OwnershipHorse Leasing

50+ Super Helpful Questions For Finding The Right Horse To Lease

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Confused about what to ask when looking at a horse to lease? The post covers over 100 vital questions every prospective horse leaser needs to consider. Explore our in-depth guide that has been compiled from years of horse leasing experience. This post is a must for newcomers to the horse leasing world.

If you are planning on leasing a horse and you’re checking out different horses, you may be finding that you’re not sure what questions you should be asking. Well, you have come to the right post. Having leased several horses, owned several horses, and leased out some of the horses I owned. I have a good idea of what kind of questions you should ask before you dive into a horse lease.

So what kinds of questions should you ask when looking at a horse to lease? When you are looking for a horse to lease you want to ask questions that will help you decide if the horse is the right choice, if the lease situation is what you are looking for, and to help make communication and expectations very clear.

Why Ask These Questions Before Starting A Horse Lease

Many times lessors and owners have certain expectations and they don’t always line up with each other. It is super important for the success of the lease to know exactly what you are getting yourself into. What’s okay and not okay? What are the owner’s expectations for the lease? Is the horse even a good fit for you?

There is a long list of questions here to help you cover almost all the aspects of the lease so that you can figure out if this is the right lease for you and so you and the owner are starting off on the right foot.

However, you don’t have to ask all these questions. Just ask the questions that pertain to what you’re looking for in a lease and what you want to know. 

Horse Lease Question List & Printable

To make your life easier I created a cute printable with all the questions, so you can have it when you need it as a reference.

These questions are not in a specific order of what should be asked first. This list of questions is more of a brainstorm of questions you may want to ask.  

It would probably benefit you to take a highlighter and highlight the questions specific to your situation, so you spend less time scanning the list when you need it.

Some of these questions you may ask over the phone or email first, then some questions will be more suited when you meet the horse and owner in person. After meeting the horse and owner you may have more questions you want to ask before you decide to go ahead with the lease. 

Don’t feel too bad about having a bunch of questions, because it will help you and the owner, in the end, have a better understanding of each other’s goals and fewer misunderstandings.

Questions To Make Sure Horse Is Right For You 

Some of these questions you may ask over phone or email and some you may ask in person trying the horse out.

1. How old is the horse ?

A young horse may have less training, be more difficult to ride, more nervous, and an older horse may have limitations, soreness such as arthritis, ingrained habits, and stiffness.

Just some things to consider with age, there are exceptions of course.

2. How tall is the horse?

More important than the height is the horse’s barrel size. You want to make sure the horse will take up your legs well. If your legs reach halfway down the horse’s belly that horse may be too big. If your legs reach below the horse’s belly, that horse may be too small.

Height plays somewhat of a factor as the taller the horse generally the bigger the barrel. However, horses vary in stockiness. A shorter stout quarter horse may suit a rider with long legs better than a tall narrow thoroughbred with a tucked up barrel.

3. What is the horse’s temperament like?

Are you looking for a calmer, laid back horse or a horse that is friendly but is responsive and has to get up and go?

Are you okay with a horse that can sometimes get tense and maybe spook or do you want something pretty much bombproof?

4. How much weight can the horse carry?

You want to know how much weight the owner is comfortable with their horse carrying. It may be embarrassing if you go to look at the horse and the owner has to tell you they think you are too big for the horse.

In general, a horse that is sound but not in shape can carry 15% of their weight without much problem, including the gear, and a horse that is fit and in shape can carry 20% of their weight easily.

5. Does the horse have any limitations?

You want to know if the horse has any problems that will prevent them from being able to do what you want to do. Some horses are not jumped because they have arthritis, navicular, or some other issue, that keeps them doing just flatwork.

It’s good to know what the horse is capable of doing and what the horse shouldn’t be doing, soundness wise.

6. What discipline is the horse trained to do?

You may want to find a horse that does the discipline you are wanting to do. But some owners are willing to let you work with their horse in a new discipline. This is something you want to find out and discuss.

For example. Chip the horse I lease was doing western pleasure and I wanted to do dressage, and his owner is okay with that, but not every horse owner will be.

7. What training level is this horse at?

Is this horse going to be helping teach you or are you going to have to teach the horse? Technically we are always training or untraining horses with the choices we make when working with them.

However, you can learn a lot more from a schoolmaster who knows their stuff than you can from a horse that is just learning and may get confused and needs your direction. If you are an experienced rider and know how to train horses or an experienced rider working with a trainer, a green horse is fine if that’s what you want.

But for riders who are not as experienced and used to green horses, a more educated, experienced horse is the ideal choice. 

