If you've been taking lessons for a while, you may be thinking about how nice it would be to have a horse of your very own. But sometimes becoming a horse owner isn't as easy as you hope it will be. You might not have the money — a horse can cost a lot, you know! Or your parents might not be sure that you are going to stick with riding. What if they buy you a horse and you suddenly decide that you'd rather be a soccer star? There are lots of reasons why horse ownership might not be right for you at the moment. But, have you ever thought about leasing a horse?
Leasing is like renting a horse. He belongs to someone else, but you look after him and ride him. Often an owner doesn't have enough time to ride her horse, or for some reason she can't ride him herself. She might have outgrown him or bought another horse. She doesn't want to sell her furry friend, but she does want to make sure he is well cared for. That's where you come in!
You agree to look after the horse for a set period of time, but the horse still belongs to the owner. You will probably be responsible for paying for a portion — or all — of his feed, board, and shoeing, and possibly vet fees, too.
There are many different kinds of leasing. You may lease from a private owner or your trainer. If you pay the entire board, you'll have the horse to yourself all of the time. If you pay half, you'll get to ride the horse only certain days of the week. The owner may ride him on the other days.
Your trainer may want to lease a lesson horse to you because he's too frisky for her other students, but you may get along with him just dandy. Or your trainer may have too many horses to ride herself and would like you to take care of one for her. Then money you pay for the lease may include regular lesson with your trainer.
Do not lease a horse without getting a contract from the owner. A contract tells you what you can do with the horse, and what things you'll have to pay for. It should also tell you who is responsible for the horse if he gets sick or goes lame. Things can go wrong, and you don't want to be stuck with a horse you can't ride. Your parents must look at a contract carefully before they sign it. Do not lease a horse unless the following questions are answered in the contract:
Where will the horse be kept?
Are you the only person looking after and riding the horse?
How many times a week are you able to ride the horse?
Does the horse come with tack and fittings, such as boots and blankets?
What can you do with the horse? Can you jump him or take him on trail rides? Can you take him to shows?
Who is responsible for routine health maintenance, such as working and vaccinations? Who pays vet bills in an emergency?
What happens if the horse is injured and you cannot ride him anymore?
Is the horse insured?
Can you get out of the lease if the horse is unsuitable for you? Don't get stuck paying for a naughty horse that you can't control.
How long will the lease last?
For a sample contract, look in The Horse Illustrated Guide to Buying a Horse, Bowtie Press. Call 1-888-PETBOOK to find out where you can buy this helpful guide.
Sharing a Horse
Sometimes sharing a horse with another person is a good idea. Ask your instructor if she knows of someone who would like to share a horse. The horse's board, feed, vet and showing bills are split between the two partners.
Before you think about sharing a horse, you must sit down with your potential partner and discuss your riding schedules. A horse shouldn't be ridden too much, and you should ride him on different days. It's best if each partner gets three days a week. The extra day can be a rest day for your horse.
Sharing a horse can get tricky, especially if something goes wrong, for example, the horse gets sick or injured. You and your partner may disagree about important things, such as how much to feed the horse or whether he will wear a blanket or not.
You have to be willing to compromise, and realize that you might not get to ride as often as you would like.