casual riders. This involves two people sharing the horse, often with the owner leasing to one other person to offset the costs of ownership. The specifics of the lease should be clearly defined, including the days and times you have access to the horse.
In addition to sharing time for riding or working with the horse, the boarding fees, feed bills and all other care for the horse is typically split equally or proportionally.
It is important to have a very complete contract with all details clearly delineated. For example, the contract should include:
- All standard costs
- Where the horse will be stabled or boarded
- How a change in stables or boarding locations will be determined
- Who will determine the professionals used in caring for the horse (vet, farrier, transport service)
- Training and competition limitations or specifications
It is imperative to have a very specific contract to avoid conflicts over how the horse can be used, how the horse will be fed and stabled and how care will be determined. In most share-lease arrangement the horse owner, which may be the stable or riding academy, will maintain decision making authority over the care and well-being of the horse. This will include feed, training and trainers as well as all veterinary and farrier services required.
It is essential also to make sure that the contract limits how many lessees can be involved at one time. Ideally, there should be no more than two people working with a horse or pony at one time. Less than reputable stables may have several people on a lease which is not only difficult to coordinate but extremely hard on the horse. Reputable stables and owners will put their horse’s well-being in front of the potential offset in costs.
The full-lease arrangement often includes the lessee fully covering the costs of the boarding, training, feeding and health of the horse during the terms of the lease. In most cases, the person leasing will have complete access to the horse as if the horse was his or her own.
Typically, the horse owner will still maintain final approval over the choice of stable, feeding requirements and may also have to approve vets, farriers and trainers. Most commonly the lessee is free to use the horse in sanctioned competitions and events without any restrictions.
The full-lease agreement is the most costly, but it is also the most like owning a horse. It is often a good idea for someone considering becoming a horse owner and wanting to get a good understanding of the full cost and commitment. Some people leasing horses may be willing to consider a lease and then the option to purchase and this may be included in the contract.
Insurance and Vet Check
Regardless of the type of lease you are considering, it will be important to have a vet complete a thorough check on the horse. This is important to protect your interests and to determine if there are any current or past health issues with the horse that could have possible implications for future health.
The vet report, signed and dated, should be discussed with the owner and any issues with the horse placed in writing in the lease agreement. This is particularly important if the horse has any pre-existing health issues that may limit your ability to ride while adding to the cost of care for the horse.
Finally, make sure to have insurance on the horse during the time you are leasing. This isn’t expensive, but it can help to offset any costs due to injury, theft or even death of the horse due to accident or health issue during the period the agreement is in effect.