DELIGHT IN YOUR HORSE LEASE JOURNEY – FairPlay Equines founder, Megan Gundesen, trots through why having a written horse lease agreement is a must.
There are always special reasons behind why a horse is being leased out. Perhaps the owner likes the horse so much that they want to keep it for their next child, or for when they are working less? Or they want to remain the forever home for a loved horse that needs stepping back but not completely retiring? Or perhaps the horse hasn’t sold, and the lease home could eventually transition the lessee into owning it?
Whatever the reason, the horse is precious to the owner and they will want to ensure it has the best possible care for those months or years of being leased.
Why should you care about an agreement for a leased horse?
The best possible care translates into different things for different people. The owner sometimes assumes that the things they mentioned in a casual conversation leading up to the lease were heard and agreed to by the lessee. For example, “you must never use a dutch gag”, or “you must always use a gel saddle pad”, or “you must always travel the horse on the left-hand side”.
But people do not always hear what is said, or they interpret it in their own way through their own experience lens. Much can be missed which was important to one side but overlooked by the other. So, when a horse’s care is under the microscope which happens in a lease situation, it is so important that the horse care conditions are clearly spelled out.
My awful lease experience.
Believe me when I say that leasing a horse is a wonderful thing to do. It provides a great opportunity for both the owner and the new rider (lessee) to provide the horse and rider with just what they need. I have leased several horses over the years, both out and in, and mostly it has worked beautifully. But there have been some very difficult moments too. Looking back, I can see that if there had been better clarification in the beginning, those difficult moments would have been avoided.
We leased a pony for our daughter that quickly developed a mild stifle lock. We did not know what that was back then, but she seemed quite comfortable. We immediately popped her in our very large grassy yards while we waited 3 days for the vet. The owner got wind of this and began a rumour that we were mistreating the horse. She also said that she had told us the pony should not be yarded. We had not heard that condition and if we had, we would have questioned it further. But very quickly this relationship soured, and a meeting was necessary.
Despite having a written agreement, what we had was not specific enough. Nowhere was ‘no yarding’ mentioned. My world was upended by these rumours because my level of care, I believed, was exceptional. To have ‘mistreating’ and ‘neglectful’ comments made was extremely upsetting. Having had the discussion with the owner, I wanted to end the lease immediately. Funnily enough, the owner, after hearing my explanation, wanted the lease to continue. Eventually I was persuaded to start a new, very much more detailed lease, that specified all the conditions we had fully discussed and agreed to.
The devil is in the detail.
Just so you know, there are a few things that are covered in a well written lease that you would not usually even think about. I believe its important to agree on whether the lease can end early or not. Or in other words, what does the owner need to do if they want to end the lease early? I have designed a simple process in my lease agreement to ensure the problem is made clear and a time given to rectify before any further action can be taken by an owner.
Then there is the insurance question. Is the horse to be insured for death and humane destruction or for vet cover, or not insured at all? Who is to pay for the insurance? If for death and destruction, and the lessee takes out the policy, then the net proceeds of the policy need to go back to the owner.
What happens if the owner does not want the horse back at the end of the lease or is unable to take it back because their circumstances have changed? A horse is a big deal and not always easy to move on or find a home for. It can all get quite problematic sometimes and the lease agreement needs to deal with these possibilities – as unlikely as they may be.
What about the simpler things that are sometimes not spoken about? Can the lessee hog or trim the horse’s mane? Use certain tack with it? Not jump over certain heights with it? Must use certain coaches for lessons to ensure some continuity of training? I highly recommend having this stuff sorted at the beginning.
Not sexy but the process of agreeing things in writing is about good communication and teasing out the hard stuff.
The old saying “failing to plan is planning to fail” is pertinent here. Reading through and agreeing on what will happen if things go wrong is important dialogue for people. It means the horse and its future is given the best opportunity for success.