Friday, June 19, 2015

Leasing: A look at the viewpoint of the lessor rather than the lessee.

I had quite the negotiation with my husband when I finally convinced him to buy a horse for me. He was not interested in the maintenance costs on a second horse so I took on some work at the barn to cover some of my board. I am the show secretary and webmaster as well as doing a few other odds and ends. The deal is that I need to find a lessee to ride my horse 3 days a week and pay the other half of my board.

When I leased a horse two days a week, my perspective on the whole situation was so different. I loved the horses I leased. I loved them as though they were my own and tried to be communicative with the owners and defer to their various care choices. On the lessee side of the fence, I didn't love that I wasn't in full control. In the case of both horses I leased, the owners decided to ride more and I lost access to the horses.

So now I am the lessor. I've only had my horse for one month and 6 days. I'm still getting to know him and I've been so busy with my new responsibilities at the barn that I haven't had as much time for him as I would like. Regardless, the pressure is on from my husband to find a lessee.

I have a friend who may be interested in leasing Crafty for herself or her daughter. She came by the other day to take a lesson on him. It was really difficult for me. I don't necessarily want to share him. I want to be his person. If I share him, he won't know he's mine. I had a hard time watching my friend lead him and tack him up. I'm very particular about how he is lead. He's not allowed to wander, drag his person off, start grazing, etc. I'm working to establish myself as his leader on the ground and under saddle. Will leasing my horse undermine that work?

My friend did a great job riding Crafty and I think she had fun. She will likely try him again but I'm not sure if he will work out for her or her daughter. They use a different trainer and I only want one trainer working with my horse, especially during the first year when we are still getting to know him. Having two riders is confusing enough. Two trainers, two different agendas and approaches, would not be fair to the horse.

I think there will be someone wonderful who wants to lease Crafty. He's a nice horse. But I think it will be interesting to see how people feel about the cost. He can be ridden 6 times per week. I will ride 3 times and lease him out for 3 rides which is a half lease. From where I am now sitting, half of board and $100.00 towards shoes sounds like a bargain. I am paying for all supplements, most of the shoes, routine vet care. I am providing really nice, brand new tack. I am providing a lovely horse, boarded at a barn with awesome facilities for riding.

I will require my lessee to take one lesson a week, at least for the first 6 months. I will also require them to do at least two sessions with our natural horsemanship trainer so that we are all on the same program. My poor lessee. I'm starting to feel sorry for her already.

If my lessee ends up being someone who wants to take Crafty to shows or camps, I will expect them to contribute to maintenance type veterinary care such as Adequan or joint injections. The reality is that my level of riding is putting very little wear and tear on the horse. I will also ask them to have their own saddle pads. I hate washing saddle pads. I don't really want to do it when I don't even get the pleasure of riding!

I think I'm ok with my lessee taking my horse places even though it feels terribly wrong. I will have to get over it but I feel like he's one of my children. I've been a stay at home mom for 17 years. I have rarely spent a day without at least one of my children. I don't know how people who are divorced with joint custody do it. On the one hand it looks so glamorous to have every other weekend to yourself but on the other hand, it would feel like a limb was missing.

This post seems to be more about personal therapy than about leasing a horse but if you are out looking to lease, I'm hoping my thoughts will help you think a little more kindly of the horse owner and the price they set for sharing their precious steed with another rider.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Distance: Buying a horse from far, far away.

If you read my most recent post, you know I found my dream horse in Canada. He checked off everything on my list of qualities I wanted in my horse except convenient location so I just decided that I had to go for it.

Buying a horse from far away and from another country is a little complicated but nothing I couldn't handle (says the naive first time buyer). There were three hurdles I had to get over - the vetting, transportation and paperwork for the boarder.

I flew up to Toronto with my trainer to try Crafty and we both loved him. I contemplated going back up for the vetting and possibly even driving my trailer up to drive my horse home but it was at least a 12 hour drive each way and I had no idea what it was like to cross the boarder with a horse. In the end, I wanted to get things moving forward and didn't have the ability to go back up for the vetting with my husband traveling and three kids to think about.