8. Has the horse shown before?

If showing is something that you want to do then you will want to lease a horse that has done that before.

If the horse has never shown, they may be nervous and unsettled at the show and it will be harder for you to enjoy yourself and have fun.

9. How does the horse behave off the property?

This goes along with if the horse has shown before. Some horses get nervous off of the property and are perfectly fine at their home. You may want to go off property for other reasons than showing.

Such as clinics, trail riding, beach riding, trailer in riding lessons, or meeting up to ride with a friend. If these are things you want to do. You want a horse that is at least fairly comfortable with leaving home.

10. How is the horse when trailering?

Some horses hop right on the trailer, while others can take an hour of coaxing.

If you plan on trailering off the property on a regular basis you are either going to want a horse good with trailering or be willing to work with the horse and get it more comfortable with trailering.

11. How does the horse act on the trails with other horses?

You want to know if the horse may try to kick another horse. If the horse prefers to go out with other horses. If the horse likes to be the leader or trail in the back.

12. How does the horse act on the trails alone?

Many horses don’t like going out on the trails alone which can create a dangerous situation if the horse is spooky, might buck, or try to bolt home.

So you want to know if the horse is comfortable out on the trail alone or if you should only go out with other buddies.

13. Do you ever do groundwork with the horse?

Groundwork is great for building confidence in horses and their riders, as well as better communication and trust. If the owner does groundwork with the horse there is a good chance the horse has decent ground manners and that the owner would be okay with you doing groundwork with the horse.

Some people see groundwork as pointless or they are not comfortable with it, maybe from stories they heard, their opinion, or bad experience. 

14. Does the horse know how to be lunged?

It’s beneficial if the horse knows how to be lunged, for several reasons. If the horse has a day where they are fresh and full of energy, you can lunge the horse to get them listening and focused with regular transitions, changes of direction, changes of circle size, and ground poles.

Lunging can be helpful in new places where the horse may be nervous or distracted to get them attentive and listening to you. If you have no one to trot out the horse when you think the horse is off you can lunge the horse at the walk and trot to see if the horse is indeed lame or not.

Questions About Lease Situation

15. Is this an on-farm or off-farm lease?

Do you have a farm you want to take this horse to or do you want to lease the horse at the barn the horse is currently located at?

If you want to take the horse to your home or your lesson barn, the lease will have to be an off-farm lease. If you don’t have a place to put a horse you will want an on-farm lease where the horse stays.

16. What kind of lease is this?

There are many kinds of leases. Check out my blog post Different Kinds Of Horse Leases: Choosing What Kind Is Best For You

17. How long will the lease be? Month by month? Yearly?

Some leases are month to month that can be terminated with a 30-day notice, or monthly payments for a set amount of time like 3 months, 6 months, and other leases are paid upfront yearly and renewed yearly. 

18. How much is the lease fee?

Can you afford the lease fee every month or every year? Though you are not buying a horse you are still making a commitment to paying for the lease, so you want to make sure you will be able to keep up with it for however long you agree.

19. Are there separate or extra fees for supplements, farrier, vet, emergencies, massage, chiropractic work, etc?

Along with the lease fee, sometimes there are extra costs that may come with the lease. Find out if these things are included in the lease fee or if they will be separate as the services are given.

20. How many days a week will I be able to ride?

Most leases you don’t have exclusivity to the horse. You will have a certain amount of days you can ride and maybe set days as well unless you are full leasing the horse or doing a free or paid off-farm lease.

Free lease, by the way, is not free. It means you take full responsibility for the horse and the costs and aren’t charged a fee on top of that for using the horse. A paid off-farm lease is the same but you have a fee on top of all the horse’s expenses for the use of the horse.

21. Is there a time limit to the riding session?

If the horse is used in a lesson program, has other riders working with them, is not in the best of shape the owner may want to have a limit on the amount of time riding. Of course, it’s not fair to the horse to ride it for hours on end especially if the horse is not conditioned for that kind of work.

So ask this in order to stay on the same page with the owner and not overwork the horse. Also, keep in mind riding is not the same as the work you are doing.

Walking for an hour is different from trotting or cantering for an hour with walk breaks. Just make sure you are riding the horse at the level of work your horse is comfortable and capable of.

22. Is anyone else leasing or riding the horse?

This is good to know in case you need to reschedule any of your riding days. You may have to figure that out with another lessor to make it work. Or you may not be able to reschedule a missed ride, if the other lessor/ rider can’t switch days.

23. Is the horse being used in lessons?

A horse being used in lessons is different from being ridden by another lessor. Horses tend to get more sour, dull, and confused being ridden by many different riders especially if the horse has many beginners riding them.

