Horseless Horse PersonI mean, this is for the person who rides horses but doesn't own one.

What do you do when you don't own a horse? Does that mean that you can't ride or be around horses?

Not at all.

In fact, being horseless can often be a blessing in disguise. What if you give it a good go and decide the whole horse riding thing isn't for you?

It takes years of education, mentoring and even apprenticing to know enough to be responsible for a unique "pet" (some call it "livestock") such as the horse. What could be better than learning all these things on borrowed horses, investing money into your own learning, and spending time exploring different disciplines to know what you really want to do for the long term?

Some people never buy a horse but ride for years on end. It can be done.

TSF Aussie

Opportunities abound if you take a good look into what you can do when you don't actually own a horse.

Volunteer

The first and  surest way to get into the scene is to volunteer your services. If you really have no experience with horses, this is a great way to start. People will happily train you in exchange for your work. You might even get some riding opportunities as you get exposure and become familiar with instructors and barn managers.

You might be exposed to the ins and outs of everything horses. Aside from the physical development that you will gain, what can you learn in a volunteer position?

  • horse handling - leading a horse, teaching ground manners
  • horse care - grooming, feeding, leg wrapping, blanketing
  • equipment - saddle and bridle, clean tack
  • horse training - lunging, ground training (such as leading), in-hand work
  • facility management - learn how to run a barn
  • client/customer relations
  • I'm sure there's lots more!

You can find volunteering opportunities at riding schools, trail riding barns, horse rescue operations, therapeutic and equine-assisted riding schools, summer camps, and even veterinary facilities. Give these places a call and see what fits with your schedule and goals.

Riding Lessons

Well, I've written about riding lessons so often on this blog. But really, that is the best place to start riding. There is nothing better than having a trained instructor lead you on your horse journey. But there's a lot more to horses than just riding. So when it comes time for you to think about committing more time or (physical and financial) resources into the horse "thing," your riding instructor can be an excellent resource to guide you to your next steps.

By then, she will know you and what your goals are, and she can help you decide on future horses, higher level goals, riding disciplines, and general horse management.

The advantage to riding in a school is that you will be exposed to many different horses and possibly riding styles. You will ride alongside fellow students who are at various levels - maybe newer to horses than you are, or maybe more advanced. You an learn something from watching all of them over time.

This is a distinct perk compared to horse ownership, because once you have your own horse, you will be busy affording, riding and developing that horse only. At a riding school, you might be able to ride the same horse for a length of time, then move on to a new horse later so you can continue to learn and build your skill set.



There is an old expression that a rider should ride at least 100 horses in order to be able to call themselves a horse(wo)man. You might not be able to access a hundred horses, but without a doubt, the more you ride, the more you will learn. Horses are just like people in that they bring different personalities, quirks, skills and talents to the table. Not one is the same as the rest.

Part-Boarding

You might want to ride more often than once or twice a week in a riding school environment, and that is when part-boarding becomes an excellent option. When you think you're ready to ride on your own, work with a single horse regularly, and possibly take either group or private lessons with that horse, you might want to investigate a part-boarding opportunity.

Many horse owners want to share their horse with one other rider - some for the financial help, others because they simply don't have enough time to ride their horse often enough. As a part-boarder, you will be responsible for part of the financial upkeep, but you will have access to the horse more often. You will be able to work with that horse and develop a relationship over time. You might move away from the riding school environment and into more of a boarding facility where most of the people are horse owners.

The advantage of part-boarding goes without saying: if you want to switch horses, move away from the area, change riding disciplines, etc., you can end your commitment (usually with a one month notice) without worry of what will happen to the horse. Many people spend years being part-boarders.

Full Lease

When you lease a horse, you are ready to take on more of a horse ownership role than the above options. However, there is usually an end to that lease when the horse should be returned to the owner. Often, horses are leased out year to year, with the possibility of a renewal term towards the end of the lease period.

When you take on a full lease, you are responsible for all of the horse's expenses. You might also be required to pay a certain amount to lease the horse as well. The more trained, talented or advanced the horse is, the more you can expect to pay for the lease.

But then, you can treat the horse as if it were your own - for the lease period. Many horse owners will visit the horse, or require that the horse is boarded at a particular barn or location, but otherwise, you are the contact person for the horse and with that comes the financial responsibility of vetting, shoeing and board fees. Of course, riding privileges are yours and yours only.

Under certain circumstances, there are huge advantages to taking on a full lease versus permanently buying a horse. If your child wants to ride, she may currently be young enough to ride a pony. But a few years in, she'll be taller and want to move onto higher levels - which might require a specific horse type for the discipline she wants to be in at that time - but you won't know until that happens!

For adults, leasing will allow them to learn in-depth from one horse, then have the option to move on to a new horse - which will offer a whole new set of learning experiences. 

Leasing horses will allow you to change horses in the future, without worrying about the horse's security or going through a sale process. This is a luxury you wouldn't have if you owned the horse.

***
They say horse riding is only for the very rich. Well, now you can see how many, many participants in the horse industry can do so frugally, still meet their goals, and share in the incredible experience that is horses and riding.

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7 Comments

  1. This is the first time the blog did not apply to my present situation I’m sorry to say ! Nothing against what was written ! But what about the older retired rider ( one who has ridden nearly 60 years but being retired there is no money to justify spending on a horse ! Finding someone who wants to let an older (70 plus ) person ride their horse is pretty much impossible regardless of the experience & ability still ! So I do without !!

  2. Thank you so very much for posting this!!! Just today I thought that I want to do more to enjoy horses.

  3. This is me……I’ve been taking lessons at my local school for @4 years now. No horse, just the school horses. I have a long work commute, so I can’t spend the time that a horse would need, even to lease, it wouldn’t be fair to the horse to leave it there in the stable 5 days of the week. The owner does let me hire one of the school horses for various events, which is a good option for me. I do want to learn more about horses, so spare time I do have, lets me read / help out. Thanks for the article!

  4. I’ve been blessed to have two really wonderful horses to call my own. Both are gone now. I just turned into a senior citizen (age-wise, anyway) recently and the loss of my last horse came with the knowledge that I’m not going to replace him. My husband and I traveled and did a lot of spur (pardon the pun) of the moment excursions for two years. Having the freedom to go on vacation and not worrying about “that phone call” from my trainer/stable owner was a real relief. I miss having my boys around, don’t get me wrong. But whenever I want to ride, I call up my trainer and she has a horse for me to work. For now, this works for me. I don’t feel responsible to exercise/groom/medicate my animals and that is freeing. Especially now–hubby has been ill for the last eight months with no relief in sight. I need the freedom to be with him.
    Still miss my horses, though.

  5. Volunteering is a great way of meeting people and keeping in the horsey community once you have hung up your saddle.