Going away to college and university is a pretty daunting task. You have to apply to different colleges, get reference letters, write essays for scholarships and grants, fill out your FAFSA, try to get loans, etc. There are so many things you have to prepare for in order to even think about going away for college, it only gets more complicated if you have a horse that you are unable to take with you.
Unfortunately, a lot of college and university students end up having to sell their horses if they are going far away, and they sell for a variety of reasons, but usually coming down to presuming to lease a horse out is only for owners that have a fully trained veteran show horse.
However, this isn't necessarily the case. Any horse can be leased out to the right person, but there are some basics you and your horse need to know before leasing
1. Ground Manners
Your horse doesn't need to be an expert, but they at least should be relatively polite enough on the ground that they aren't a safety hazard to themselves or others.
If they are spooky on the ground to frivolous things such as loud noises, people appearing around a corner without making noise, a bucket dropping, things rattling/making minimal noise, etc. The horse needs to be taught that it is never okay to spook towards you. They can jump away from you, flinch, back away quickly, spring forward if they feel they have to spook at something, but it is unacceptable to have a horse push into you or knock you over.
Because there is a difference between a spooky horse that understands your boundaries and a spooky horse that doesn't. A nervous horse that understands clear limits set by you, will do everything in their power to not bulldoze you over just because someone rattled a bucket. There are of course exceptions if the trigger to a horse's spook is understandably scary, but this is an excuse a small handful of times. However, a spooky horse that pushes into you or just pushes you over entirely every time they spook does not understand what boundaries are or hasn't even been taught them.
If you're for some reason okay with your horse pushing you over every spook they have then maybe don't lease them out, but if you do still want to lease your horse, establish boundaries. It's okay if they spook and are nervous, these are prey animals after all and they're not perfect, but it is never okay for a horse to push you over. A horse that thinks it's okay to launch into you because they're scared is a huge safety risk, and liability risk.
Your horse needs to be at a healthy weight and free of injury. End of story.
However, this does not include fitness or old injuries that have healed but can become a problem if under rigorous stress (like a bowed tendon that has healed). It ultimately depends on what the leasee wants from the horse.
If you have a hunters horse that has been out of work for a while, the leaser needs to be aware that the horse is not fit and needs to be slowly put back into work before going to shows again. If you have reiner that has bone chips that don't affect the horse now but could eventually be an injury risk, the leaser needs to be aware. If you have a horse that needs a certain type of medication otherwise it can be detrimental to their health, the leaser needs to be aware. If your horse has a special circumstance with fitness and/or health risks, it may be harder to find a leaser, but they are out there and they need to be aware of what your horse needs. This is not only for your horse's health but also for liability when you make the contract.
When you do tell the leasee that your horse has special accommodations, include it in your contract you sign with them to protect yourself if the leasee tries to sue you for the horse not performing well due to them not following these special accommodations. You can claim then that the horse was never going to perform well without the special accommodations you informed the leasee about in the contract they signed. (This is relatively uncommon, so don't let this scare you away from leasing.)
Including these special accommodations specifically detailed in the contract will also make it a lot more difficult for the leasee to get away with not treating your horse well enough for your expectations because you can legally terminate the contract if the leasee does not follow the contract they are legally bound to. Myself personally, I have informed my leasee that to give my horse adequate care is to include the special accommodations to be as important as food, water, and a clean environment in the contract to perform as expected of the leasee.
3. Ask Detailed Questions About The Expectations The Leasee Has Of Your Horse
The quickest way to set up yourself and your horse for failure is pairing your horse with a leasee who has expectations your horse cannot meet, and this applies to any horse in any discipline at any level.
If you are looking for a leasee that needs a Level 3 Dressage horse you're not going to lease them your Training Level Dressage horse, and this may seem obvious, but pairing horses with riders can be a daunting task. The easiest way to cipher through the crowd is by asking as many questions as you can about what they're expecting from their future lease horse.
While doing this, sometimes people get a little defensive or nervous when being asked 101 questions, but don't let this deter you from wondering if they're a good fit. Let them know you're just wanting to make sure your horse can perform to their expectations. If they are still defensive or seem unwilling to answer questions you politely ask, 'throw away their application when they leave,' so to speak, and move on to the next potential leasee. Because you not only want a good fit for your horse, you also want someone who is willing to work with you and is kind about it.
Some questions you may not have thought about include, but are not limited to, "Do you have any goals you'd like to meet before the lease is up?" "Is this a training project for you?" "Do you have a trainer in case you ever need assistance with training complications?" "How many shows do you plan to attend with my horse this season?" "Are you wanting to take my horse on trail rides and show or is he/she strictly your show horse lease?" "Are you aware that my horse has *insert vice here* as listed on the ad?" This list goes on.
To conclude this point, be open and honest about what your horse's limits are. That way you can find the most suitable leasee that has a reasonable grasp on what type of horse they're taking on, whether it be a training project or a veteran show horse.
4. Know What Vices Your Horse Has
Honesty is the best policy.
Discussing your horse's vices ties in to asking questions from your horse's potential leasee and being honest about your horse. Be honest to not only the leasee, but also to yourself. We all love looking at our horse through rose-tinted glasses, but don't let your love for your horse deter you from acknowledging their problem areas. No horse is perfect, and no leasee or buyer should expect that from any horse no matter how expensive they are or how good of breeding the horse has.
Every vice is worth mentioning because they can be a health or safety risk if the leasee is not aware. A vice such as routine rearing or pulling back when tied will make it more difficult to find a leaser, but would you rather have it be a little more difficult to find a leasee, or potentially have someone take on a horse they can't handle due to these vices? Sometimes you have to choose the lesser of two evils, and choosing the safer and more honest option is the best way to go in any case.
We all love our horses and some of us (me) love to imagine our beloved animals are perfect and can do no wrong, but thinking this way is unfair to your horse and yourself. Acknowledging the vices they have doesn't mean you're going to love them any less. Being honest to the person taking on your horse, whether you decide to lease out or sell, is what any good horse owner does.
5. Have The Leasee Test Out Your Horse
This is a given. The best way to see if a rider is a good fit for your horse is to actually see them ride your horse a few times.
I say a few times because I discourage making a decision about a rider after a single ride. However, you do know your horse best and you can see it when a rider is generally an unkind rider even when they try to hide it (forcing a horse's head down to collect instead of proper cues, excessive spurring, frustration quickly turns to anger, etc.).
However, if the potential leasee does moderately well and doesn't get frustrated and angry quickly, give some leeway if they make a mistake or two. After all, this is a brand new horse they are riding. The best way to judge a rider is when they have become comfortable with the horse and learn what the horse needs, which usually takes more than just a single ride.