24. Am I able to do trail riding?

You may have asked how the horse is out on the trails. But are there any trails around you can even ride on? Is the owner okay with you riding on the trails with their horse? Is the horse safe enough for you to ride on the trails?

25. Will I be able to jump this horse?

Some owners will not let you jump there horse for one reason or another. Especially if you are leasing a lesson horse that may be jumping in lessons already.

They may not want to overtax the horse with more jumping. Or sometimes you may be able to jump in your lessons with the horse but not in your other lease rides. So if jumping is your thing, make sure that it is clear in the lease.

26. Is the horse allowed to go off property for shows, clinics or trail riding?

The owner may not be comfortable with allowing the horse to go off property even if the horse is well behaved, so if this is something you want to do make sure that it is okay before you lease the horse.

27. Is there a riding instructor at the farm?

Do you want to take lessons with the horse? Are you hoping that there will be an instructor at the farm you can take lessons from?

28. Am I able to have an outside instructor come to the farm?

Maybe you already have a riding instructor and they are willing to travel to the barn you are leasing a horse if it is within a certain distance.

Does the farm allow outside instructors to come to teach, is the owner of the horse okay with you taking lessons from them?

29. Do I need to take riding lessons for the lease?

Some leases require that you take weekly lessons in order to do the lease. Usually, this is when there is an instructor at the barn and the owner wants to make sure the horse is being ridden properly and effectively so that they don’t degrade in their training and to make sure the lessor and horse stay on the right track.

Many lesson barns leasing their lesson horses require lessons along with the lease.

Questions When Trying The Horse

30. Does the horse have any quirks I should know about?

So that you are prepared for any behaviors you may not be expecting. For example, girthiness, wiggles at the mounting block, mouthy, difficult to bridle, moves around on the cross ties…etc.

31. What does the horse get nervous about?

Good to know so that you can be prepared, and know when to comfort and encourage the horse, or maybe avoid a certain situation.

32. Is the horse used to light contact with the reins, a loop in the reins, or a more firm contact?

When you are trying out the horse you want an idea of how the horse is used to being ridden.

For example, the horse is used to light contact and you are riding with heavier hands the horse may slow down, throw their head around, raise their head high and tense, come behind the bit, lean on your hands.

33. Is the horse on the lazier side or more sensitive?

Then you’ll know whether you need to be a little firmer with your aids and more encouraging or quieter and more gentle with your aids.

34. Does the horse need a crop or is the horse nervous about crops?

A crop or a dressage whip is better than spurs when you don’t have precise control and the correct position of your legs, to use them correctly. Most of the time you don’t even have to use the crop or whip. It is just there as a back up if the horse is ignoring your leg.

Sometimes just holding on the horse is more responsive. However, there are some horses that are nervous and jumpy about these tools and you may not want to carry one. So best to ask and find out if it’s okay or not.

35. Do you use voice commands when riding?

Some horses are used to voice commands when being ridden. So it’s good to know if the horse is not responding right away if that may be the reason why.

36. Does the horse know voice commands?

Voice commands can be beneficial if the horse is confused about you asking it something. Such as the canter. Maybe you are asking for the canter in a different way than the horse is used to but the horse knows the voice command canter and goes into the canter when you ask with your voice.

37. How is the horse used to being asked to canter?

It is helpful to know how the horse is trained to go into the canter because horses can be taught in different ways. The trot is easier to get from most horses compared to the canter.

38. Is it okay if I try the horse over some jumps?

If jumping is something that you are wanting to do with the horse, then you will want to try jumping the horse and seeing how you do together. 

39. Is it okay if I walk the horse around outside of the arena?

Even if you don’t go on a trail ride when you try out the horse it may be beneficial to walk the horse around the farm outside of the arena to see how the horse acts.

It will give you a sense of the horse’s confidence and temperament because the horse may not feel as secure as when they were in the arena.

40. When was the last time this horse was ridden?

This is good to know because this will also help you get a better sense of the horse’s temperament. If the horse was ridden the day before and is very high energy you know that the horse may be on the hotter side.

If the horse is very high energy and the horse hadn’t been ridden in a week or a month or longer then that maybe just because they hadn’t been ridden in a while. 

41. What things has this horse recently been working on?

This can be beneficial to know because then you can practice and build on the exercises the horse has been working on. And it gives you a sense of where the horse is at fitness and experience level wise.

42. How many times a week has this horse been ridden?

A horse will be more fit when ridden 4-5 times a week compared to 1-2 times per week. It’s good to have an idea of what the horse has been doing recently.

43. How long has this horse been being regularly ridden and exercised?

If the horse just started being regularly ridden for the past month but before that had 2 years off, then the horse still needs to be reconditioned and have their training refined.

