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Advice needed: Horse-leasing dilemma!

Hi All! I am dealing with a pickle and wanted some advise from wiser horsepeople.

I am a young-ish rerider (26) in a HCOL area (Manhattan) without a car. Since 2020 I’ve gotten back into riding after a 10ish year break. When I was younger (4-14), I rode at a hunter barn, but didn’t show too much. Recently, I’ve been doing a bit of everything; twice-weekly lessons at a very nice h/j barn for a year (had to stop in May when the sale horse I was riding got sold), hunter paces, and started foxhunting this summer (first flight). I LOVE the hunter paces and foxhunting. Plus, I can afford it – unlike the board at the h/j barn, which was double what I pay in rent. This summer, in between day-leases for foxhunting + paces, I’ve been trying to find a new barn where I can lease something – this is quite a dilemma when you don’t own a car.

I finally found a contender, and it’s definitely not perfect – a small trail-riding barn, a little run-down, no indoor, not a huge amount of turnout. But the care seems good, and it’s easily accessible from the train, and I can actually afford it and get out there even with my demanding job. The barn owner is really nice, a former GP rider, who has offered to let me bring back into work/a free lease for her youngish thoroughbred gelding while half-leasing her old hunt horse. The young horse is gorgeous, big, athletic – and he knows it. Last fall his previous leaser went to college, then he spent a season foxhunting (apparently he did great and loved it, and I could go hunting with them whenever when he’s back in work). But he hasn’t been in work now for 10 months or so. I pulled him out of his stall this past weekend for the first time to handwalk around the arena – he dragged me around the whole time. He was clearly just pumped to be out, but definitely forgot I was there a few times. My groundwork training skills are rusty, so I’m planning to work with a trainer sometime this week to see if some professional guidance will help. BO also told me that he could buck with the previous leaser – but she just “tried to pull his head up, and didn’t push him through it.” Obviously, no clue what the truth is there. The old hunt horse is happy to plod around the arena with me and is quite excited to be doing something other than walk-trot – but honestly, he’s 28, and I’m not gonna push him to do a ton.

My worries re: the young horse are that I’m not that young anymore, and I don’t bounce. I haven’t sat a big, back-cracking buck since before my break, although the sale horse I was riding was a big, high-strung warmblood who had a bit of a spook. But not the same thing! The young horse can be pushy, definitely thinks he’s hot stuff, and can be a bit nippy (clearly in an exploratory, playful way – no mean intent). I haven’t ever brought a horse back into work before. The trainer thinks that we’d be great together – I’m a quiet rider, and apparently the previous one was not. But I might not be able to make it out very often (probably approx. 3 days a week). I don’t know if that’s enough for a horse with his athleticism.

My question is: is it worth it to try and bring this boy back into work? It might turn out really well; I could find a great foxhunting, hunterpacing partner. But I might also get overhorsed! What if I mess him up? Would I be better off plodding around on the old guy? I don’t want to buy right now (to find a happy medium) when I don’t have a car, and couldn’t move facilities easily if needed. Would I be better off going back to twice-monthly day-leases to foxhunt/pace?

Sorry for the block of text, and thank you to everyone who leaves advice!

Hard to answer without knowing and observing your skills and the horse.

I would say that most horses do better with adequate free run time to burn off the wiggles and zoomies. Can you do attended turnout free longe with him on a regular basis before you even try longeing or groundwork?

Is anyone else working with him? Is he just standing in a stall? Can the trainer get him out to longe?

  1. Chain over nose while leading, pushing and dragging is never ok. Never… if he is that high strung, wear a helmet too.
  2. Lunge him, lunge him, lunge him.
  3. Nippy is NOT playful, mouthy is NOT exploratorily OR acceptable, especially getting away with it at a ridable age. That is how people get hurt, think ponies always trying to nip a pocket for a corrot and all of a sudden someones child has a huge bite bruise on their butt… My body, my tack, my buckets, lead line, etc…are not and will never be chew toys! Sounds like he needs a firm hand and some manners instilled.

I am sure loads of ppl will reply on here before I get off work and continue my opinion on this one, but no, I would not be riding the younger one anytime soon. Ride the oldy, get muscle memory and strength built up. Get your confidence back, it honestly sounds like the owner doesn’t want to ride their pushy disrespectful youngster and is taking advantage of your enthusiasm to get back in the saddle.

