Just Like Leasing a Car

If you hang around this sport long enough you will start to hear rumblings about leasing a pony or a horse. Your first reaction will probably be “Excuse me? Did you say LEASE… an animal? You mean like a car?”, because that is what mine was. I had no clue this was even an option, what it meant, or why we would want to do it. So I am here to tell you about it.

My daughter was starting to get kind of serious with this whole horse thing. She had been taking lessons for about 7 months and was riding 1-2 times a week. Show season was creeping up on us and she was getting really excited to dive into that world too (that’s a whole different story). Her trainer mentioned a pony that had become available for lease that she thought might be a good fit for Savannah. P.S. your kid’s personality must match up with the horse as they start to become one and read each other’s minds. I asked her to give me some details on what exactly it meant to “lease a pony.” So basically, it IS like leasing a car, renting an apartment, and adopting a kid all rolled into one.  My head was spinning.

This just seemed like a huge financial obligation that I didn’t know if we really needed. Can’t we just keep paying to come out and take lessons? Why do we need to do this part? Well, as it turns out it was a great step to take in our equestrian journey. You may notice I said OUR journey, and this is for 2 reasons. 1) At this point it really is the whole family’s journey. I feel like when you are making this big of a decision it is not just about your kid that happens to take riding lessons, you are making a big commitment both financially and with your time. 2) Additionally, this is what best suited us for Savannah. It may be better for your child to go a different route, and there are so many options!

The more research I did, the more I realized that if Savannah wanted to excel at this sport she would need a pony that was hers. She will grow (at least that is what I hear since she was only 7 at this point), so buying a pony seemed silly since in a few years she would need a bigger one. Maybe leasing wasn’t such a crazy idea. Leasing ensures that your kid has first dibs on that pony. When they come to the barn to lesson, no one else will be riding the pony they were hoping to that day, because she/he is theirs. Their bond will strengthen over time and your pony won’t learn bad habits from other riders that are more recreational.

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Before you take this gigantic leap you want to make sure you have ALL the info you need to decide. There are a lot of different fees involved, and it probably varies a little by barn. Just have an idea what you will be responsible for so nothing surprises you and your checkbook. There is typically an annual fee you have to pay the owner of the pony in order to keep it for a year (like you pay a car dealer to take a car home). Then you must pay boarding fees to the barn where it’s housed. This is like rent – it pays for the pony’s food and shelter. Ok, so those are like planned regular monthly or annual fees. Additional items might include the vet, the dentist (did you know there are special horse dentists? Learn something new every day in horse world), the farrier (horses need shoes, and pretty often too, just like kids), and registration fees for certain organizations. Like I said, it’s a BIG commitment.

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In order to make it worth your while, you are going to want to make sure you have the time to take advantage of this new member of your family. Depending on your trainer/barn you may be able to do a full lease (like no one else touches your horse) or half lease (where you share the time and cost with another rider). We opted for a half lease which means that Popsicle (that’s her pony) is ours 3 days a week. That helped us justify the cost and the time since it isn’t as extreme.  Savannah was only in 2nd grade at the time and still takes piano lessons and does girl scouts. I didn’t want her to have to give up those other activities to make sure we were getting our money’s worth at the barn. It was a win-win.

Now we are starting our 2nd year with Popsicle and we wouldn’t have it any other way. I say that she is like my third child. They are the best of friends and are working better together every day.  We can’t wait to see what this year will bring!

- Bobbi Bires, Equestrian Mom since 2016

The First Fall

I knew this day would come, and I had been dreading it. I mean...horseback riding isn’t exactly hallmarked as a safe sport. There is inherent danger in flying over jumps on an unpredictable, large animal. I mean...my baby girl (ok not a baby exactly, but only 7), had been riding for almost 6 months and hadn’t fallen yet, so I was very grateful. Maybe we would totally avoid that awful inevitability. Not quite...

It was a pretty routine, normal lesson. Nothing special to note. Savannah had jumped this course already that day and everything was fine. This time, not so much. She was approaching the cross-rail at a canter and all of a sudden IT happened. I could see the miscommunication happen between rider and pony. They were not on the same page at all. Horse was going left and rider was going right. My little equestrian went tumbling down over the head of her pony and landed smack across the rail with her back. She bounced off of the 4x4 pole and onto her stomach in the dirt.

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The panic that set over me is indescribable. Is she hurt? Is anything broken? Should I run to her like a maniac or wait here and let her trainer handle it?  All of the unknowns washed over and I just sat there. Karen calmly went over to her little body lying on the ground as I finally stood and started going toward her. I could hear her crying and it melted my heart. Karen checked her over and was asking where it hurt and looking across her ribs in the back. She looked at me, reassuring me that everything looked ok, but said she would probably have one nasty bruise (which she totally did). Like the pro that she is, Karen settled Savannah down and said “Well, we got that out of the way, now let’s get back in the saddle.”

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Falls are a part of this sport and to think it will never happen is just unrealistic. Every sport has its risks and this is no different. I think the biggest thing is how you handle them. I’m glad that I sat back and let her trainer take control of the situation, even though everything inside me was telling me otherwise. She said all the right things and once we were all convinced that there were no major injuries she did exactly what needed to be done. Savannah got right back up and rode the same exact course again and jumped the same exact jump that just beat her poor little body up. No time to think about it or let it get into her head.

The mom in me just wanted to hug her, put her in the car, and go get her an ice cream. The equestrian mom in me knew that this was just the first fall and there were going to be more and at some point they will probably get worse. But if my little 7 year old girl isn’t scared to get back in the saddle, then I can’t be either.

- Bobbi Bires, Equestrian Mom since 2016

The First Lesson

As we approached the long winding driveway towards the barn I am pretty sure that we were both a mix of nervous and excited.

A thousand questions were going through my mind…

"What in the world are we getting into?"

"Will she love it?"

"Do I want her to love it?"

"How big is this horse going to be?"

"Was I supposed to get her a helmet?"

"Oh well, too late now, we’re here."


Karen, her trainer at KFW, LLC, quickly made Savannah feel right at home in her barn. She explained basic anatomy of the pony, showed her where to stand to be safe, and how to groom him.

I could see my 7 year old little girl soaking in every word. She was lovingly gazing at this old lesson pony she had only just met. Looking back on it, I should’ve realized then that we were in for the long haul.

Next, Karen showed her the pieces of equipment and taught her the names of it all. Together they tacked up the pony – apparently that’s what it is called when you get them all dressed in their gear to ride. Little did I know that the horse world has its own language.

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My only thought at this point was, "holy moly that was a lot of work and she isn’t even on the horse yet."

It was finally time to actually ride. Karen assisted Savannah when mounting and led her out to the ring. My heart beamed with pride to see my girl up in the saddle. She looked so natural and had the biggest smile I had ever seen plastered on her face.

They walked and trotted and walked some more. Round and round the ring.

On the way home Savannah wouldn’t stop talking. Twenty-five minutes… reciting every moment of that one hour in horse heaven. Part of me was thrilled that she had found something she loved so much. She had tried dance, gymnastics, and even a soccer camp. The other part of me was dreading how much this new love was going to cost our family.

- Bobbi Bires, Equestrian Mom since 2016