Budgeting Riding Tips

Horse Leasing 101: How to Make It a Win-Win

Girl on a horse
Written by Natalie Gasper

Owning isn’t the only option

Leasing a horse is a great way to get a sense of owning a horse. The best candidates for leasing are intermediate-level and above riders who are looking to take a step up from weekly lessons. Looking for a beginner’s guide to leasing a horse? Read on!

First, decide what type of lease you want (partial, half, or full) and how many days you want to ride. Work with a trainer to set riding goals and find a horse that is suitable for your skill level. Make sure to ride the horse before committing to a lease and always get a contract in writing. Don’t be afraid to try multiple horses, as the right fit can make all the difference. Know what you can afford and stick within your budget.

Feature photo: Sisters Horsing Around

Leasing a Horse: The Basics

Leasing a horse is a huge commitment in terms of both money and time. It’s important to consider your expectations and what you can spend before starting the process.

Always consider working with a trainer to find a horse that’s a good fit for your current skill level and riding goals.

What to Know Before Leasing a Horse

Leasing a horse can be anything from riding twice a week to six days a week. You may be sharing a lease with another rider (which means coordinating schedules) or have a full lease, where you’re reasonable for all of the horse’s care and expenses.

Be clear how many days a week you want to ride, what you can afford, and what you’d like to do (trail riding, showing, more butt-in-saddle time, etc.).

Riding lesson

Photo Cred: Canva

How long should you ride before leasing a horse?

It’s best to be in a lesson program (1 day/week) for at least one year before considering leasing. You should be comfortable at the walk, trot, and canter, and be able to ride alone.

Not sure if you’re ready? Ask your trainer. They’ll know your capabilities and may be able to recommend a good horse.

Leasing a Horse: The Expenses

Leasing a horse can get expensive quickly, so go into any arrangement with eyes wide open.

While you avoid the upfront cost of purchasing a horse, you’ll be sharing or fully responsible for board and maintenance expenses (like vet care and the farrier).

How much does it cost to lease a horse?

This amount can vary widely. A partial lease (two days a week) could be as little as $150 a month, whereas a full lease could easily be $1,000 or more.

Horse and woman

Photo Cred: Canva

Full Lease vs. Half Lease

While there are many different types and lengths of leases, a full lease and a half lease are the two main variations.

With a half lease, you typically ride the horse 3 days a week (many owners require one ride to be a lesson). Another rider will have the horse for the other 3 days.

With a full lease, you’ll get either 5 or 6 days of riding each week (again, many owners may require a weekly lesson). You won’t have to share with anyone else and can usually take the horse off-property and to shows.

What do you pay for when you lease a horse?

You can typically expect to pay anywhere from half to all of a horse’s board. You may also share in vet and farrier fees.

If you do a full lease, the owner may require you to invest in horse insurance.

Who’s Responsible for What?

The terms of a lease can vary greatly. Here are a few areas that you may be responsible for.

Expense Lease Expense Owner Expense
Lessons Typically yes, sometimes included if leasing a trainer’s horse. Typically not–this is a leasee expense
Tack/Apparel Most owners allow you to use their tack. You’ll need to buy your own apparel. Nope–leasee expense
Equine Insurance Some horses may already be covered under the owner’s insurance policy. Don’t be surprised if the owner requires you to purchase it with a full lease. Owners may or may not opt to have their horse insured. 
Board Depending on the terms of your lease, you may be paying anywhere from half to all. Varies; in the end, the owner is on the hook for board but will charge part or all to the leasee.
Farrier Depends on lease type. If partial, probably not. If full, you’ll either be fully responsible or will split this cost with the owner. This is generally an owner expense. They may pass part (or all) on to the leasee.
Vet Bills Depends on the lease type. If partial or half, typically on the owner. If full, either fully on you or shared with owner. This is generally an owner expense. They may pass part (or all) on to the lease.

Leasing vs Buying

You may be wondering about the difference between leasing a horse and buying one. Consider the pros and cons of both approaches.

Leasing Pros:

  • More riding time
  • Great way to improve your skills faster
  • Gives you a sense of what ownership is like
  • Can be a part-time commitment

Leasing Cons:

  • You may have to share with another rider
  • Insurance (if required) can be expensive
  • May have limited off-property privileges

Buying Pros:

  • Complete control of the horse
  • Can ride whenever you want
  • Can keep the horse wherever you want
  • Don’t have to take lessons

Buying Cons:

  • Cost (of purchase and monthly care) can be prohibitive for many riders
  • Requires near-daily care and riding
  • Fully responsible for all costs (boarding and vet-wise)

Photo Cred: Canva

Lease Contracts

Always, always, always get a contract when you lease! It protects both you and the owner and lays out what you can and can’t do with the horse.

What should be included in a lease contract?

Here are a few things all lease contracts should include:

  • The type of lease (riding, showing, breeding, etc.)
  • The length of the lease (month-to-month, six months, one year, etc.)
  • The cost
  • Who is responsible for what costs (board, vet, farrier, etc.)
  • How many days a week the leasee has access to the horse
  • If lessons are required
  • If the horse can be taken off-property
  • Who can terminate the lease and when

How to Negotiate a Horse Lease

Negotiations are an essential (if not slightly uncomfortable) aspect of leasing a horse. Be friendly and flexible, but don’t be afraid to ask for what you want.

Know in which areas you can be flexible (like monthly cost, or whether lessons are required) and in which areas you’re firm (like days of riding, and if you’re allowed to show).

Similar to buying a horse, finding the right horse and arrangement can take time. It’s worth it to find the best fit.

Riders on horses

Photo Cred: Ebony Horsewoman

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Can beginners lease horses?

While anyone can lease a horse, intermediate riders and above may get the most benefit from it.

Beginners should start with lessons under the watchful eye of a professional trainer.

Q: How much does it cost to lease vs. buy?

You don’t have the upfront cost of buying a horse, but expect to spend anywhere from half to all of the horse’s monthly costs.

Q: Can you lease-to-own a horse?

Absolutely! This can be a great way to make sure you and a horse are the right fit before fully committing to ownership. A period of 6 to 12 months is typical for this arrangement.

Q: What is an off-site lease?

An off-site lease, sometimes referred to as a care lease, can mean a couple of things. If it’s a care lease, this means you don’t pay the owner anything and cover all costs at a boarding facility of your choosing (the owner usually approves it, however).

If it’s a full lease with the option to board off-site, then you’ll be paying for all boarding costs plus paying something to the owner monthly or yearly (this is more common for show leases).

Q: How much should I lease my horse out for?

This depends on a couple of factors, like your horse’s age, experience level, and temperament.

Leases can be anywhere from $200 a month to $1,000 a month. If you’re doing a partial or half-lease, a good starting point is half of the monthly board.

Horses in silhouette

Photo Cred: Canva

Parting Thoughts

Leasing is a fantastic way to dip your toe into horse ownership while getting to spend more time in the saddle. When leasing, there’s no such thing as over-communicating with the owner.

Use your time leasing to try out ownership and see if it’s the right path for you. If nothing else, leasing a horse can be a fun and rewarding experience.

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About the author


Natalie Gasper

Nancy loves retraining off the track Thoroughbreds and working with her dogs!