What does “youngish” mean…how old is this gelding?


If you are not comfortable with this, don’t get pressured into doing it. I have learned some things over the years and am, apparently, not a horrible rider. On a trained horse I look like I know what I am doing. So instructors like to think I can ride their less-than-fully-trained horses – this should be a win-win, right? I gain skills, horse gets better? But that is not what I’m there for. I am there to slowly and safely and boringly work on my own basics.

I broke my rule about never getting on a horse that will not stand still at the mounting block earlier this year. It did not end well.

Make sure you define and stick to your limits whatever those are.


What is meant by a “free lease” in the proposed arrangement? Would you be shouldering all the horse’s expenses from month to month? Or “free” as in getting to ride the horse for free, in exchange for putting miles on him?

Even in the latter instance, remember that nothing is ever “free” in the sense you’re putting time and sweat equity into the horse! And the trainer might be good, but obviously may have an interest in getting someone to work the horse.

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Thank you all! I appreciate it. Obviously a lot of unknowns here, which makes it tough. I’m certainly not planning on riding the young one soon at all (I believe he’s 8 or 9). I wouldn’t be getting on him till I was very confident he was “back to work” mentally and physically – I bet that would take a while. Attended turnout sounds like a good idea – but obviously not sure how much my being out just 3 days a week will help with that! I was quite displeased with his ground manners.

And yes, it’s the latter – and definitely agreed! I wonder how much I’ll be getting out of this – part of the problem! Certainly don’t want to make a fun sport into something not fun at all.

No one else is working with him. Basically just standing in a stall or in his little paddock. Not sure if the trainer can get him out to lunge – she comes in, isn’t part of the barn.

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Wait so did she even own this horse or is she trying to get you to do her work for her? I’m not trying to be pessimistic just kind of what it sounds like. Second that nothing is free especially if it is a hospital bill for you or the horse gets hurt while you are riding it and they expect you to pay the bill. Even worse if this horse is not owned by them and the owner has no idea that this trainer is letting someone else that is not contractually allowed to ride their horse.

I’m not trying to judge your riding skills at all God knows I have no room to talk I have not actually rode in years even though I still have a couple horses at home. It just sounds like there might be a lot of legal variables involved let alone safety issues and none of us on here want to see you get taken advantage of or hurt.


The barn owner owns the horse and offered the free lease – trainer just gave her opinion. I tend towards cautiousness, so definitely hear you on the hospital bills – part of the reason I’m wary! I’ve been leaning towards just sticking with the old horse/ possibly going back to just doing the day-leases twice a month, but wanted to see if I was being overly pessimistic

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Hmm. There is often a reason an otherwise quality horse isn’t being ridden. Either he had a career altering injury, or he caused a career altering injury to a human. Someone got hurt and is now scared of this horse is my bet. Doesn’t mean he’s a bad horse but he’s done something to make his owner not want to ride him.


He apparently pulled out half his hoof at the end of hunt season last year – hence the time stalled and on rest. The owner has a fused spine, and apparently can’t bring “something so athletic” back into work… but so many excuses! Feels a bit weird to me, but I haven’t dealt with something like this before, so wanted some advice :pray:

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I was thinking the same thing. There is a reason why this horse has been sitting around for 10 months.


As the OP pointed out, this could be a total win-win situation or a disaster waiting to happen.

Here’s what I would do in your situation. First of all, be super clear with the BO about what “free lease” means. There are a lot of different possibilities about which expenses you might be expected to take on, and you want to know that up-front.

Second, buy yourself an eventing vest and then wear it while working with the young horse, even on the ground at first. Along with your helmet. It won’t protect you from everything but it will certainly help, particularly as you’re getting the horse back into work and figuring out if you click with him.

Third, ask the BO about doing a short-term lease initially. Like 3 to 4 months. Then, if it doesn’t work out, there’s no long-term commitment and both parties can walk away.

Fourth, see if you can work with the trainer more frequently every week, at least for the first several weeks. Having a professional in the ring/arena with you can make a big difference.

Fifth, deal with the ground manners. Horses at the track typically have to behave when being led, so be assertive with him. (Not mean, just assertive). Put the chain over his nose if you need to lead him–just make sure you keep slack on the line unless he starts to walk off or lose attention. Also, clicker training works really well for ground manners training.