The trainer who showed us the horse was great. She crosses the boarder frequently to show in the US so was pretty unfazed by the process. I found that comforting. She gave me a long list of vets I could call and was very honest about which vets she uses and which she didn't know at all. I chose the vet closest to the farm where Crafty lived which was 20 minutes away. It was seriously remote and the other vets were an hour to two hours away. I had no references for this vet but she had come from Kentucky, was used to working with race horses and I decided expediency was worth the risk of an unknown vet.

The vetting was incredibly stressful. I hated not being there. The vet was actually great, especially at working to represent my interests. A couple of little things concerned her and I was trying to decide if I wanted any x-rays but she had to leave for an emergency call. I worried about letting her leave without doing x-rays so I called my vet in a state of rookie panic.

My vet, who was in the middle of showing her own horses at a jumper show, was wonderful but I was a train wreck. She was watching my videos between classes and texting her office to tell them what x-rays she wanted to see. I was upset because I just wanted my horse and I felt like for his price and for what I wanted to do there wasn't anything we were going to find that would keep me from buying him.

The Canadian vet went back the next day. We discussed her concerns and decided to x-ray the horse's left leg starting at the hoof and working our way up to the knee. That was the extent of what we planned to look at and my vet was comfortable with that and with the reasoning behind the decision. I didn't want to spend so much on the vetting that I wouldn't have anything left to do maintenance type things later. I felt I would rather get my horse home and have my vet watch him go and do x-rays here. I have no doubt he will need some joint support or injections of some kind but none of that worries me and he is sound on hard ground so what could go wrong? Also, the back x-rays my vet was interested in could not be done with the old equipment available to the Canadian vet. Again, I felt if we needed to do those X-rays at some point I preferred to do them at home with the treating vet having control over the images taken.

This is not necessarily a wise way to go about your vetting. Ideally, I would have been there. In a perfect world I would do X-rays, take it one thing at a time and make informed decisions. However, at my request, the horse would not be ridden again until I got him home. Right or wrong, I wanted to move quickly. If I were buying a more serious competition horse or spending a larger sum of money, I wouldn't have done it this way.

In the mean time, I was dialing the numbers of every transport company in Canada trying to find a truck heading south. They were awful. No one was calling me back and they kept telling me how busy they were driving horses north from Florida. I thought that was a bit absurd since surely the trucks had to go back south! Eventually one of the companies directed me to another that carries race horses down to Saratoga, New York pretty regularly. That did the trick!

A good transport company makes the whole thing so much easier!!!! I used Doyle's and they were great. They went up to get Crafty on a Tuesday afternoon and kept him overnight at their base near the border. Wednesday morning, they took his papers to the government office to be signed and crossed the boarder. I met them in Saratoga that evening, loaded Crafty onto my trailer and headed home.

The paperwork isn't terribly complicated I'm happy to know now. I had the vet rush the coggins so that took a couple of days. Then the vet's office did a health certificate. Someone needs to take the health certificate to the government office to be stamped. The trainer would have done it but it was quicker for us to have the transport company do it because their base is less than a mile from the office.

I have a friend who spent the early spring horse shopping in Florida, South Carolina and Virginia. She was looking for two horses - one for her and one for her daughter. She felt pretty strongly about being present at the vetting and ended up walking away from a lovely horse because of a side conversation she had while she was there. Another horse she vetted long distance but a trainer she knew well was there on the ground to make sure everything went well. That horse ended up not working out either but for different reasons.

Buying horses is emotionally challenging. The addition of distance into the equation simply increases the complexity of those emotions. If you are a first time buyer, try to find something within reasonable driving distance. Think about the cost of travel, time, emotional distress and wear on the horse when considering whether to save a little money by going a little farther. And be certain to involve your trainer or other chosen horse expert! It probably cost me $500.00 to bring my trainer with me to Canada but I would never ever have bought a horse, especially at that distance, without her consent. I just don't know enough to do it on my own and I need her to ask the questions I don't think of regarding work history, fitness, soundness, etc. I also needed her to ride him. She has ridden countless horses over the 30+ years she's been riding so she has a much more developed ability to feel a horse out and see what he's about.

If you need to buy a horse from far away, go for it. Take a deep breath, be patient and work through the steps. Surround yourself with people who know what they are doing and listen. And good luck!