Trainers- What do you pay for lesson horses?

Well hello everyone, Long time lurker first time poster here. I am re-vamping my lesson program at the moment and wanted to get some opinions on what a lesson horses run at a “AA” barn to attract more serious show clients. At the moment my program is pretty mid-range but I have the opportunity to lease a much better facility down the road (think almost wellington quality) and I am trying to put together a few numbers to see if it makes sense to try and go “full-service”. The competition in the area at “AA” is pretty few and far between.

So I guess my question is what does everyone else pay for their lesson horses? Is it worth getting one or two that jump a bit higher (3ft-3’6) and lease them out eventually?

If there is some magic equation I should know about please fill me in:winkgrin:

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.

What ^ said.

At the barn I used to ride at all of the horses that did the higher lessons/shows were either older guys stepping down and no longer able to compete as often or young horses the owner was bringing along.

It’s too much risk (IMHO) to have a couple of super expensive lesson horses unless they are at least half leased the majority of the time and showing very often. If the shows near you aren’t super duper competitive picking up an older been-there-done-that horse who needs to settle down, but will hop around the 3’3-3’6 soundly and happily for a few years is probably your best bet. Those guys are worth their weight in gold!

If you are interested in high end lesson horses (legit A or AA level horses) in most cases, it is more about connections than price. For the owners/trainers that have those horses but need to pass them along, knowing the people who are getting them and that they will be treated like gold is often more important than the sales price.

I only pay $3500 or less, but tend to buy young horses (7 or so) I try to lease/part lease when I can. I limit my horses to 2’6", although we sometimes jump a little bigger for fun.

If someone wants to jump bigger regularly they need to buy or lease a horse…but most of my students are nervous adults, so that isn’t really an issue!

One thing that I did, was figure out how many lessons the horse would have to do…in order to pay for itself. Long term, most people that want to progress will buy a horse. I always felt it was better to have some bombproof beginner types, that could get people hooked into riding. After they outgrow those, hopefully they are ready to purchase. I no longer have lesson horses, I got out of it so I could focus on my family. If I do get back into teaching on my own personal horses, I will charge a higher rate for safe, sane, schoolmaster types. A lesson horse that can instill confidence is priceless.

Very, very few national level A barns have lesson horses available by the hour for anything over 3’ and 2’6" is about the max for most of them. Higher then that rider need ps to lease or buy. The horses simply cannot give enough lessons at anything over 2’6 to pay for themselves and stay sound.

As mentioned, most barns at that level either use older horses stepping down within their own program or network with other trainers swapping similar horses back and forth. They really are not publically up for sale often if at all.

Sad fact is most national level A barns no longer have lesson horses at any height, too expensive any more and more money in the sales and leases-and it is a business that must turn a profit. There are still a few programs that split into a lesson program and a show string, their number is dwindling. It’s nice to develop your riders from once a weekers to AA riders but…too many never make the jump, they are priced out from the get go.