So, I’d go for it, but with a plan in place.


Everything @Posting_Trot said and

  1. Get everything in writing. At the end of the day word of mouth means nothing when it comes to bills or heaven forbid court. Have a lease drawn up that explicitly says what you are financially responsible for especially concerning any injury and/or vet bills when it comes to the horse. Do not be afraid of being assertive, asking questions, and saying NO if you are not comfortable with any of it!!!

Of course jingles and good luck!


If it feels weird to you, listen to your gut. Might be a reason this barn is priced below market.

BTW, theres all kinds of GPs out there and all kinds of riders in them. The fact this trainer is a former GP rider means next to nothing nothing on her resume as an effective trainer/instructor for an out of condition Adult rerider.

Be careful, theres some yellow flags here.


I hate to be the debbie downer, and of course, not knowing you and your skills…

But, you’ve been back to riding, occasionally, after a 10 year break that started when you were roughly 14? Horse has been laid up for 10 months, mostly on stall rest and minimal turnout. You’re in the City (me too!), and we are heading into spooky season (fall) then freezing cold zoomie season (winter)… and no indoor.

So, to me it sounds like you are brave (fox hunting first flight), but a bit inexperienced, and you are considering bringing an athletic, somewhat hot horse back into work during a time or year that even the broke to death ones can be a bit much. (ETA: with a schedule that only allows you 3 days/week, nobody else riding the horse and no indoor… so you will be beholden not just to your schedule, but the weather.)

I would pass. And I have more experience than you do. I’ve only ever brought horses back into work during the summer, and even that was a challenge. I’m dreading winter on my very broke, but somewhat hot, horse myself. And it’s our fourth winter together, and she gets adequate turnout.

It could turn out well, but it could turn out terribly. If the owner is a former GP rider, they should have contacts to bring this horse back into work safely.

(FWIW, I rode until I was 20/21, showed extensively, have owned 8 horses and leased others, took a 17 year break and have been back at it since 2019, riding multiple other horses in addition to my own 5-6 days a week, and I would pass.)


My .02-worth take: the OP sounds very smart, brave, and sensible. I am less worried about her getting hurt (not that can’t happen to the very best of riders, but again, just my gut) than I am about ending up with paying the transportation costs and time to do lots of lunging, retraining in ground manners, walking, and flat work on a potentially difficult horse. (The horse does have a buck in him, and while you may be able to ride it, again defensive riding isn’t always fun or even educational riding for you.)

All this when you could be riding a more broke horse during that same time. It seems like the trainer, owner, and barn owner all gets more out of the arrangement than the OP. They will get a more mannerly and broke horse (even on the ground, that’s a big plus for them to deal with) who is getting his ya-yas out in winter with something to keep him busy. But I think you might be better off finding something you can get on and have fun with.


If you decide not to pursue this opportunity, I will add that there are some more affordable options outside the City. It’s not all “double your rent” prices.

Depending on what you are looking to spend, my barn might be or might not be a fit. It is more geared towards people who are ready to step up to half or full lease (or owning) in a program… but it is geared towards working professionals, is quite affordable by local standards, and most of us live in the City. People often ride share. It’s a great group of adult ammies, most of whom are reriders.

We do have one lesson horse, but it’s not a lesson barn…: and trainer doesn’t overwork the horse, so lessons are based on availability. OP, if that sounds interesting, feel free to PM me!


If your little voice is saying you are getting over-horsed, listen to it.
Remember, “if in doubt, don’t” keeps us on the safe end of things.

Wonderful horse that maybe, but let someone else be test pilot, preferably a professional horse test pilot.
I was one of those and saw way too many people get hurt trying to be one without the time in the saddle and skills that takes.

You are right, unless you are riding many horses a day, riding fresh athletic horses that already come with a warning they can buck is not what you need to be doing, not a good idea, even if you carry your rabbit’s foot in your pocket. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:


Thanks so much everybody, this is all great advice!! Erinmei, I’ll definitely reach out to you. I’m certainly no professional, and want to have a good time and have a happy horse under me most of all. Winter is definitely a big consideration — honestly, wasn’t even really thinking about sitting on the horse till spring — if ever! It’s such a win-win/disaster, and I prefer a dependable middle-of-the-road solution normally, lol!

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Would you mind pming me? I can’t quite figure out how to message you with the private profile!

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