My barn is not a national level barn, but we are competitive at the A and AA shows in our region. With the exception of two adorable but not fancy ponies we bought for under $1k, all of our school horses are former show horses that needed to step down and were either given to us for a dollar or free leased to us for as long as they’re useful. We have:
-a 1.40m jumper who just couldn’t stay sound at that height and was sent to us by a HUGE AA barn that we are friendly with (he does 3’/3’3" lessons now)
-a former High Performance Hunter who was not enjoying living life on the circuit as a children’s hunter but is happy to putz around the 2’6"/2’ lessons (sent to us by the former trainer at our barn who moved on to another state)
-two fancy but older pre-adult/pre-children’s hunters who continue to do the W/T - 2’6" but need a little TLC and the former owners no longer ride
-a great former Ch/Ad jumper who is a seeing eye dog and loves doing crossrails to 2’9" (but he did get to do the .90m at a recent show!)
-a nice large pony who did the rated division for years and was leased out to two of our riders, but is now 25 and not so fancy, so he does everything from W/T to 2’6"
-BO’s old high performance hunter who was sold as a children’s hunter, had a bad high suspensory injury, took two years off, then given back to the barn. He does 2’-2’9", but he’s not used a lot as a normal school horse. He mostly gets half-leased out.
We are known in our state for our great school horses and the lovely home BO provides for them. We recently put out a call for school horse types and got about 10 serious responses looking to unload a nice horse. Use your contacts – there are plenty of horses who have reached the end of their monetary value as show horses, but have LOTS of years left at the 2’6" level. A lot of the time, people just want to stop paying for board on those types when they’re ready to move up.
ETA: All of our school horses are available to half lease, which is how our trainer gets people to move from once-a-week lessoner to horse owner and show client. One flat fee for 2/3 lessons a week and a hack once a month, plus use of the horse at all shows and clinics. No vet or farrier bills. Once the rider is ready to move up to the 3’, they generally move on to a full lease or purchase.