Riddle me the benefits of a lease vs purchase?

Hi all!

I’m starting to look at moving up from my half lease into something with more commitment - either purchasing something or finding a full lease. I originally was not open to a full lease but with the way the market is trending, not having long term responsibility in an equine is a little more appealing especially for a first venture into more of that involvement.

Long story short what do you all feel are the benefits of a, say, year long lease versus purchasing something? The first thing that comes to mind is less long term risk in a lease, but also money and training and potentially tack invested that you can’t get back once the horse gets sent back at the end of the year. Also I do not see a lot of lease options come up, especially off site, but plenty of sale horses flying off the shelves right now.

Would love to hear what the COTH hive thinks.

Times where leases have been beneficial for me and my friends: when I knew I had a big life change coming up and an end date was beneficial, when I wanted to move up and ride something that had experience at that level that I couldn’t afford to buy, when someone wanted to spend a year showing something really nice and hitting the big indoor shows, and when coming back from injury and needing something safe as a stepping stone horse.

If I was just looking to continue as I am, I probably wouldn’t pay to do yearly leases. In my experience at that point you’d be better off purchasing at 100% purchase cost rather than paying multiple 30-50% over time. However, with this current market/inflation/looming disaster, I could see taking on a lease as the cost premium of being able to get out if things go horrible wrong. I did have one lease that came up lame, owner took him back early b/c she wanted her vets on the case. So there is a plus side. But I would make sure that any situational issues are spelled out clearly in the contract.

Thank you! That is great insight.

Part of why I am leaning towards purchase is that I don’t really have any large or specific competition goals. I’d love to go hop around at some local events but I don’t have any particular goals that I feel like I’d need a specific type of horse to help me accomplish them - the only things on my list are safety and fun. But again, aforementioned impending market doom also gives me pause on the purchase idea. It just gives me some peace of mind to talk through this with others who have the knowledge and experience to really know what I am getting into with either option.

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I had two care leases last year, when I was trying to decide what to do with my TB that had severe kissing spines.

Con - the pony I really loved got taken back after 6 months, because her owner was moving from FL to PA.

Pro - the hony that I couldn’t take anywhere because he bolted (from my hand and with me in the tack) was able to go back to his family. He was a cool horse at home, but ultimately I was so glad he had a safe place to go back to.

I tried horse shopping for more than 6 months, but the market was absolutely insane and I couldn’t find anything I could both ride and afford - everything super green was 15-20k and it was just ridiculous - I also could hardly get the chance to sit on horses before they were selling, often off video. Multiple of the horses I sat on were not as advertised and I was glad I didn’t resort to buying off video, though I was tempted just due to the market.

Thank goodness I had the original pony offered back to me, and she’s mine now :slight_smile: . And my TB went for surgery and I’m hopeful he will make a full recovery :crossed_fingers:

Good luck, OP! It’s a tough market out there, either way.


First, my experience was in the eventing world, not hunter/jumper. and involved “free leases” (take over all the expenses, but no “lease fee”), and were not associated with a particular barn.

After I lost my own horse to septic arthritis I wanted to ride again, but I wasn’t ready to start horse shopping. I leased a (14h 3") Anglo x Arab x Trak from my vet. He was rehabbing from a suspensory injury, and needed slow consistent work. Once he was fully sound I competed him for several years (at Training) while I did start horse shopping. When I sent him back the owner had a sound horse, with a competitive record he hadn’t had before. We both benefitted.

I also (somewhat overlapping) leased two green horses from the same owner, (one with 10 rides under saddle, one with 2) . Again, she got back horse that were better than they started, and I got the advantage of learning a lot of lessons about training a green horse.

The advantages of leasing are:
If you need one horse now, but know you are going to need a different horse in a couple of years, you can just send the lease horseback, you don’t have to go through the sales process.
If the horse loses value wile you are leasing (age, injury, behavior) you don’t take the loss when selling.
If the horse doesn’t work for you, you can just send it back, you don’t need to go through the sales process.

The disadvantages of leasing:
If you get really attached, it can be hard to let the horse go back to the owner
The owner may decide to end the lease even if you want to continue.
There is the potential of disagreement between the leaser and the owner about the care, treatment, and activities of the horse

Some people say it is a disadvantage that you don’t get to profit from an increase in the horse’ value(that you contributed to) , but, based on my later experience buying green horses and selling them a few years later when they were trained, this is not a significant issue.

