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Discussion Starter #1
This is going to be long...sorry.

My husband and I went to look at 2 horses for lease tonight. We still consider ourselves beginners...we have been taking lessons for 1.5 years and didn't start riding until we were both 39. We pretty much have the w/t/c down pretty good. We absolutely love it and are addicted.

I saw an ad on craigslist for horses for lease. (Both thoroughbreds...but advertised as very gentle and safe) Each one was $200 a month..on farm...and that price included everything. All we would need to do is ride and shower the horses with attention. It would be a month to month lease.

The farm was beautiful...situated on 70 acres with an outdoor riding ring and wooded trails.

When we first went out to the field with the owner of the farm, she took us to the horse she thought would be good for my husband. This horse is just being boarded there. The owner of the horse is in the process of getting a divorce and doesn't have time for it anymore and asked if the barn owner could find someone to lease it. The first thing I noticed was this horrible smell and then I saw that the horse's halter had embedded into the poor horse's skin. I immediately pointed that out to the barn owner. She seemed mortified and said that it must have just happened. Now, she brings that horse into a stall to feed it everyday...how could she not have noticed that???? If she didn't see it, she sure could have smelled it. She blamed it on the horse's owner...that she hadn't been out to groom or take care of her horse in months. I was immediately turned off but thought we would see what happened.

She then showed me the horse that she thought would be good for me. This one was actually owned by her...she pointed to a horse that was a good 200-300 pounds underweight. (her words) I am not really familiar with thoroughbreds....I have only ridden QH's but her back seemed so bony and she looked swaybacked to me. Once again, I know nothing about the breed so I am not sure if she just looked so bad because I am used to my fat and happy QH lesson horse. The BO said that she was out of town for a couple weeks last month and that this horse is so attached to her that she loses weight each time she goes away. She said her brother feeds her but she won't eat.

I don't know why we didn't leave right then because I just had a bad feeling in my gut...but we decided to go ahead and tack them up and ride them. (To the BO's credit, she did clean and medicate the wounds on the first horse before we tacked him up)

The horses are extremely well trained and very easy to ride. They have great energy.

The BO really, REALLY, wants us to lease these horses so we can show them the attention they need. And I know they do need the attention...but $400 a month is a lot of money for us and I didn't envision us riding malnourished horses with open wounds.

I usually rely on my gut to tell me what to do and my gut is telling me that these are not the horses for us. But then the guilt sets in because I know those horses need someone like my husband and I to ride them often and show them love.

So, I need some experienced people to tell me what you would do. Do you go with your gut and run far, far away?
 

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I would avoid the situation myself. I think you are asking for heartache and frustration. However, I am a bit torn, since I do feel very sorry for the horses. I am also concerned somewhat that these horses may act very differently when they are well fed and taken care of.
Were their feet done and taken care of? Who takes care of the vet bills, etc? If you DO decide to try it (it IS month to month, after all) then make SURE you get a really good written contract delineating who does what, who pays for what, and a WHOLE lot of "what ifs". For sure, the one horse's contract would have to be signed by the owner, not the BO. Not sure I would trust her as far as I could throw her. Also, with no indoor, just remember you will have many times in the fall, winter and spring when you can't ride, but will still be paying....altho I do know that indoors are not as common in Va-I just had a hard time finding one for the winter myself! Good news is, we will most likely NOT have lots of snow again! BTDT!
Not sure if there are any places in Va where you are that are larger barns with instructors and such that offer leases-they may be more reliable, and you could perhaps do a partial lease to save some$? I hate to see two greenies like you and your hubby go out on your own just yet. I do think you would both do better with SOME support of other owners, etc. It is hard to learn when noone is around who knows much! JMHO
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks Franknbeans. The barn where we are currently taking lessons has both an indoor and an outdoor ring so we were able to ride all winter. (In fact, we rode the night before the "big one" hit the state last year.) We really like the trainer and the farm is just gorgeous. There are not any horses for lease at that barn currently....there is always a chance there will be in the future. I am beginning to think that a big part of my negative reaction tonight is due to realizing we may not be ready to leave our lesson barn yet. So I think I will email the lady we saw tonight and tell her we are not ready. She did offer to give us free lessons for the first few months....but that still didn't make me feel better about the situation.
The horses had shoes and their feet looked good when I picked them up to clean them. And you are right about needing something in writing from the owner...My husband and I had already discussed that. The lease agreement would have stated that the owners are responsible for all care, including farrier and vet. It's really not a bad deal....but probably just not for us.
 

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A lot of times, when a horse starts putting on weight, their original calm demeanor fades away and they turn out to be aggressive, high-energy, mind-of-their-own renegades once at a healthy weight. You see it a lot with rescue horses....people buy because of the sweet temperament, but they turn out to be nutcases when they've got some nutrition to their name.