Questions For Clear Communication

The more clear you can be with the owner about what you want to do with the horse, what you are doing, and questions you may have, the fewer misunderstandings there will be. You will both be happier with the lease situation and each other.

44. Will I be able to come on off days I’m not riding, just to visit and say hi, maybe groom if the horse is free?

Some leases may be laxer while other leases may be more strict with visiting the horse. You want to be sure it is okay that you come and groom or graze the horse on your off days.

There may be another rider that is going to work with the horse those days. Maybe the owner is okay with having you text them when you want to see if it’s okay to come and groom at a certain time. 

45. How often will I be able to jump this horse a week?

The owner may have a limit to the amount of jumping you can do with the horse. This is in the best interest of the horse’s health and soundness.

46. What is the max height this horse is allowed to jump?

The horse may only be able to comfortably or safely jump up to a certain height. Many top-level riders also jump smaller fences when training to help keep their horses sound.

47. What are the barn rules here?

The barn may have certain rules you need to follow and to stay on the barn’s good side and not cause trouble you will want to know what those rules are.

48. Am I able to ride while riding lessons are going on?

You may only be able to come to the barn during riding lessons. If you aren’t able to ride when lessons are going on then the lease may not be a good situation for you. 

49. Is there a trailer available at the farm and would you be willing to trailer, or know of someone who can?

If you are wanting to show and go off-farm you will need a truck and trailer. If you can afford that then you will need to find someone that has one who you can hire.

It would be ideal if the farm you are leasing the horse from has a truck and trailer and is willing to trailer the horse for you.

50. Is it okay if I do groundwork with the horse?

Some owners will be okay with you doing groundwork and others won’t. So if this is something that is important to you, make sure the owner is okay with it before you begin the lease.

51. Do I need my own tack and equipment?

Most of the time the lease will include all the tack and equipment you need. Unless you are leasing a horse that does a different discipline than what you plan on doing.

Then you will have to get tack for that discipline. Also if you are taking the horse off the farm for the lease sometimes you need your own equipment, unless the owner allows you to take the equipment with the horse.

52. Is there anything I should avoid doing with your horse?

This is with respect to the horse and the owner. This is not your horse so you should make sure you only do things that the owner is okay with.

53. Is anyone else allowed to ride the horse, such as family members, friends..?

If you have your own horse you can let other people you choose to ride your horse, friends, family. But if the horse is your own you can’t make that choice. So if this is something that you want to do then you should ask the owner upfront in the beginning if this is okay or not.

54. Can the horse ever be moved to a different barn?

This situation may occur if the horse is at a barn that has no instructor or the facility is not the best for riding. You may find a nice barn you would like to ride the horse at or you may find an instructor you really like. They have a stall available at the barn and the instructor doesn’t travel to other barns.

The owner may or may not be okay with this depending on the situation. If there is another lessor, then the owner and lessor need to agree. If the horse is a lesson horse then that is not going to happen. The owner is not comfortable with the horse moving to another barn.

So good to know upfront if this is potentially something you may want to do. 

55. Does the owner need notice for going off property, trail riding, showing, going to a clinic, etc?

You don’t want to have the owner go to the barn and be wondering where the heck is their horse. So if you are allowed to take the horse off property find out what the owner wants as a protocol. Texting a week before, the day before, day of. What is okay?

56. Is it okay if I give the horse treats?

Some horses have digestive issues or shouldn’t have sugar. Like Cushing’s for example. Also, some horses get nippy and mouthy and the owner doesn’t want their horses to get treats. Respect the owner and ask first.

57. What are the horse’s favorite treats?

Good to know if you are able to give treats. Bribery almost always works for getting a horse to look forward to seeing you. Maybe not the most correct way but hey positive reinforcement, when used correctly can do wonders.

Cheers, Kacey

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Disclaimer Notice: Please be aware that horseback riding and related equestrian activities carry inherent risks. The advice and experiences shared on this blog are for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for professional training or advice. Ensure your safety and that of your horse by wearing appropriate gear, practicing safe horse handling, and consulting with certified equestrian professionals. Remember, each horse is unique, and techniques may vary accordingly. Always prioritize safety, respect, and patience in your equestrian endeavors.

Kacey Cleary Administrator
Kacey has been an equestrian since 1998. She was a working student at several eventing and dressage barns. She has owned horses, leased horses, and trained horses. Kacey received an A.S. in Equine Industries from UMass Amherst, where she rode on the dressage team. She was certified with the ARIA and is licensed to teach riding in MA. She has been a barn manager and has run her own horse farm.
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