Care Leasing, Or How To Ease Back Into Riding, Guest Post

Care Leasing, Or How To Ease Back Into Riding
By E.B. Hickman

Dakota. Photo by E.B. Hickman

First, from a mental perspective, I never thought I ‘wasn’t’ a horse person. But I had slipped into a person that lives in a house near the city, works full-time, doesn’t own a horse (and last owned one in 1986), and last rode regularly in 1990. There’s nothing wrong with that, and for years I would take lessons here and there and ride with my lovely and very generous friends.

When I finally felt like ‘I had enough money to buy ‘a really good horse,’ I used that money for a down payment on a house as a single person when I was 30. I’m careful. Responsible. But never thought I was ‘really out of it.’

Having a supportive best friend with a farm, plus a daughter (my goddaughter) who also rides, was life-changing. They were in the loop in the horse world. They knew people.

My goddaughter, the lovely and talented Cey Johnson – it’s Welsh and pronounced “Ki” for those who are wondering – had a friend with two horses. The friend wasn’t showing one. She was in college a half-state away. Her family was just paying to board the horse.

Who was that horse? A 18-year old, handsome bay Appendix-bred quarter horse named Dakota. He was 15.2 hands high with a star. Impeccable manners, calm jumper, smart. He had played polo as a youngster, worked cattle, and been a child’s show horse for years. He had a sweet face and the solid temper I needed. And my best friend said, ‘why don’t you care lease him?’

A care lease is just that – you pay for care only, and pay nothing to the owner. The owner keeps ownership, control, and suddenly has no bills to pay to maintain their horse. The person care-leasing a horse has a horse “for free,” and has to cover care – farrier, vet, feed, board…the regular things. Terms are agreed to in a written lease.

It’s a wonderful idea, and has worked well.

If you’re interested in exploring a care lease, below are some tips (not to be construed as legal advice – ALWAYS consider asking an attorney to review any contracts you sign – it’s well-worth a 30-minute consult, and ask friends, your trainer, the owner of a barn where you ride, for input):

* Leases should be in writing and list the Lessor and Lessee’s full names, be signed and dated by both parties, have a beginning and end date of the lease term, and the full name and description of the horse and where it lives.

* Include renewal terms and cancellation terms – can either party cancel the agreement in 30 days with written notice? This may be sensible if someone suddenly had to deal with a family illness, financial downturn, or a job change – both parties may want to be able to get out of the contract. Same with renewal terms – can you renew for another year? When? Spell out when that renewal can be signed.

* Include ground rules where the horse lives. The owner may want you to keep the horse where it currently boards.

* Include ground rules for the horse’s activities. Can you take it to a foxhunt as a guest? Can you ship it out-of-state for a competition? Can you show the horse? As an owner do you want to prevent activities, like barrel racing competitions or amateur horse races? It’s good to list what you plan to do: trail ride, lessons, hunting, occasional shows, etc.

*Talk about and include the hard stuff. Who pays for a cremation or a burial if the horse dies when it’s under your care?

*Illness – include requirements to communicate with the owner in the event of illness or injury. Spell out who will pay for vet care – both routine and emergency, one or the other?

*Details. The owner of the horse I leased wanted me to continue using his regular farrier – no problem. It was in the lease. Same with his regular vet in order to continue keeping in-force an insurance policy. Again, no problem – in the lease.

Happy riding!

Update: I’m now a horse owner! After two years, I’m very thankful to report Dakota’s owner recently decided to sell, with the express condition (in the contract) that she has the first right to purchase if I ever have to sell him.

Reader, I bought him. Photo by Megan Johnson.

3 thoughts on “Care Leasing, Or How To Ease Back Into Riding, Guest Post

  1. Care leases can be a real win-win. I did that early on in my riding life. The trick is to make sure you thrash out any potential issues — what happens if the horse is injured, or sick, or develops behavioral problems — in advance and in writing. And, of course, you choose someone who treats your horse the way you would. My last partial lease ended when the woman leasing my horse had a crash when she was jumping unsupervised (not allowed), the horse needed stitches, and my saddle was damaged. On the flip side, I had a woman who part-leased my other horse for three years and was perfect. She always treated my horse kindly and professionally and he loved having her ride him.

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