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conditions of lease

From: Dina

Dear Jessica, horse-sense is wonderful. Thank you a million times for everything you do for "the rest of us." I think I know what you will say to part of this question, but I'm just not real sure about the other part. I am thinking about leasing a horse for the next six months from a woman who is going to have a baby soon so she won't be riding for a while. I have ridden this horse before and I like it a lot. I used to own a horse until recently when my horse died from colic, and I'm not ready to buy another one yet. But I would like to lease a horse so that I stay fit and get to spend some time at the barn. It's a nice barn and it wasn't the barn's fault that my horse died, he was old and had been getting colic more and more often. Anyway I like this gelding a lot and would like to lease him, but there is likely to be a problem with his owner. I like to ride outside, and she wants her horse ridden only indoors. She says that he is an advanced dressage horse (true) and doesn't have very good feet (true) and that working outside will be too risky for his feet and his legs. I appreciate the fact that she has put a lot of money into this horse, but I think that horses should be ridden outdoors for their own health!

She (the owner) has put these things into the lease contract right along with all the stuff about his feed and shoes and so on. I'm willing to sign it just to keep her happy, but I don't think it's realistic to expect me to ride the horse ONLY indoors! What do you think about this, isn't it wrong to make a horse work indoors all the time?

Thank you for your help, Dina

Dear Dina, you'll notice that I changed the subject line from "riding dressage horse outdoors" to "conditions of lease". That's because I feel that the real issue here is NOT whether dressage horses should be ridden outdoors, but rather, whether someone leasing a horse should have to comply with the terms of that lease.

I do believe that horses should spend as much time as possible outdoors, preferably in the company of other horses. And I also believe that horses, even dressage horses, and perhaps especially dressage horses, benefit from being ridden outdoors, in fields, on trails, etc. But this isn't really the subject of your letter. ;-)

What you are asking me is whether YOU should break the terms of a lease because YOU feel that what YOU want to do with the horse is better for it than what the horse's owner wants you to do with the horse. And my answer to that is NO. Definitely, absolutely, positively NOT.

If you can't abide by the terms of a lease, don't sign it! If you think that you can give the horse's owner a cogent argument that will cause her to change her mind and modify the terms of the lease agreement, go and talk to her now, and discuss the matter. If you convince her that you are right and that you should be allowed to ride her horse outdoors, that's great -- you'll have her blessing, and you can do what you want to do. But don't even THINK about signing a lease -- a legal document stating YOUR agreement with, and your willingness to comply with, specific conditions -- if you are planning not to live up to the terms.

Maybe this horse's owner is wrong, but maybe she isn't. You may not have all of the information about this horse, his condition, his training, and his feet. Here's an example from my own experience: I've owned a mare with heaves, who had to live outside year-round, and who could NOT be given ANY hay. All was well with her until someone at the barn "felt sorry" for her and started feeding her hay -- then she became very ill. That person meant well, but did something that she was not supposed to do, and something that was bad for the horse -- and something that she was not supposed to do BECAUSE it was bad for the horse!

Every lease has different conditions. Some horse owners insist that a particular farrier be used, or a particular saddle, or a particular bit. Some insist on a particular brand of feed, or type of hay. Some will even specify how long a bridle path you may trim on that horse, or whether you are allowed to trim the tail. There is nothing wrong with any of these conditions -- and the fact is that when you sign a lease that lists such conditions, you are agreeing to abide by them. Violating those conditions might be bad for the horse, as mentioned above. And it could easily be bad for you too -- after all, let's say that you lease this horse, ride him outdoors in spite of the lease, and he gets hurt. You'll be liable, and you'll be at fault, and once the word gets around, WHICH IT WILL, it may be hard for you to find another horse to lease.

Sometimes things happen during the course of a lease, and the terms have to be changed, at least temporarily. Arenas can collapse, stalls can flood, and sometimes a horse that is normally ridden and kept indoors has to go outside -- or vice versa! But these things should be discussed, and the horse's owner should have the final word.

Please talk things out with this horse's owner. If the two of you can't agree, then this horse is not for you. I'm sure that someone in your area would be happy to lease a horse that could be ridden outside. If you and the horse's owner can't agree, I suggest that you keep looking until you find a horse you like AND a lease agreement you can live with.


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