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Advice needed: Horse-leasing dilemma!

Sure thing!

Hey, I’ve got this rule, too! And even when they do, I’m always more comfortable if someone will stand with them. You’ll be shocked to know I made this rule after getting on a horse that didn’t always stand still at the mounting block.

@alar24 , this is a horse that was on stall rest and is going back to handwalking? Why’s he so excited to be out of a stall? Any horse that was dragging me around on a lead line would be having a serious come-to-Jesus moment, like, yesterday. Usually horses on stall rest who need to handwalked get a lil Ace to take the edge off.

The biggest consideration to me is if you want to bring this horse back into work. What do you get out of it? Take the advice from someone who has done this ~10 times and regretted it every time-- the second this horse is nice, the owner will want it back, or they’ll give it to someone else who will pay more for it. Do not pay to put training on someone else’s horse.


The other option with the younger horse, that is safer, take a look at Warwick Schiller’s stuff and start at the beginning. It’s about relationships and groundwork so as a starting point for you it is somewhat safer. If you play with that you may get a better handle on who he is without getting on him. There is no hurry to do so.
In the meantime, you can enjoy yourself on the older guy and develop your riding fitness.

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This is all great advice, I really appreciate it. So many good ideas! I agree with you all about the transportation costs/free labor stuff — ~slightly less worried about getting injured at the moment since I’m not planning on actually sitting on young guy anytime soon. I’m leaning towards just having fun with the old guy for the month and seeing how I feel about things then. I work too much at my corporate job to be working for free, lol!


I took on a free lease for a horse that the owner was afraid to ride. But that was back in my 20s when I was in better shape and felt immortal. I had a blast with the horse, who just needed to be in regular work and in a good program. For me it was a great adventure and the chance to work with a nice horse at a time when I couldn’t afford one. But, like I said, I was younger and the facility had an indoor and a resident trainer so I wasn’t dealing with winter weather issues.

If the younger horse was good in the hunt field and you want to continue hunting, that works in his favor. There are some horses that lose their minds out hunting (I’ve brought along three first flight hunters) and it’s a bonus to have one that loves the job and has been tested.

With your work schedule and the need to commute to a barn (I also grew up in NYC), my recommendation would be to find a place with an indoor where you can have a half lease for the winter and then revisit the younger horse in the spring.

ETA: I never resented the “sweat equity” that I put into my free lease. I had a blast riding him, learned a lot and wasn’t in the position to own so it was truly a win-win.


Thoroughbreds are smart and most will test a person the second they think they can get away with something. I’ve had to have numerous Come-to-Jesus moments with mine to remind them of their ground manners when I haven’t been able to visit them for a longer period of time and less-skilled barn employees have been handling them.

(The good thing is, if the horse was ever on the track, usually putting the chain over their nose causes an instant attitude adjustment.)

The bad thing about TBs is that by working him a lot on the lunge, or letting him trot down his energy under saddle, you’re just building up that TB stamina, which translates to ever more energy, athleticism and ability to do very surprising things under saddle.

If you proceed with this horse, I would absolutely insist on having a pro ride him the first few times, with you watching (preferably not the people who are pushing him at you). Get their honest opinion on his safety.

TBH, he sounds more like the perfect project for a gutsy junior who hasn’t learned how easy it is to break things on their body yet. :smile:


I don’t know if this was vaguely in reference to my post, apologies if it wasn’t. A free lease is different, though there is the potential heartbreak when they get pulled out from under you. Hopefully you’ve found a situation where everyone is kind and this won’t happen. What I was really trying to say was: if you lease a horse that knows more than you, you’re paying for the education and the time someone else put into that horse. It’s leasing a horse that knows substantially less than you where I start to look sideways. Why should you add value to a horse you don’t own or that you aren’t being compensated for your training AND pay for it? There’s probably ten other people who will tell you they did this and it worked out beautifully, but I’ve been soured and seen other people soured too many times.

LOL, that’s the perfect person for him — I am just old enough to know how breakable I really am! :rofl:

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I call those kids crash test dummies (and I used to be one of them!). It was a big shock when I broke my first bone coming off my horse in my late 30s! :rofl:

Yeah, I was one, too! We had horses at home, and we’re poor. A parade of rejects came through, but, boy, did they teach me how to ride! And with pretty low expectations.

Later, in my 30s, I took lessons at a barn that used me as a “test pilot” for their new horses. Much safer job than crash test dummy. :grin:

I’m not sure if I was responding to you or to the many posts over the years that recommended that people not train someone else’s horse for “free.”

In my situation, I had a free lease (actually, the woman owned a tack store and so the horse was decked out to the nines). He had very little training when I first sat on him, and in the two years or so that I rode him, he’d advanced to the point where he was winning at novice level events. In the end, she offered me the chance to buy him for a very fair price, but I was at the point in my life where I couldn’t afford my own horse. I’m sure it’s annoying when a horse gets sold out from under you, but even though I put a lot of training on that horse, he taught me a ton.


Sounds to me like you’d be taking all of the risks with none of the benefit. Owner gets free training for their horse and they don’t have to deal with horse’s rude and potentially dangerous behaviour. And, assuming your hours of work and training (and bruises) pay off, horse will increase in value, yet you won’t get any compensation if and when horse is sold


I would pass. You already have doubts. Protect your confidence at all costs. It’s hard to get back. The likelihood that this horse is well behaved under saddle with such bad ground manners is slim to none. He also bucks and if the previous rider didn’t correctly address the behavior, the horse may have learned to use it as an evasion. Go with your gut.


Go with your gut. The best advice.

As said above, lunge, lunge, lunge and do not get on until he is going around like an old school pony and is foot perfect both on the lunge and on the lead.

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If you go ahead with this, where are you going to ride in the winter??? No indoor and little turnout would be a deal breaker for me.

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It is possible to over lunge and break one. Not to mention owner may not be onboard with lunging in place of saddle time.


Yeah, this sounds more like the “privilege” of tack-walking in a hard, frozen outdoor ring all winter than riding.


Going to agree with the majority and suggest you keep looking.

Or, as said here, have a pro ride before you do.

With regard to lunging; I agree that lunging for “exercise” only results in a fitter horse and not necessarily a more manageable one. Years ago, before I ever sat on my new to me TB who had sat around for years, I did teach her to lunge. But I was careful that it wasn’t lunging for exercise as much as for listening/responding. She was smart and picked it up easily, and before each ride I would work through a few easy exercises until I knew she was responsive to my commands. Eventually it would literally be a circle or two in each direction and going from a halt-walk-trot-walk-halt, and then I felt comfortable getting on.

Even an exhausted horse can muster the strength to buck you off. So I agree that lunging and lunging isn’t going to magically result in a compliant horse. A better alternative is more turnout, if that’s an option once rehab is complete. But in the end, a fresh horse that “has a buck in him” doesn’t sound like a whole lot of fun.


I’m not sure if this is because I said lunge him lots, but my saying that was more along the lines of if she was going to get on him put him on a lunch line first and let him get the first couple “Yahoo I’m out of my stall!!” bucks and snorts out of him, and get him paying attention and listening to her and his mind in the right space as much as it can be, before she got on his back if she was still thinking about riding him. Totally agree it would just give him more muscle build to be a crazy pants for a rider if he was just lunged all the time. Sorry I didn’t clarify that very well.

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