leasing: the struggle is… medium

The last year of leasing has been an interesting one. And, to be totally honest, when I first started thinking about this post two weeks ago, my outlook was much less positive. So far, things have pretty much worked out for me — but things could absolutely not have swung my way, and I’d almost certainly be a bit more mopey right now.

When I first started leasing, I was just looking for something to sit on. Hence, #reboundpony. I’m not the sort to just kinda plod along, plus I was getting a lot of encouragement about the weißwurst from the sidelines, so of course I immediately started working on transforming the pony into something a little more sport-pony-y. But I also thought I would probably only be leasing in the short-term, and so I wasn’t looking for anything in my lease. If that makes sense. I wasn’t trying to find a horse I could progress with, necessarily, just one to help keep me in shape. Samwell was perfect.


I am very cute, now give me cookies

Then Timer literally fell into my lap. Big, fancy, a ton of fun to ride, and opinionated as shit. After working one another out through many lessons and lots of long, romantic walks where I thought deeply about what I was doing, we really started making progress. For sure, I had to do thing on Timer’s terms, but since he was pretty knowledgeable, it wasn’t always a bad thing. I started to think about showing T  at Novice in 2020, and tentatively leveraging his athletic ability and confidence to move up to Training when we were ready. Then in October, T’s owner told me that she would be taking him back at the end of the year. He’d been going so well that she wanted to think about moving him up to Prelim in 2020, and wanted to have more personal control over his jumping schedule.

I was both devastated and completely understood her decision process and needs. If he were my horse, I wouldn’t be sharing him! After taking a minute to wallow and think about impulsively buying something for myself, I put my head to thinking about a solution to my problem. I truly became a schooled-horse convert while riding T. It was the classically simple opportunity to work on myself. And I realized that I’d do a lot more for myself and my riding and my goals to keep riding horses with a higher baseline than I have so I can more easily and effectively level up my skills.

And this is not to minimize or reduce all the lessons that my green horse, and many green horses, have taught me. But I’m not going to get better at coursing 3′-3’3″ by teaching another OTTB how to jump cross rails and trot around the ring with a bit of connection.


this is totally fun, and I want to keep doing it. but I need to develop my own skills, too!

The problem with this plan? I don’t have the money to buy something going, and I don’t have the money to pay for a lease. I was pretty much looking for a care lease of some kind. Even more specifically, a super-flexible-and-or-half-time one — because my schedule is crazy and dumb at times.

Luckily for me, there was another horse at my barn who was almost exactly what I was looking for. Harry: a former Training level horse who didn’t really like jumping Big. So I checked in with the owner and TrJ and we all thought it might work. Harry’s current leaser was backing down to a half lease, so it was a great opportunity for me to slot right in there and pick up the other days in his work week. I took a lesson on him and he was fun! Not super easy on the flat and a bit of a tricker in an oh-I’m-really-quite-poky kind of way, but enthusiastic and happy about jumping. A weird additional perk was that I would be the more knowledgeable of his two leasers, so I felt like I’d be able to really make some progress with his dressage without feeling like I was messing up what his owner had carefully tuned to herself.

speaking of carefully tuned
(now I’m just going back through all my favourite pictures)

When I got back to the barn in January though, things with Harry had changed. His other leaser wanted to up her days on him again, and a teenager moving up from a pony had been taking lessons on him on his other days. And so Harry’s work week was accounted for, and suddenly I found myself up in the air about what I would ride again.

How could I complain? I’m not going to demand that people bend their leases or lessons around my riding desires, especially when I’m not in a position to pay for what I really right now. I’m in the position of begging and being unable to choose, and I’m not the type of person to complain about how unfair that is. I mean, not endlessly anyway. I reserve the right to complain about it once or twice when feeling sorry for myself.

A tiny part of me felt butthurt that TrJ hadn’t prioritized my riding development as much as the teen’s or Harry’s leaser. But I knew logically that TrJ was absolutely not trying to leave me out with her decision. And that’s the rub with leasing, isn’t it? So much of it isn’t your decision as the leaser. You aren’t just negotiating with the horse, you’re negotiating with the owner and any other riders hopping in on the horse. Which, I’ve learned, can totally suck — like if the horse is used to being ridden *just so* by his very talented owner, it’s going to be hard for you to get the same results from him as she does because you aren’t her. Or if the kid wants to take the pony to a show on your lease day and it happens to be the only day that week you can ride and you can’t change your schedule to change that…. what you gonna do? Be a dick and smash the kid’s opportunity to take the pony out? I guess maybe. I’m just not that big of a dick though. *shrug*

remember when I could kinda ride? (wow this fence looks small. how? I’m not jumping bigger than this right now.)

