Moving from just riding lesson ponies to buying your own horse may not be the best option. But, adding one or two steps in between those two can be more beneficial for both you and any horse involved. Lease horses are perfect for those that are ready and eager to ride more than once or twice a week without the expense of actually owning your own horse.
I started leasing a horse 3 years after I started riding. The barn I was riding at offered lessons and I rode twice a week for a while until it was agreed that I could lease a horse that was deemed suitable. Very few horses were available for lease in my area but, I did manage to find one that seemed relativity what I wanted. Well she wasn’t what I wanted but here I am today, loving this horse more than anything in the whole world. She’s become my heart horse and I’ve never been so proud of anything in my life. Not only that, but I have also learned a ton from leasing a horse.
The start off, it’s great not having to feed every morning and every night. I leave feeding up to my mare’s owner unless it’s been previously arranged that I feed. Second, you get the feel for riding a horse that most likely isn’t a school horse. You get a totally different ambience for riding one horse and watching that horse improve. It’s an irreplaceable feeling if I do say so myself. Riding finds a whole new purpose with a horse that feels like your own. Lastly, you don’t carry the whole expense of the horses up keep. You pay what has been arranged and everything (tack, feed, etc.) is provided for you in most situations. You may even be able to work out trailering to shows, lessons, etc. with the lessor. Typically if someone is leasing their horse out, they want to horse to used and cherished. So, they may not have an issue trailering, just keep in mind that they may charge you a small fee depending on how far away the show or lesson is. Comprehensively, consider all of your options before you or your parents buy a first horse. A half or full lease may not be your ideal situation but at least you’re testing out the waters before jumping right in. Now, of course when you do find a horse that has been deem suitable there is lots to look at and consider.
First, you must take a bite of reality and evaluate your riding. What are you doing? If it’s cross rails and two point in canter, then find a horse that could move you up but one that is still safe. Or even consider putting off leasing and continue riding lesson horses until your riding becomes more solid. If your consistently jumping verticals that are a good, substantial height, find a horse that has schooled higher than you have so then they can take you through the motions of advancing with out to much fuss. As another alternative (if you and your trainer feel you’re ready) lease a green horse that needs to be brought along to assist in honing and refining your training skills.
Second, when you find a horse and try it out, there are a few major things to look at. One being feet. If the horses feet are cracked and chipped ask the owner about it. See when the horse gets it’s feet done, how long between shoeing/trimmings, etc. A horses feet need to look nice and be well kept if they are going to be consistently worked. Two, body condition and weight. Ask about and evaluate the horses current weight, what the horse is being fed, the supplements they’re getting, etc. Become familiar with the horse even before getting to know them personally.
Third, this comes when it’s time to ride. Always ask the horses owner to ride the horse first. Have them give you a good show case of how the horse moves, acts, etc. Does the horse move on steady, light contact or are they leaning into the bridle? Evaluate everything you could possibly evaluate. After said owner has show cased the horse, it’s your turn. Mount up and do very basic things. Walk, trot, and canter on both reins and ask for some bend, things like that are important to appraise. Another point to consider is does the horse feel sound. If they feel like they’re dragging a leg or limping, ask the owner if they have seen a chiropractor or a vet lately and dismount immediately, in case there is further issue. In my case, it was just that my mare needed front shoes, so it very well could be something as small as that.
In the end, leasing a horse will always be a fantastic semi-permanent experience for anyone that is looking to expand their riding ability in a situation with a little bit more freedom. You learn so many valuable lessons and appreciate creating a bond with your ‘own’ horse a million times more.