The three most important considerations when leasing a horse are:
1) finding a horse with a good temperament
2) choosing an animal whose capabilities are compatible with your immediate goals
3) having a veterinarian check the horse thoroughly for soundness problems
I put temperament at the top of the list because a horse with a good attitude makes for safe and fun riding. The capabilities of the horse may not be up to your goals in years to come, but in a lease situation, it is fine if the animal is only suitable for your immediate goals. You can always lease another horse if your abilities surpass the current one. Soundness is also crucial, for a lame horse will waste your time and money.
The specific lease arrangements vary according to the worth of the horse. For example, if you are leasing a fairly old horse, then the owner my only require that you pay for insurance for the animal and absorb all of the fees attached to the upkeep of the horse, such as board, shoeing, and vet bills. If the horse is younger than ten years old or is a horse with a winning record, you’ll probably have to pay a lease fee as well, especially if you’ll be showing in recognized horse shows or events. A typical lease fee for the span of a year is 1/3 the value of the horse; but in cases of exceptionally successful horses—such as those that have performed well in hunter seat equitation finals—the lease fee can be thousands of dollars per day.
If you’ll be showing in classes sanctioned by the United States Equestrian Federation, you’ll need to register the lease with the USEF. The following information appears on the USEF website regarding lease registration:
“The lease registration fee of $60 must be submitted to the USEF office with a copy of the lease agreement signed by lessee and lessor. USEF does not accept agent signatures for the purposes of registering a lease. If a written lease agreement is not available, the USEF Lease Registration form must be completed, signed by lessee and lessor, and submitted with the lease registration fee. The lease agreement or registration form must indicate a start date and end date of the lease period. For competition purposes, the lease registration is effective the date that the proper fee and form (with required signatures) are received in the USEF office. Once the lease is registered with USEF, the horse/pony must be entered under the ownership of the lessee. We do not get involved in the terms of the lease. USEF must have written confirmation by both parties if a lease is extended or if the lease is terminated prior to the expiration date. Lessor or lessee must renew the USEF Annual Recording by November 30th. If the lease is extended beyond the previously submitted end date, written notification must be received in the USEF office within 30 days of its original expiration. If the notification is not received within 30 days, the lease must be registered again as stated above (with signed agreement and fee). (GR1108)”
Note: The reference to GR1108 is the current number of the rule that covers leases in the USEF Rule Book. However, the rule numbers change often, for as new rules are added, the number of every rule that follows in that section is affected.