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Leasing our horse

From: Jonna

Jessica, Found your newsletter only a month ago and along with everyone else have really enjoyed reading all of the advice. And now I have a question for you. My riding instructor has asked us if we would consider leasing one of our mares to her. My instructor has mainly been instructing students in English and dressage. We live in a small town, she only has a few horses (Shire crosses that she uses for dressage) so we use our own horses for our lessons.

The reason she said she would like to lease our mare is to take her to some Quarter Horse shows and possibly some reining events to promote herself as a Western instructor also. A little back ground on our mare. She has wonderful bloodlines and is a very athletic mare. She is also hot.... We have had some problems with her bucking and we have not had the time to work with her on this. My husband has been totally against selling this mare but we have had so much going on the last year with moving that we haven't had time to work with her.

I trust my instructor and feel this would be an ideal situation for all of us. But I know nothing about leasing agreements. Does she pay us? Who pays for what? Who has final say on issues concerning the horse?

Since becoming involved with horses again 5 years ago we have run into some untrustworthy people and have been on the raw end of the deal. So this time I am trying to find out as much as I can before we make a decision.

Any help you could provide would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks Jonna

Hi Jonna! I'm glad you're enjoying HORSE-SENSE. This is an interesting situation, and you are wise to want to get information and advice before you make a committment. I can't tell you what to do, but I'll give you suggestions about things to think about and sources of information.

My first questions would be about your instructor: how well do you know her, her qualifications, her experience, her habits, and her methods? Is she sensible and safety-oriented (a requirement that all riders wear helmets and safe footgear is a good basic indication of a safety orientation)? I'm assuming that she is a kind person and a good instructor, or you wouldn't even be considering this sort of a lease. ;-) But it's always useful to find out as much as you can. Is she a certified instructor? If not, is she working toward certification or planning to certify? I realize that there are many good instructors who are NOT certified, but in the case of someone who is trying to build her business, any objective proof of professionalism can be very useful. You might suggest to her that she could become certified with an organization such as the ARICP (Amerian Riding Instructor Certification Program). This would allow her to use this information in her advertising. As more and more riders are becoming aware of the importance of finding a certified instructor, this could be a real asset to your instructor's career.

If you are happy with her personality, her ethics, her qualifications and her experience, if you find that her students are good riders and take good care of their horses, and that her horses are sound, healthy, and cheerful, and if you personally have found her to be a good instructor and a good trainer, then this lease might work out well for you. If you have any doubts about any of the above, you might want to think again.

A lease agreement is a legal agreement. To minimize misunderstandings, your agreement should be as complete and detailed as possible. Don't assume ANYTHING -- whether the question is who pays for the insurance or how long the mare's bridle path can be, WRITE IT DOWN. All expectations, all responsibilities, all financial arrangements, actual or potential, should be put in writing. EVERY item you put in writing NOW is an item that won't cause an argument later.

Vet care (routine, emergency, show-related), travel expenses, shoeing (ordinary or special), feed and supplements, management and maintenance (where the mare will live and what she will eat), grooming, turnout, number of shows or show days per month -- all of these subjects can cause problems later if you don't discuss and list them in the very beginning of your lease arrangement.

Your lease can be long- or short-term, renewable if both parties are happy with it, but be sure that you have an "out" clause, so that either party can terminate the arrangement with, say, two weeks notice.

The specific financial arrangements will be up to you. You'll need to sit down with your instructor and discuss what you both have in mind, and agree on something you both feel is fair. Under the circumstances, I would think that your costs would be no more than those you would incur in any case as the mare's owner, while your instructor would absorb the show-related costs: entries, travel, any related shoeing and shots, etc. That way, YOU would pay what you would pay to keep your mare in any case; your instructor would pay what she would pay to show a horse of her own. You can work out the details in any way you choose, but both parties should feel that they are getting something worthwhile out of the arrangement.

Any lease has risks, but if both parties are honest and open with each other and take the time and trouble to create a detailed leasing arrangement, the risks can be minimized. If the lease is detailed and clear, and you keep the communication lines open at all times, you'll have a much better chance of making this work.

What I get from your letter is this:

This seems like a mutually beneficial situation. ;-)

There are books that discuss legal matters and books that offer sample leases -- two of the most useful ones (you will probably want to own these, not just borrow them from the library) are Julie Fershtman's "Equine Law and Horse-Sense" and Sue Ellen Marder's "Legal Forms, Contracts, and Advice".

You may want to consult with your insurance agent about any liability issues and additional coverage that you -- or your instructor! -- may need in this situation. You might also want to consult a lawyer specializing in equine matters - Julie Fershtman or someone recommended by her would be a good choice.

There are untrustworthy people in every walk of life, but there are also kind, generous, trustworthy people out there! If your instructor is one of them, then she will be just as interested as you are in coming to a mutually agreeable and beneficial arrangement. You are wise to be cautious, but I think you can find a way to do what you want to do. From what you've told me, it sounds as though this could be a good arrangement for you and your instructor and your mare.

Good luck, and let me know how it works out for you.


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