ETA that my experience is that lease horses largely pass by word of mouth.

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If you want to do higher level competing then you can do an expensive lease that’s 30 per cent of estimated value of horse.

But at lower levels, at least where I live, the 2 options are half lease, where you stay in owners barn and cover half the expenses. Or free lease, where someone lends you a horse that’s surplus to their requirements and you treat it as your own, but can return it.

There is no real downside to that! Of course you have to find a good enough horse. Sometimes girls off to college want to find a home for their junior horse without actually selling him and losing track of him, and don’t want him in a lesson program. Those are fantastic horses for a little low level jumping. Or you might find an older horse that’s mostly been trail riding but has some latent ability.

There’s no downside to a free lease until the owner wants them back but often they don’t.

I don’t think that’s still a current rule of thumb - people said that for years, but in reality these days you see even higher percentages of a sales price. Or it has little to do with the sales price, and people just pick a round number.

To the OP, the best and most cost efficient lease opportunities are found in barn or through word of mouth. If you really have to go out into the trainer market to find one, lease prices are going to be 5 figures, and not even really the lowest of five figures. A friend got quoted $25k and up for a year on a crossrail to 2’6 horse, I was offered a $30k lease for 6 months on a jumper (I kind of thought my trainer was kidding, but she was not, although she agreed it was ridiculous!), so the open market is hard. That said, the benefits are you aren’t responsible for the horse long term, and if your needs will change in a year or so, you won’t have to sell and then buy another one. So, whether leasing is right for you depends in part on your needs now vs. in a year or two, what your lease and purchase budget are (and what it leaves you for after the year is up, if you lease), and whether there are any in barn or friendly inexpensive situations vs. having to go out on the open market. Good luck!




My current horse is a lease. She has a very kind temperament and I’m learning to have more advanced riding skills, so I think she was worth the price. I’m very happy with what I got off of a video.

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I mean I think this applies to purchasing too–having a trainer who’s connected (or you yourself being connected) makes so many more opportunities available. Especially in this market–lots of horses aren’t even making it to the public market, they’re selling in barn or in network before they even get listed. Or sellers are sometimes willing to let a horse go for a lower price/more negotiable conditions to know where they’re going/keep track of them. It’s so crazy!

I think it totally depends on your financial situation, what your riding goals are, and your current partner and long term aspirations with that partner.

For me, i view leasing as a more attractive option because of the risk factor. I am just not in a financial situation to retire a horse I purchase if something goes catastrophically wrong (for now!) so a lease works best for me because it is temporary. If you are financially able to support that horse for the rest of his life, then buying can be a great, rewarding option!

I also consider my riding goals and if this horse is a long term fit: will I have the ability to do the things I want to do with this partner both now and down the road? Sometimes, a lease is a good fit to get you to your “now” goals and a different horse is a better option for the “for then” goals. If the answer is no, leasing for a year or two before buying a different partner may give you the stepping stone you need.

I did a low priced full lease on a horse and ended up buying her. I get attached.

IMO, half leases are cost wise the best for getting a decent amount of riding time with minimal expenses. And often they can lead to full leases.

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Yes, sometimes when you lease a horse you fall in love and end up buying,
Sometimes buying is cheaper in that case.

Leasing is great if you’re looking for a BTDT type for a short period or you’re looking for an older type that you don’t want to have to retire in a few years.

For most other situations I’m not a huge fan. Yes, it’s great to not have to deal with injuries. But if your horse breaks 6 months into a year lease you don’t get your money back and the owner is not required to take it back (typically). If you’re planning on leasing for more than 2 or 3 years the cost just isn’t worth the risk you’re saving.

Let’s say you could buy a horse for 50k or lease for 20k a year. 2 years into leasing this horse (40k) he starts stopping so you don’t sign again. Sure, that was easy! But you’re out 40k. You could have bought the horse for 50k, turned it into a stopper, tried vet work, then sent it away on consignment board, sold for a huge decrease at 25k, paid commissions and still have lost less than 40k. Same story with an injury. Of course, if the horse needs to be retired that’s a different story.


