Leasing: Have You Considered It?


By Christina Westfall, USDF Sales and Marketing Coordinator

I have leased horses since the start of my junior year of high school. With both horses that I own having been retired for quite some time, I still wanted the opportunity to ride and learn, but without the commitment of owning another horse. Throughout the years, I have been lucky enough to learn from a multitude of wonderful horses, who have all taught me very different lessons. Whether it was learning how to ride with a soft hand, or competing at my first USDF-recognized dressage competition, each horse has been an invaluable part of my riding journey. With the option of leasing, I have been able to achieve my goals, without the financial burden of owning a third horse. In addition to being cost effective, leasing has provided me the opportunity to continue growing and learning, as a rider and a horsewoman, and I highly recommend looking into leasing opportunities to anyone who may not be in a position to purchase a horse!

The Typical Lease 

There are many ways a lease agreement can work. For a care or “free” lease, the rider takes on the financial responsibility of the horse’s upkeep; this can include board, farrier work, vet care, and more. A paid lease includes paying a “lease fee” on top of regular upkeep expenses. There are several variations of both lease options and can be specified in a lease contract. 

Here are two sample lease agreements provided by the University of Wisconsin and Colorado State University, but keep in mind, all lease agreements and situations are unique, so it is recommended that lessee’s ensure that they fully understand all aspects of the lease prior to entering into any agreement.

Partial vs. Full Lease 

A partial lease can come in several different forms, but it essentially means that the rider would have limited access to the leased horse based on a schedule outlined as part of the lease agreement. A full lease grants the lessee full and unlimited access to the leased horse, in accordance with specifications outlined in the lease agreement. Competition and travel off property are options that must be determined between the lessor and lessee, and should always be included as part of the lease agreement.

Perks of Leasing  

Leasing is a great opportunity to get a taste of the responsibility of owning a horse, providing the perks of horse ‘ownership’ without the financial burden.

For those looking to further their abilities and progress in their competitive aspirations, leasing can provide the opportunity to learn and achieve goals on several different mounts, as they master the various stages of training..

Advice to Potential Lessees 

Have a comprehensive lease agreement that outlines the specifics of each of the areas mentioned here. It is also recommended to work with someone familiar with lease agreements who can educate and advocate for you throughout the process. A proper lease agreement protects both rider and owner, and provides a clear picture of each parties roles and expectations as related to the lease, as well as the horse itself.  

Where to Look  

First, ask the experts! Facility managers and trainers are a prime resource to help identify lease options that best fit your needs and skill levels. There are also many websites where lessors can advertise their horses for lease, but as with anything online, make sure to do your due diligence in researching not only the lease options, but also the platform itself. If choosing to utilize online options, it is recommended to identify verified platforms from people or vendors you trust. 

Another great resource is your local equestrian community. Reach out to your local GMO, or join local equestrian clubs on social media to become a part of the network of local equine enthusiasts to share information and gain more of an insight of what exactly is available in your area, as far as leases and beyond.  

Leased Horses & USDF 

In order to record a lease with USDF, a notarized Lease Recording Form along with the $35 lease recording fee must be submitted to USDF. If the horse is not already registered with USDF, this fee would be in addition to any horse registration fees incurred, dependent upon the chosen horse registration option (USDF Lifetime Horse Recording or Horse Identification Number). The effective date of the lease will be the date all necessary paperwork and fees are received by USDF. For the duration of the lease, the lessee will be recognized as “owner” for all USDF membership requirements and for USDF championships and awards purposes. A few important key points regarding leases on file with USDF:

  • Horses must be exhibited in the name of the current USDF owner or lessee of record, and therefore, if a lease is on file with USDF, the horse must be exhibited in the ownership of the lessee.
  • USDF does not accept agent signatures.
  • USDF allows minors to be the recorded owner or lessee of USDF registered horses.

For full details on the USDF lease recording process, and how it works within championships and awards structures, view the full Lease Recording Form document, or contact horseregistration@usdf.org

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