The economy is taking its toll on the horse world. Soaring feed costs, rising boarding fees and the uncertainty of the job market could force you to contemplate selling your beloved horse.
First, determine the ideal match for your horse based on his level of training, his temperament and any soundness issues. For example, a teenaged horse with manageable arthritis probably wouldn’t do for a young rider who wants to gallop around the hills six days a week. But the same horse might be the perfect fit for an adult looking for a part-time trail companion.
You can market your horse for lease in varying ways: by word of mouth, in newsprint ads, by posting fliers at local tack stores and personally contacting trainers and barn managers. If you think your horse might be happy in a lesson program, visit reputable riding schools and see if they’re interested in temporarily adding a horse to their string.
Next, figure out what sort of living accommodations you want for your horse. An ideal situation would be for your horse to remain where he currently resides, where he’s used to the daily routine. Otherwise you could require that your horse be boarded at a stable under the supervision of the barn manager or resident trainer. If you allow your horse to be kept on the leasee’s private property, make sure you are comfortable with their facility. Inspect the fencing and the footing, and don’t be shy about asking for references from their veterinarian and farrier.
The final step is writing up a formal lease agreement. Make sure you spell out precisely what can and cannot be done with your horse. If it’s a hunter, can it only be jumped in lessons? If it’s a trail horse, is it allowed to be ridden over rough terrain or taken on overnight excursions? Who is permitted to haul the horse? And what will be the protocol if you want to drop by and check on your horse or perhaps go for an occasional ride? The nitty gritty aspects of a lease agreement must also include what level of care is expected. Don’t simply say that the leasee must “blanket the horse during cold weather.” Write precisely what type of blanket you mean and your definition of “cold weather.” If you want to be extra vigilant, ask that the leasee provide insurance coverage for the horse while it’s in their care. You can also split the cost of a pre-lease vet exam, so that the horse’s current state of soundness is documented. After all, when the lease eventually ends you should expect to have the horse returned in the same condition, although there has to be some room for reasonable wear and tear.
Leasing isn’t the nightmare you might envision. By doing some networking, and patiently searching for just the right rider, you can keep your horse even in these tough times.