In terms of expectations, I expect you to ride on the days you say you will. I expect you to properly care for my horse meaning that you groom him before rides, don't over-ride him, and after your ride that you properly cool him out, groom or hose as needed, and put him up cool and well-groomed. If you see any type of injury or have any concerns (think he may be lame, noticing odd behaviors, are running into behavioral problems on the ground or under saddle) I expect these to be communicated ASAP so that we can come up with a plan. I can't stress this enough. I can't tell you how often I've seen leasee's (thankfully this has only happened once with me!) just deal with a problem behavior only to find out if they had communicated with their owners that the owner would have had a simple fix OR could have told you that something was seriously wrong with the horse. If you are wanting to try something new (be that something new under saddle, new tack, new potion, etc) I expect the leasee to ask me first (Even if your trainer thinks it's a good idea!) before trying anything. At the end of the day, most owners know their horse better than you so look to them as a resource and a partner as you build your own relationship with the horse.
You bring up some very good points. In my lease I have the option to ride three days per week. Those days are set at the beginning of the lease. The owner and I discussed the specific days ahead of time since she does try to ride one or two days per week. She and I are both in the same situation where we work full time and can only go out in the evenings after work so we did discuss the fact that other than one day per week (I have a trainer that works with me and the horse that day) that I am open to change and if I want to go out on one of "her days" then I would just check with her. This is the first time she's leased out her horse so I don't know if she really knew what to expect.
In terms of communication and what we as owners hope for, when you are first starting a lease as an owner, our biggest question is, are they dependable & are they taking proper care of my horse? In other words, are they actually riding when they are supposed to be and are they not riding my horse too hard and properly grooming them, cooling them out, etc.
My trainer (who is also the barn owner) is the one that introduced the horse's owner and I. Even though I only take lessons one day per week, the trainer is usually around on the other days that I ride. She is always willing to help/answer questions. Since she also has a good relationship with the horse's owner, I think this makes the horse owner feel a little more comfortable.
I think it sometimes helps a leasee to see the lease from the owner's perspective. For many leasees you are excited to get to know one special horse and have the opportunity to ride more. From an owners perspective, our horse is our baby but we've realized that we either need help financially and/or that we can't get out and ride as much as our horse needs. As an owner when I am looking for a new leasee I am nervous and anxious about finding the right match and takes a lot of feeling out, especially in the first few weeks. I look at my leasee as a partner and someone that I really lean on and depend on to help care for my horse. That means a lot of communicating as well as mutual love and respect for the horse.
I had thought about this at the beginning. I specifically told the owner that I respected the fact that this was her horse and that I would never do anything that would jeopardize the horse's health or training that he already has. I can't imagine having other people ride a horse that I owned, so I am treating her horse exactly as I would want someone to treat mine if the situation was reversed.
Last thing I'll say is if you are unsure what your horse's owner's expectations are, consider just talking to them. It is hugely important that you and the owner actually talk and share your expectations with each other so that you can have a happy and healthy partnership that at the end of the day maximizes benefits to the horse and makes the lease enjoyable for your all. I know I make a point to sit down and have a conversation about these things before the lease even begins. Communication is really key!
I've really tried to keep the lines of communication open without prying. I know that there was some reason that she hasn't been able to ride much the last few years and now can only ride/see him one or two days per week. That's the reason she got into the lease with me. She really just wants him to be exercised and shown some love more often than she can do herself. Neither of us are showing or doing any type of competition. I think that helps with keeping things really low key and happier.
I really appreciate you taking time to share this information. It helps to see things from the "other side".