Of course, as you'd just be doing a month-to-month lease, you could simply stop leasing them if they turned out to be uber-hyper.

I'm more concerned about the honesty of the B.O. You said the property was gorgeous and well-mantained, but it smelled terrible and the horses weren't in the best care?

What I would do is try leasing them for one month, see how it goes, and if you'd like to continue leasing them, continue.
 

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I wouldn't lease them. I would take some photos and tell the lady you need to think about it. March down to your local humane society /Spca and tell them they NEED to do a welfare check ASAP.

If that got you nowhere I would take photos down to the sheriff. Sorry but it takes MONTHS for a halter to embed in the face. That is downright neglect. And there is NO way a horse will starve itself like that- I call shenanigans on her.
 

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I smell a liar. If you feel that bad about the horses, ask if she would consider an off the farm lease. Otherwise, like draftrider said, call humane society.

My first horse had an embedded halter. That smell is horrible. He had been turned out with a tight halter one morning and they never came back. It took quite some effort to cut the halter out of his poor face. He always had a 'permanent' halter in white scarred hairs on his face. Its so sad to see
 

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My mini was tied to a fence the first 5 years of her life, with the same halter she had had as a foal as a 5-yr old. The owners didn't even bother adjusting the noseband when it seemed a little tight! And it went a ton bigger....she had halter marks on her face, it was pretty bad, but not as bad as some I've heard of.
 

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If you don't feel you're ready to leave your lesson barn, I'd look for a "free, off-farm lease" where you pay for the upkeep of the horse and board it at your lesson barn.
This!!

Sounds like your lesson barn is a good place, and if they don't have horses available for you to lease there, look for ones you can keep there. "free lease/feed lease" horses are common right now due to the economy. If the BO is neglecting horses under the care of others, she will neglect horses under your care as well. While I am a big believer in people being responsible for their own horses even when boarded, the BO does have some responsibilities as well in making sure the horses remain healthy and cared for. Sounds like she is failing to step up.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
I appreciate all the replies. I would absolutely love to board horses at our lesson barn but even with a free "off-farm" lease, it would cost us $700 a month to field board two horses there. (We definitely want two horses so we can ride together)
We will just continue to take lessons and hope that some horses become available for lease there. We have a really good relationship with the trainer/barn manager and even know the owner so I am hoping we can work something out soon. It's funny...I had no interest in horses until recently and now I can't seem to get enough. I want to ride all the time and when we aren't riding, we go to the barn just to groom or pet the lesson horses. I wish we hadn't gotten such a late start. But better late than never.
 

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That is right- better late than never!!!

Please consider calling the Humane society/spca or sheriff- I can't imagine the pain that poor animal is in with that halter stuck in it's face. I bought a mini donkey at the sale barn one year that had one, and she had to have surgery to remove it because the noseband had grown across the halter. She was in agony and it took a long time to heal up.
 

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I'm in the same wagon as draftrider. Please call the humane society/ spca. It takes awhile for a halter to become "stuck" to the horse. If that is the condition, people could face some animal cruelty charges. Good luck on finding a lease horse.
 

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I also think that this is a "call the humane society" issue. Poor things.
The last 2 years of my TBs life I did have a LOT of trouble keeping weight on him, despite trying everything under the sun (including working closely with my vet on the issue). So he was looking pretty thin towards the end, but I wasn't riding him at that point and certainly not looking to lease him to someone else.
I also concur about horse demeanor changing once they get healthy. A friend of mine recently took on a free horse that needed TLC. Her mom was looking for a gentle, slow trail horse. They were assured that his guy fit the bill perfectly. When they tried him out, he was exactly that. Then they took him home, had his messed up teeth fixed, he put on 150 pounds, fixed his feet up etc. Gentle, slow trail horse is gone. In it's place is a beautiful, healthy, 17 year old horse that bucks, rears, spooks and mainly wants to run. My friend actually enjoys working with a horse that is a "challenge", bu this one is no fun even for her. Her mom is certainly never going to be able to ride it again.
 

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It doesn't sound like the right situation for you for a few reasons:

1.) The BO sounds desperate to get the horses leased out, great deal for her because she has money coming in each month and don't have to do anything differently. Given the horses current state (i.e. underweight and not cared for) I would be very reluctant to lease any horse at such a farm as there is no reason to believe they will be treated any differently once you begin a lease agreement. Also, the stories given by the BO in regards to the current state of the horses (i.e. headstall being outgrown and horse 'pining' for her and refusing to eat) are utter hogswash, don't believe it at all. It is neglect, pure and simple and you don't want to be involved in a barn like that at all.

