Retire or lease?

I thought my teenage jumper gelding was on the road to full recovery from his suspensory injury (about 1 year ago), but it’s not so. I need to get real. I thought there was a prayer he’d return to 2’9 or 3’, but he had another setback last week (a stifle issue). It was minor and he was trotting under tack again in a week, but…now I see that he can’t do the job I had hoped for.

He’s on a fair amount of maintenance. He gets hock injections every 6 months, daily Previcox, monthly Legend, and a feed-through joint supplement. He stays serviceably sound with this.

I believe he could do low level dressage, trail rides, and the occasional small jumps if he stays on his maintenance. He has no naughty habits, but he is a big, strong gelding. He’s not a horse for a beginner.

I have to decide whether to lease him for a low-level job, or just retire him. I have never had to make this choice before and I’m feeling really conflicted.

P.S. If I lease him out, it’d be a cheap or care lease. I would only ask that they cover his expenses, including all the maintenance mentioned.

P.P.S. Please be kind. This horse is very special to me and it’s a really emotional issue.

we just went along with the journey, as our horses aged we switched into disciplines they could do …admittedly most people can not or are not willing do so.

The only way you can ensure its well being is keep it to the end. So, retirement appears to be the answer in your case.


Do you feel like he wants to have a job and likes to work/be on a schedule, or would he be just as happy in a field? Does he live at home or with a trainer/in a boarding barn?

If you think he likes having a job, there’s no harm in asking around to see if anyone in your network would like him on a care/free lease - a dressage rider? The “not for beginner” horses who are limited to flatwork can be tricky to find a step-down job for in the H/J world because most of us want to jump.

Another idea is if there’s a reputable college in your area with an equine program that would take him on a loan basis - often they need lots of types of horses and ‘intermediate/advanced rider horse for flatwork only’ might be useful in their program.

If you think he’d like to just be chilling in a field, then maybe it’s time to retire him.

Since what you are considering now is your feelings, already decided he would be ok leased, why not try a short lease and then decide how you feel about it?
You can always let it continue, as long as you are ok with it and he is thriving, or default to retiring him if/when not.

Piggybacking on the posters above:

Is he the type of horse that thrives on work? Or the type that would prefer to be left alone in a field?

What happens if you take him off all maintenence? Can he be pasture sound with no maintenence?

Is he suitable for a pleasure/trail riding home; that is, is he pleasant to hack out and have good trail manners?

Something to consider: IME, it’s going to be difficult to find a care lease for him. The combination of all his maintenence, plus jumping restrictions, plus not beginner friendly is not an attractive lease proposition. You’d have to find just exactly the right person. For example, I spent years trying to find a care lease for my VERY beginner friendly, jumping restricted, high maintenence horse. I finally found a situation for him as a pet pony/companion pony/child’s leadline pony, but only after I gave up on the idea of him being put back in serious work by a leasor.

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This has definitely crossed my mind.

He definitely can be pasture sound without any maintenance. No question.

I’m not personally in the camp that horses want jobs. I would like him to have a job for financial reasons (i.e. I could go a while longer before starting to pay his retirement board, which aint cheap). But he’d be perfectly happy eating 24/7. That said, I do think it will be an adjustment for him. He’s the type that likes his stall. Sure, a couple hours of turnout are great, but he’s at the gate asking to come in whenever it’s too hot/cold/buggy.

Honestly, with all the (expensive) upkeep your horse needs to stay only serviceably sound, I would not go this route. College programs, no matter how great they sound, will cut corners to save money and I would also worry that it would be very easy for them to over work him.

In your shoes, I’d retire him. You’re going to have a hard time finding someone advanced enough to handle him who is ok with not jumping (or only doing baby jumps) who also wants to spend a fortune on his maintenance needs.


I agree that it is going to be hard to find a lease. You also run the risk, unless it is an onsite lease or with a person/trainer that you know and trust, that the person leasing will end up jumping him more than you want.


Since he is not naughty, a horse for flat work and maybe some cross-rails could really suit a lot of amateur re-riders who want to get back into the sport safely. I would certainly not expect a paid lease, but you might find someone who will do a free lease and cover all of his maintenance. I’d talk with your trainer about where there is anyone in house, and spread the word very locally amongst barns you know and trust only. If you don’t have anything in two months, I’d retire him.


How about a care lease where you pay for all his extra maintenance? That would still reduce your overhead, not completely but some. It would make him way more marketable as a lease-able horse.


Well, here’s the issue with that. All his maintenance costs me $330/mo. For $400/mo, I can retire him and never (well, rarely) have to worry about his well being. Too much risk for $70/month. But I appreciate the suggestion!

Right, but if he would benefit from being in work and you want something else to ride, then it works out fine.

And yikes, at $330 a month for a horse who still has restrictions at the end of it, that’s a super tough sell.

Best of luck to you, these choices are never easy.


retirement sounds like your best bet

So $330 a month plus board which could be, depending on where you are, anywhere from $500 and up. Not including vet or any unseen emergencies, you’re looking at $830 a month.
Next is farrier, at a cost of roughly $150 every 8 weeks. If you add half the cost of the farrier to the monthly total, we’re now at $905. These numbers are conservative YMMV.

Retirement is the best option here.

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I lean towards suggesting retirement as well. After reading the thread it sounds like the best option since it might be difficult to find someone willing to lease in a situation like that. Would a half lease with you and leasee splitting the cost be a viable option?

Hi Vyce, thanks for the suggestion. Since I really want to progress in my riding, a half lease probably isn’t going to do the trick. And to be honest, it’s cheaper to retire him than pay half his current expenses. The reality of the situation is becoming pretty clear. Sad, but clear.


I don’t think it’s sad at all. You’re doing what’s best for your horse, and you have the will and means to do so. Not all horses are that fortunate- some end up on a one way trip to the slaughter house after they are no longer useful.

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Thank you. I know it’s not sad for him, but it is for me. This is my heart horse of 8 years. Just the thought of buying another horse to fill his shoes makes me feel ill. It’s impossible.

I can see where that would be hard. Give yourself time to mourn the loss of that part of your partnership. He’s still there for you to love on and spend time with. (I lost my beloved heart horse when I was a kid. My grandpa’s friend owned him and after the horse was gone, he gave me the shoe Little Red threw. I still have it.) It can be hard but when you’re ready to look, you never know what equine partner you’ll find.


I completely understand. I was so wedded to the fantasy of someone taking over my older guy and doing wonderful things with him again that I was a little blinded to the reality of his lease value.

I second @vyce’s good advice about giving yourself time to grieve your lovely old guy; both what was and what could have been. (That second one is harder.) And enjoy spoiling him into retirement.