To Lease Or to Buy?

We loved the recent discussion on the Facebook Plaid Horse Adult Amateur Lounge about owning vs. leasing—and what you wish you knew before buying a horse. Here’s a sample of the insightful comments…

Don’t get distracted by all the flashy upgrades, keep focused on what you need. Too many people buy way more horse than they can handle because they get lost in the potential and their wants.
—Brigid Dobbs Williams

I bought my first horse almost 2 years ago after leasing and being a working student for manyyyy years. I have zero regrets. I love owning so much more. My only advice is to take advice from lots of people, but in the end follow your heart.
—Brianna Adams

Just don’t settle. If you have a trainer helping you that’s great, and their experience really matters! But trust your own gut too. Like anything else you are buying there is always another horse. It’s ok to do a PPE and decide it’s not the right horse for you too. Easy to get caught up in loving a horse you try!
—Christine Craig

Leasing is brilliant. You’re not stuck with paying for a horse to retire but you pay for that privilege.

—Dina Mazzola

I think having a really good understanding of what your goals are—do you plan to resell the horse in a few years, or is this a lifetime partner, in sickness and in health, for better or for worse? Knowing that might help frame shorter-term and longer-term financial impacts.
—Erin Alberda

Buy the safe and sane, not the flashy.

—Jill Taylor

VET CHECK. Speaking from personal experience

—Shelly Watts

I think the hardest thing about transitioning from leasing to owning is living with the unexpected…if they get injured or your time availability changes, you still have all the costs no matter how much or how little you can ride them. Plus insurance—depending on the value of the horse, the expense is no joke. That said, there are so many deeply fulfilling things about ownership—it’s a special bond and love, but if you’re uncertain about either time or commitment, there’s no reason not to lease longer. If you are buying something older, which is great for experience, will you be able to care for it as it ages and offer it a loving home in retirement? Or will you be able to sell it to a good home while the horse has serviceable years left?
—Jeni Lamb Rogers

1) Go ride it, meet it, etc. Some people are able to ride any horse, but I’ve found I’m happier with a very specific ride and I need to feel it myself. 
2) Get a PPE but don’t expect perfect X-rays. Expect maintenance even for 12-year-olds.
3) Look at those 15 year old+ horses. My experience is you’re just as likely to have a horse have an issue at 7 as it will at 17 if it’s still in the game.
—Molly Babcock Forney

Honestly …I would say to not buy right now. Unless you come across an absolute gem (which is rare and expensive). The sport is getting out of control at the moment and it’s an investment you may want to reconsider once the market settles down. Until you’re in the “we are ready to shop” phase, let the market die for a bit. Especially for winter. No one wants to feed in the winter. Also, watch board costs and see if they fluctuate. Truly though…it’s so nice to see people doing their homework first.
—Alexis Walters

Always find your people and build a savings account for emergencies before buying. Find a trainer you get along with, a boarding barn that has an opening, a vet practice you like, a farrier whose work you like, and any body work providers you want to use. Do some research into insurance companies (and cost!) if you plan to insure. Basically, do all the leg work before you even start shopping. Buying vs leasing always has pros/cons and there’s no one size fits all solution. Also, like others have mentioned, if you have the ability to put off buying for another 6-12 months you’re likely to find something with much more experience at a more reasonable price point! The market is still absolutely ridiculous
—Taylor Elizabeth

Always expect the unexpected. Having a horse of your own is the best! With that you need to remember they are fragile, living, breathing animals —1000+ lbs on skinny legs. Come up with a plan and know what financially you will need to do when things happen. It’s such an exciting and rewarding thing and I’ve found it will allow you to focus on that if you have a contingency plan for peace of mind

—Netta Lax

Test ride multiple times. Do a PPE with a vet you trust who has never seen this particular horse before so you get a purely objective opinion. If the owner restricts you to an “approved” list of vets to use for the PPE, RUN. Equine insurance is good. Owning is definitely more expense and more heartache but having *my* horse is worth it. I can do whatever I want whenever I want with him.

—Karen Itin

Buy older, and proven in the exact job you want to do. 8 years old AT LEAST, and currently doing the work and doing it sound. Maintenance that is proven to keep the horse in work is better than gambling on something too young and green that may not hold up. Also, avoid the giant ones. This is for buying personal horses – investing in resale projects is different.

—Allison Moore

Spend the money on the horse you want. It costs just as much to keep a horse that can’t do what you want as it does to keep one that can do what you want. If you buy the one that can’t do what you want you are going to be spending lots of money on training bills, or be riding a horse that isn’t safe or isn’t sound or isn’t fun.

—Susan Oakland

Our Plaid Horse Adult Amateur Lounge on Facebook now has 7,000 members and counting. Come join us!

*This story was originally published in the October/November 2022 issue of The Plaid Horse. Click here to read it now and subscribe for issues delivered straight to your door!

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