questions to ask when leasing a horse

Questions to Ask When Leasing a Horse

Questions to Ask When Leasing a Horse

So you want to lease a horse?  Leasing a horse is a great way to get started in horses.  It Is also a great way to try a new horse before you transition into ownership.  There are a few really important questions to ask when leasing a horse.

As a barn owner/operator I see a lot of leases and agreements for horses.  When I first started out in this business I didn’t realize all that went into horse ownership.  I had only heard of leasing in small amounts.  As the years have gone on I have seen many leases.  I have also see the good and the bad and I wanted to take a minute to give you some information that you should consider before entering into a lease agreement.

First things first

The first thing for a person that is entering a lease should ask the owner of the horse is why the owner is leasing the horse.  Horse leasing is a really great thing and depending on a number of factors can be a great fit for the person leasing the horse and the owner.  It is critical, however, that the leasee get a really good sense of why the horse owner is leasing their horse.

Here is a list of good reasons…

  • I am having a baby and need some time off
  • My financial situation has changed and I don’t want to sell the horse yet and need to share some of the costs with an appropriate leasee
  • I want to keep my horse at the barn where it is at now, but we are going to be living abroad for a short period of time
  • My horse needs more exercise than I am able to give it right now because of the season of life and I want to get some help with that

I have seen many misunderstandings because the owner was assuming one thing and the person leasing the horse was thinking something else.  Make sure you are clear about all of the details.

What will you be using the leased horse for?

The first thing that you need to consider and communicate very clearly with the owner is the intended use of the horse.  It is extremely important that both people understand what the leasee’s intention is when it comes to riding the horse.  Here is a list of questions that need to be answered when it comes to using the horse

  • Are you looking to show the horse?
  • What height are you jumping at? and what is the max height for the horse?
  • Are you taking lessons on the horse?  And who is the trainer?
  • Are you barrel racing?
  • Are you going to be transporting the horse in a trailer to shows, and/or other competitions or clinics?
  • How often will you be riding or hacking?
  • Are there specific rules at the barn the horse is boarded at that need to be communicated?
  • What disciplines are you going to be riding the horse in?
  • What age is the horse and what type of riding, competing and training can it do based on that age?

As you can see it is very very important that everyone understands what it is that the horse will be doing.  You do not want any assumptions so it is really critical that you get everything out on the table up front.

Some horses are only physically able to jump certain heights, some horses can only be ridden 3 times a week, and some barns don’t allow hacking while a lesson is happening…so it is important to get all of that information sorted out.

What will the percentage breakdown be between you and the owner when it comes to costs associated with the horse?

Secondly, When you decide to enter into a lease agreement with an owner it is really important that you establish what percentage you are responsible for and what percentage the owner is responsible for.  Typically a lease will be a half lease or a full lease.  In the case of a half lease, you are responsible for half of the cost associated with the horse, and the owner (or sometimes another half lease person) will pay the other half.

In the case of a full lease, you are responsible for the full cost associated with the horse.  However, even with a full lease, it is important to know if there are any other costs that the owner will cover in the case of an emergency or unexpected event.

What costs are inside the lease and what costs are outside the lease?

Most horse leases have certain items that are inside the lease and certain items that are outside the lease.  For example, typically the cost of boarding a horse at its boarding facility is inside the lease and the cost of major vet bills are outside the lease.  What this means for you as the leaser is that you will pay for board at the percentage that you have agreed to with the owner and not be responsible for any of the items that are outside the lease itself.

There are other items like worming and vaccinations that happen on a schedule that may fall inside the life of the lease and others that may fall outside the lease.  It is important to know what is what.  Typically worming is done every three months.  Sometimes the barn takes care of it and bills the owner, and other times it is the responsibility of the person leasing the horse to take care of it.  Regular things like worming and shots are important things to discuss before entering into the lease.

Not all Leases are the Same

Not all leases are the same.  Some owners are more hands-on and want to still be a part of the horse’s life.  The want regular updates from you on how things are going.  Other owners are leasing a horse because they have had a change in lifestyle and need a break or have other commitments to attend to.  You need to know what kind of owner you are dealing with so you don’t have any surprises.

It is really really important as the person that is leasing the horse that you get a really clear understanding of what you are paying for and what you are not paying for.  You also need to know about future costs as well and if those will be a part of the lease.

For example, if during your lease the horse that you are leasing requires supplements, or ongoing medical treatment, or a new blanket or new shoes it is really important that you know who is responsible for those costs.

So leases are also structured as a way to generate revenue for the owner of the horse if the horse itself is of a certain quality and competitive level.  For instance, someone who wants to show in the summer at spruce meadows needs a horse that can jump, and depending on the class that the person is entering it needs to be able to jump specific levels.  Horses that are more advanced my not only require the leasee to pay for the horse’s board but to also pay the owner a monthly fee to ride the horse in competitions.  In this instance, it is also important to discuss what happens with the winnings.

What is the length of the lease and when will it be re-negotiated?

Typically a lease for a horse is similar to renting an apartment in that it has a life cycle.  It is important that you know how long it is so that you are ready for resigning or renegotiating.  Typically a lease is 6 months or 1 year in length and can be terminated with 30 days notice.

What ongoing things are the responsibility of the leasee?

There are a couple of regular items that need to be discussed.

  1. Shoes.  Will the horse have shoes or not have shoes?  Just back shoes, just front shoes or all four?  Who is going to pay for the shoes and who is the Ferrier?
  2. Worming.  Horses are generally wormed every three months.  They usually follow a schedule with the other horses in the barn.
    1. It is important to get a history of worming that has been done so you know what to do moving forward. It will also be a critical thing when it comes to the weight of the horse. As you are tracking the weight you will know if worming in working or not.
  3. Vaccinations.  Again the barn will have the schedule but who pays for it needs to be agreed upon
  4. Feed.  Many horses get supplements on top of their normal hay.  Is the leasee allowed to introduce new supplements and who is paying for the ongoing grains and supplements?
  5. Tack.  Does the horse have tack that the owner would like used on a regular basis?  Does the leasee’s tack fit the horse?
  6. Vet.  Who pays for the vet expenses?
  7. Massage and chiro.  Many horses get massage and chiropractic work done.  Will the owner require that to continue?

Leasing a horse can be an extremely beneficial partnership for both the horse owner and for the leasee.  It is considered a contract and requires both sides to do their part.  Before you enter an agreement of this kind it is very important to do your due diligence.  You need to make sure everything is as you expect it to be.

You can get a lawyer to look at the paperwork before you sign it.  Just to make sure everything is as it should be.  I always recommend a one month trial period.   This is so that everyone is comfortable with everything before committing long term.

The biggest thing is that you make sure you understand what you are responsible for each month financially.  It is also important to know what to do in the case of an emergency.

Questions to Ask When Leasing a Horse