Oh, and the time period before you’ve figured out how to balance and ride the new horse after coming off something you could ride pretty well and you feel like the most incompetent rider in the world? Duuuude I’ve felt it hard this year. On a pony who I totally thought was going to be a breeze to ride. On a horse whose owner makes him look so straightforward. On a horse who has packed his leaser around from her first show to being the 4th placing adult rider in her division for 2019. I couldn’t ride any of those horses satisfactorily when I first got on them.

In short, leasing kinda sucks.

But it’s also amazing! Because as much as I couldn’t ride those horses in the beginning of my lease (or the middle, at times), I gained a ton of skills from them. Both specific skills for that horse, and more generalizable skills that I could bring to other horses. I stopped being so entrained in just one way of going or balancing or weight in the reins, and learned even more about problem solving.

And luckily for me, TrJ pulled through with a fantastic new lease plan for me. So I don’t need to wallow in the frustrating things about leasing and maybe not getting my riding needs-desires met this year. It doesn’t change the fact that leasing can still absolutely be a struggle, it just skews my outlook to the positive.

Enter: Fergus. I already totally adore him.

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Made a sweet new friend this week 😍

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14 thoughts on “leasing: the struggle is… medium

  1. I thought about leasing when I retired Gem but a free lease when not a part of a barn family (have my horses at home) was looking next to impossible to find. The paid leases were as much as my entire budget to purchase so I ended up purchasing. I’m glad your trainer found you a new ride and that things are working out

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    • Absolutely! And with so many care lease situations, unless you know the horse and owner pretty well, it’s hard to know exactly what you’re getting into. I don’t think it would have been possible at all for me to find an off site care lease.

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  2. I totally feel this. I’m currently don’t have money to pay for a lease (or buy) and it can suck so much. And yeah, it sometimes feels like even the trainer sidelines you because you can’t lease or own right now. I am really happy you figured something out! Cross your fingers I can, now, too…

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  3. I hadn’t leased since early childhood until I started my current lease (full lease from another barn) and it has been an interesting adventure. After buying Maestro and having a “failed marriage” of sorts my trainer pushed me towards Ernie as a great way to rebuild my confidence and have some fun. He has done so much for me already and really opened up my eyes to the joys of riding a horse who already knows his job. I didn’t realize how much I missed that and how much it had affected my riding.
    I definitely have a lot of thinking to do about what I want when this lease is up later in the year! I’ve always been an owning type as I get so attached.
    Glad you found a good lease situation and good luck with Fergus!

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  4. Thanks for all the info! I’m about to start my very first EVER lease next week.. Just a half-lease, on a horse I’ve been riding consistently in lessons (1x weekly) for a couple years now, so not an unknown quantity. His owner and I have known each other for a while, too and she’s never been anything but positive about how I ride the horse. Thank goodness! I do feel a bit of pressure when she’s around but it’s all from me, not her. I know she took him to big-time shows before she went to college and they did well. So he knows his job, it’s up to me to get the most out of him at the (unrated, about as low-level as exists) shows we’ll be doing.

    The only thing I’m concerned about is the other lessee, or, more accurately, her mother since she’s all of six years old. I think the kid doesn’t quite know what to make of me and doesn’t really get why I can ride and show the horse, too. But the mom… well, while she has been pleasant to me she’s not been particularly friendly. (I interacted with them last year when I showed the horse a few times) If there is a situation where they want to do something with the horse at the same time as me, I know who’s going to assume she has the upper hand. I’m not a pushover but I’m also not going to make a stink. At least with actually paying half the bills I will feel on the same footing!

    So we’ll just have to see how it goes. A half-lease is ALL I can afford (and even so, not really but it’s high time), so I plan to enjoy every minute I can get!

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    • It sounds like you’ve thought about it a lot, and you probably already have a plan. I’m a huge proponent of being really transparent and communicative and planning ahead — though I understand not everyone is like that. Good luck and have a wonderful time showing this year!

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