Advice about horse injury and lease agreement.
I need some advice about what to do reguarding the horse I am leasing.
I have been leasing Lucas since September. He is 19 and in pretty good shape. He has some soundness issues having to do with his stifles (according to my trainer) but nothing that puts him out of work. At this point I am supposed to be signing a new 6 months agreement for leasing him. Long story short, we discovered some heat and swelling in his front right leg. It appears to be a tendon injury. His legs are wrapped and he is on stall rest for the time being. The vet will be out on Monday to look at him.
I told my friend and her mom (Lucas' owners) that I wouldn't be signing the lease until I heard what the vet had to say. I do not want to commit myself to paying to lease a horse that I'm not going to be riding for an extended period of time. I told them that if the vet said it wasn't anything to serious and he would be fine in a week or so, I would sign the lease.
Now I am thinking this is not such a good idea. A few months back, Lucas came up lame and I didn't know why. He was at a different barn at the time, so I didn't know anyone to ask for help. My friend was off at school and just said he was probably stiff or had pulled something, no big deal. After about a week he was ok, but I wonder if maybe it was the same thing as this.
So my problem is this: do I want to commit myself to a 6 month lease, with no way out if this happens again? There is nothing written in to the contract saying what would happen if he becomes unridable during that time. If the vet says he will be fine soon should I just sign the lease? Ask them to rewrite it so that if this, or something worse happens, I don't have to keep paying for a horse I can't ride? Should I shorten the agreement and just do it month by month? I know that I no longer feel comfortable signing the lease as-is, even if the vet says he's ok this time but I'm not sure what to do at this point.
Looking from the owner's perspective, if Lucas came up lame now, and only you have been riding him , then you are responsible for the injury, unless it can be demonstrated by the vet the his current issue is connected to an old injury and not excaserbated by your riding him beyond what a horse with an injured tendon should be ridden. If you had never been told that he had a bad tendon and needed to be ridden with care, then you could not be held accountable for that, but if this is a totally new injury, then it was on your watch.
Those are the hard things to pin down and as a lessor of horses for ten years, I have been extremely lucky in that none of the horse's I leased became injured or lame under my watch, but if it had happened, it is hard to pin down the blame.
I was never told he had bad tendons and I don't even know if he does. The only issues that I was told about was that he had hock surgery when he was very young and that he couldn't jump higher than 3' because of it. I don't even jump 2' so no issue there. In addition, even though this is a full lease, his owner has been riding him more than I have while she has been home from school. I did have a lesson on him the day before the injury showed up, but as it was a lesson, I had a very knowledgable horse person watching me. I trust that if there was anything wrong with how he was going, she would've pointed it out to me and I would not have continued to ride him. Everyone seems to be in agreement that he did something while turned out, as he was fine when I rode him Wednesday afternoon. When his owner rode him Thursday night he was off and the injury was discovered.
I can't afford to be paying for a horse I can't ride. If I could I would own a horse instead of leasing. I guess most of my questions will be answered by the vet because it all depends on if this injury might come back or if is going to limit what can be done with him riding-wise. I supposed my biggest concern is that I feel like this injury is going to be a very big reason for me to not continue leasing him.
I would only sign a lease that offers a 30 day notice to terminate option. That way you're not tied in long term for any reason. If the horse is sound, as the owner claims, they shouldn't have any problem with a month to month situation. That being said, if the horse does come up lame after you've been riding him, you probably would be expected to pay at least part of vet bills for treatment. Every lease is a little different. If you're not happy with it, just don't sign it.
That sounds like a good option. I will bring that up if everything goes well when the vet comes. The agreement does say they pay all vet expenses (nothing about the reason for the vet being needed) but if it was something I caused I would try to help as much I could (which isn't much, another reason I lease instead of own). The thing is, I know the absolute most they are willing to spend on vet care, and it isn't much. If this gets any more expensive than the vet visit on Monday this isn't going to end well.
Just thought I'd update in case anyone is interested. The vet came out; he's got a strained ligament. Most likely from overcompensating for his hind end which bothers him a lot. The vet was able to convince my friend's mom to agree to get him hock injections to help the hind end issues (she said she saw more lameness there than in the injured fron leg) so that will be good for him. He's on 4 weeks stall rest. My friend's mom said she would leave it up to me as to what I wanted to do about the lease. I told her I was paying to ride him and I couldn't afford to pay for him if I couldn't ride him, which she understood. I told her I would, of course, take care of keeping his legs wrapped as they need to be and hand walk him so he doesn't go completely stir crazy. We agreed to see where things stand, as far as his condition goes, in Feburary. If everything goes well, we'll start the lease up again.
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