• Sabrina Riehl

Leasing VS. Buying

Hey everyone! This week I am going to discuss the benefits and drawbacks of leasing and buying at different stages in your riding career. Throughout my riding career I have been lucky enough to own and lease a number of horses, all served different purposes and all made me a better rider.

Rumor and I during a recent photoshoot

My show career didn't begin with bows, garters, and cute little hunter ponies; I actually began riding at a pleasure barn where I learned basic horse care and spent many lessons trail riding with friends. No one at this barn owned or leased horses, we just rode a variety of lesson horses. This was where my obsession began, but it wasn't until I was 14 years old that I had the opportunity to move to a competitive barn. All I wanted to do was show horses, and I began my show career in the crossrail ring on top of a crazy chestnut mare (she truly fit the chestnut mare stereotype). I quickly moved up to the long stirrup division and that's when the opportunities to buy and lease various horses began to present themselves. Over the years, a number of wonderful horses helped me to reach my goal of showing in the junior hunters before my senior year of high school. Throughout our many horses, my family and I learned a thing or two about the pros and cons of buying and leasing and I want to share these lessons with you!

My first horse, T!

Being new to the competitive side of the equine industry, my parents and I had no idea what we were getting into. Here is a list of some of the misconceptions that we believed before making the decision to buy and lease horses.

1) You could buy just one horse that would last you for years. This horse would be the horse that could take you from the 2' to 3'6".

2) It is best to buy a young horse in every situation, because your competitive career with said horse could be longer.

3) The purchase price would be the most expensive part of buying the horse.

4) That eventually I would have to make the decision between swimming and riding as I got closer to entering college. I had always done two sports, but hoping to be competitive in both was a large undertaking and I was unsure as to which I wanted to fully pursue.

5) That buying was always the best option, leasing was a less than ideal investment for us.

Thanks to some wonderful professionals, who had much more experience than us, we were able to learn why our preconceived notions about buying horses and the equine industry as a whole was a bit skewed. These wonderful people helped us reconsider some of our beliefs and were instrumental in guiding us through our various leases and purchases throughout the years. We realized that...

1) There would be many horses throughout my competitive career, each would teach me something different and give me new skills that I could take onto the next horse and the next levels of the sport. Finding a horse with the ability and patience to take me from the 2' to 3'6" was hard to find.

2) Sometimes older horses are the ones with the most to teach, they typically have an extensive foundation that helps their rider learn advanced skills without being put into precarious situations.

3) The purchase price is actually the least expensive thing about owning a horse. Board, shows, and vet bills are expensive; unfortunately these animals are accident prone. Horse insurance will be your best friend if God forbid something happens.

4) I never had to choose between the sports I loved so much. I was highly competitive in both sports up until the start of college. In college I swam collegiately, and while I took a step back from showing I had the opportunity to rescue and start Rumor under saddle.

5) Leasing is actually an amazing opportunity for all rider's. It gives those who are hoping to move up the levels the opportunity to do so and learn from various horses at various levels.

One of my many lease horses, Crush, who helped me move up to the .95 jumpers at shows and helped me with confidence above 3' at home!

Leasing has been a large part of my riding career, after buying my first horse who helped me get to the 2'6" we turned to leasing. Leasing gave me the opportunity to experience the hunter and jumper rings and develop my skills as I made my way into the Junior Hunter ring.


1) As a rider you have the opportunity to experience a variety of horses. These horses have the opportunity to help you progress your skill set and go into a variety of rings and classes. You can even lease horses simply for show weekends, which gives you opportunities to ride horses that you may not have the opportunity to otherwise afford.

2) Depending on your stage of life, you can have a horse without having to make the lifelong commitment. This is such a great thing for those going into their senior year of high school or for those about to enter the workforce, as these are times in your life where you are experiencing a lot of change and uncertainty.

3) It gives you a chance to "test the waters" to see if owning a horse is the right decision for you.


1) You bond with the horse and at the end of the lease have to say goodbye. Oftentimes you watch these horses move onto new leasers/owners after you.

2) There can be restrictions as to what you can/can't do with the horse. For example, if you are at a barn that does IEA/IHSA, a lot of owners do not want their horses continually used in those programs since they may not know who is riding the horse.

3) As an adult rider you can not compete in any of the bigger divisions unless you own the horse. In the hunter rings you are limited to the 3' and in the jumper ring the 3'6".

4) Unless you have an iron clad contract, written up by an attorney, owners can choose to "pull the rug out from underneath you" causing you to lose leasing privileges of the horse even if there was no violation of the leasing agreement.

George, who helped me get to the Junior Hunters. A lot of what I learned from him I was able to apply to Rumor.

Owning a horse is as much as a privilege as it is a large responsibility. Everything that the horse needs is on you, you have to be prepared to fully support this animal no matter the circumstances. I have been lucky enough to own two wonderful horses in my lifetime and Rumor is one of them.


1) You have the opportunity to compete in far more classes as an adult rider.

2) If you own a horse you can always choose to lease your horse out, giving you an opportunity to make money while giving someone else an opportunity as well.

3) There is no one else to ask permission, you are the sole decision maker regarding everything that happens to your horse.

4) You can give the horse your whole heart, because there is no approaching date to when the horse will return to its owner.

5) There is no time limit on learning with and from your horse, if you have a bad day in or out of the saddle there is always another day to revisit the issue.

6) You can have the horse forever, making memories, and watching them change as they develop and age. This is one special thing I have loved about having the opportunity to own Rumor since she was 5.


1) You are making the decision to fully support this animal, at the end of the day all responsibility falls on you.

2) Horses are expensive, it is best if you have the monetary funds to prepare for unforeseen expenses.

3) Regardless of what life throws at you, you have to be ready to make the horse one of your highest priorities. Your decisions in life have to largely be with the future and wellbeing of your horse in mind.

4) Keep in mind that if you ever outgrow your horses ability, you are fully responsible for making sure the horse ends up in a great home with good people. Horse ownership doesn’t end when it stops being convenient for you.

This being said, owning or leasing a horse isn't for everyone. Both options present wonderful opportunities for riders of all ages and levels. Before making the decision to lease or buy a horse talk to those who you trust, ask for honest opinions, and ensure the decision to invest in a horse is right for the particular time in your life.

Happy Hacking!

Rumor will be my forever horse. I am so increadibly thankful for the opportunity to own her!

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