2.) Thoroughbreds are not usually the best choice for two beginner riders, there are the odd few out there that are quiet and reliable enough, but generally they are a breed more suited to stronger and more experienced riders. Breeds such as QH, paints and QH crosses make great beginner horses! Again there are exceptions to every rule but generally they are less 'hot'.

3.) Horses that are underweight and malnourished are often well behaved and easier to ride as they don't have the energy to act up. Unfortunately this usually changes when they put weight back on as they have more energy, doesn't mean they will be 'naughty' but it does mean that you may find yourself with a different horse once they are feeling better!

I think you should keep looking. Try to find horses in good health as nursing a horse back to full health takes some time and knowledge, not necessarily a task for someone new to horses. There are plenty of good horses going to waste in paddocks all over the place and I am sure there are owners out there that would like nothing more than their paddock ornament to be ridden and looked after by a couple of horse lovers like you and your husband!

Oh and welcome to the horse world!
 

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Good horsemen take off halters when the horse is turned out so they don't "catch" on something and the horse breaks it's neck. Your gut was correct - this didn't happen overnight and the fact no one did anything to work the issue shows that if you leased a horse from them and the horse ended up lame they would tell you either to keep riding it or the problem would fix itself...neither would be correct and you would end up paying a leasng fee for a horse which could not or should not be ridden.

An underfed horse did not happen if the owner was away for a few weeks. Skinny horses also tend to be lethargic as they are starving and don't want to expend energy to do much more than try to find food.

Run away from this farm. The $200/month is a good rate but you're just starting to see the edges of a diaster in the making.

When you do find horses to lease make certain you have a signed contract that states who pays what (food farrier, vet bills, dentist, stall), what happens if the horse becomes lame during the lease, and have something in there like either side must provide 30 days written notice if that specific horse (don't go for "suitable replacement horses) becomes unavailable or is deemed no longer suitable by the rider or the leasee is deemed no longer suitable by the owner/leaser.

I forgot to say - on COTH (Chronicle of the Horse) there is a horseless rider/riderless horse thread where peopl have horses they'd like to have ridden - maybe note on there you're looking for well behaved beginner friendly trail horses in your area? I currently have a gal riding my older mare in exchange for chores - keeps horse in shape and gal gets a riding lesson/riding time for free. I know I'm not the only person out there that does this.....just a thought.
 

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You are so right to stay away from there. It would be a recipe for heartbreak, chances are, that the more you got to know the place and the horses, the more concerns you would have. If you and your husband are new to horse care, then having a mentor who is an inspiration is doubly important, rather than relying on your humanity and gut instincts to question the practices you see in a badly run barn.
Everyone who spends long enough around horses sees things that trouble them, and there is nothing worse than finding that your horse time is marred by worrying about the things you can't change without a battle or, beating yourself up while turning a blind eye.

Agree with the others, this woman needs reporting, sometimes, just a visit from a welfare organisation can be enough to get improvements made.
 

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A lot of times, when a horse starts putting on weight, their original calm demeanor fades away and they turn out to be aggressive, high-energy, mind-of-their-own renegades once at a healthy weight. You see it a lot with rescue horses....people buy because of the sweet temperament, but they turn out to be nutcases when they've got some nutrition to their name.
^ THIS.

When I bought my horse, he was just slightly underweight and a little malnourished, he was a bombproof, calm, saint.

About 2 months after owning him, with full turn out in a pasture in which he was free to graze, regular hay and grain feedings he turned into an incredibly spooky, bomb. Seriously, he would bolt and buck at EVERYTHING.

We have worked through most of this stuff now but if you guys are beginners you don't want an unpredictable explosive horse.
 

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Heck, when my daughters horse came home from a 30 day tune up at the trainer, I didn't realize that he was starting to come down with a MILD sinus infection. He was an absolute DREAM (he's a good horse to start with, but he can alternate between super lazy and pretty spunky). I thought "Wow, that was the most amazing 30 days of training I've ever seen!" lol. I'd never seen him so totally cooperative and perfect. That night his nose started running and he was coughing a little. 5 day on antibiotics and he was right back to his regular personality.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
I feel so much better about my decision to run away from this place and never look back. Thanks for the info...
And yes, I called the County Animal Control. Not sure anything will be done...they just took the info I gave them but at least it is something. All of the other horses on the property that I could see, looked to be at a healthy weight and I checked the halters on the ones in the same field as the two we rode and the others all seemed to fit loose, which I understand can be a problem as well if they get caught on a fence or tree. All of the horses had halters on. I guess for easy catching? The horses we ride at our lesson barn are not turned out with halters and they come right to us when we call them.
Yep, definitely the right decision to stay where we are and take more lessons until two horses come available for lease at that barn.
 
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