I think it depends on where you’re at in your riding, what you’re hoping to accomplish, and what opportunities you’re seeing out there for sale or lease.

IMO, at least in theory, a lease pushes you to focus on your own development, where owning pushes you to focus on the horse’s development. So as a lessee (lessor? Idk, horse-leasing person), you want to ask, “is this horse making me a better rider? Am I meeting my goals?” And as an owner, you end up asking yourself questions that are more like, “Am I making this horse better?” You don’t may not get to focus on yourself quite as much. Obviously it’s not as bad if you don’t have a baby green horse, but even then as an owner, you just have more at stake in maintaining and advancing the horse’s education. Pushing yourself at the risk of setting back your horse’s confidence is a lot more of a deterrent.


Tell us a little bit about your want list. You said “the only things on my list are safety and fun.” But that’s not necessarily true, because you stated that you want to attend local shows and jump around. So do you want a specific size, specific breed (are you open to TBs, quarter horses, appaloosas, and such?), specific age range, relatively clean PPE, etc? Does it need a good change? Does it need show miles?

In today’s market, if you are picky on some of these things, costs skyrocket. Because literally everybody wants safe and fun. Once you start to really clarify your criteria, it can turn out that purchase is just too dang expensive.

On the other hand, if you’re not super picky about these things, here’s my take. If you plan to keep the horse three years or more, purchase is usually the financially smart choice. If you see yourself moving on to a different ride within three years, then lease.

One last point: lots of folks think that buying is a better investment. But let me tell you, buying is more like gambling than investing. If the horse becomes terminally ill or injured (think EDM, Wobbler’s, ringbone, etc) then it is your responsibility for the rest of its life. A friend of mine is dealing with a chronically lame 6 year old. She has some very hard choices to make. So if you plan to purchase, you need to mentally prepare yourself for all that can come with it.


IMO theres flaw in the argument that if you lease you never get back the money you put into the horse at the end or if it gets hurt and goes back early. If you buy there may be an opportunity to recoup purchase price and training but its just an possible opportunity, not a given.

Also, if the lease horse gets hurt, you do have an exit plan as opposed to the owned horse that racks up the board bills healthy or unrideable in perpetuity. If you board and can only keep one horse? Give that some thought with todays costs.


Thank you all for the insightful comments! Definitely food for thought, and I appreciate all of the perspectives.

@AmmyHunter if you heard a thunk, that was the sound of my jaw hitting the floor😱those are some nuts prices!

Originally I was not really considering a full lease but with the input I’ve received here, and what I read in other threads, it may be something I look into more. I don’t really have any lofty competitive goals or need that fancy horse that I could never afford to buy, but that risk factor is what’s really giving me pause. Knowing that market prices on everything is only going to go up before they it goes down, I think it would give me a lot of peace of mind to be in a lease situation versus committing to buying something.

I enjoy my half lease for now, but I know I will be looking for more ride time soon and a full lease is something I might more seriously consider now.

@blondewithchrome , I’m totally on the same page with you about the financial aspect. Catastrophic injury and/or early retirement is a very real possibility and a lease is appealing in that it gives you a safety net against those kind of things.

Also, I might add that I am a bit of a worrywart (see my anxious ammie thread, lol), especially when it comes to money things. I want to make sure I always set myself up to be in a safe place financially. I fear buying something, especially now when everyone is predicting things to only get more expensive, could potentially give me a lot of extra heartache and stress and it would definitely get to me. I would not want the stress of money to take all the joy out of horses and riding for me.

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If you have a 16 year old kid that wants to do the big eq, or you want to learn the ropes in the jumper ring, lease. When you’re done, you hand the horse back and don’t have to worry about selling or maintaining it.
A good, true equitation horse is a gem, and very expensive to buy. With the lease being (typically) 1/3 of the insured value of the horse, you can get a much better horse for less money, and not worry about what to do with it once your kid goes off to college.
A good, school master jumper (or hunter, frankly) is the same, and likely to be a little older and will require more maintenance. Learn how to ride on the leased ( or even share boarded) horse, then buy the horse you really want, if your an adult

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Please keep in mind, that in a full lease you would probably be required to carry full major medical and mortality insurance with the owner as the named insured. The risk is all on them.

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