Julie Matter-Mutuc is currently half leasing a 13-year-old Quarter Horse gelding named Cinch. Julie has been riding for the past two years, and the pair ride the trails in South Boulder, Colorado.
"Sometimes he'll get a little stubborn (like on a hot day), but I trust him, and I know he wouldn't do anything to intentionally hurt me," she says.
Per her written contract, she pays $220 a month, on the 15th. Part of that $220 fee includes half the cost of Cinch's arthritis medicine.
If something happens to Cinch while she's riding or working with him, she's completely responsible for those medical expenses. If something happens, but not on her watch, she's not responsible for any expenses.
"That's a little different than what other people do--some make it 50/50 no matter what. Say Cinch coliced, if I wanted to have the full responsibility of that, then I'd just have my own horse. On the flip side, I also felt that if I borrowed something of someone's, and something happened to it, I wouldn't expect them to pay half. His owner was OK with that," says Julie. "It was super easy, cool, and it works out great. I have a 5-year-old who'll be starting kindergarten. Though I'll have more time, I still don't have a lot of time for a horse. So my half lease is for three days week, and if I want to take him on a weekend, I'm more than welcome to."
It's been a big learning experience for Julie.
"When I started with Cinch, he'd do a little crow hop when he loped. I got used to it, but it was still a little scary for me. Goldie (the first horse Julie half leased) didn't do that. But it's part of the learning process, and that's how you become better and more confident," she adds.
To learn more about the her half-leasing experience, read the interview below.
H&R: What are the benefits of half leasing?
Julie: I think there are a lot of benefits. If I had a horse of my own, I would feel like I needed to be with my horse. Having a young child, I think it's important to do things with him. So, if I can't make it out to the barn, or if I go on a trip, Cinch is still going to be ridden. And it's great for Cinch's owner, Peggy, because the riding Cinch and I do is low-impact, and every time we go out, it's more training, practice, and grooming for him.
H&R: Are there any kind of restrictions on your half lease?
Julie: No. If I wanted to do a clinic, that's OK, but I can't do them all the time. If I did, Peggy wouldn't be able to ride him. It really works out for both of us. I can trailer him if I want to so we can ride somewhere else. We really didn't have any restrictions. But it's a very small barn; there's only seven horses. I think there's a lot of trust with the women at the barn.
Though because I'm new, I don't go on the trails by myself. I'm always with someone.
H&R: Do you think there are any pitfalls to half leasing?
Julie: I don't. I guess if the horse was injured, and you couldn't ride him, that wouldn't be good. But I can't imagine if your agreement is with someone who understands that would be a big problem.
H&R: How did you find about the available half lease?
Julie: The barn where Cinch is boarded is really small, and we have access to plenty of open space and trails. I noticed it on a bike ride, and stopped to talk to the owner. Then I started taking lessons once a week. After that, she mentioned that the horse I rode, Goldie, was up for half lease. So I half leased him until his owner needed him back for the summer to give lessons.
Cinch's owner Peggy works full time, so he doesn't get ridden during the day. That's the time I have available to ride because my son's in school. So I asked Peggy if I could half lease Cinch, and she agreed. It really worked out.
H&R: Who would you recommend half leasing to?
Julie: I think if you don't have a lot of time, but yet you want to ride, then you should half lease. For me it's been a huge learning experience. To be able to go to the barn, get a horse, go out to the pasture--I can't tell how long it took me to be comfortable walking into a pasture with seven horses. It was scary at first. I'm sure for other women it's not a problem, but I didn't grow up riding horses. There were a lot of little fears I had to overcome.
If someone is riding weekly, it's that next step. It's like 'OK, I'm getting into this, but I'm not quite ready to buy a horse, but I'm ready to have a little bit of the responsibility of a horse.'
It's kind of a neat way to try a different barn, or try a different event. I think a lot of people would be open to it because it's really expensive to own a horse right now. I think hay is $10-12 a bale. It's really nice if someone can pitch in for that.
I know another girl named Robin who half leases her horse because she's going to school. It just really helps people out. It helps people who want a horse, who want to take it to the next level, and who want to try something new.
H&R: Have you and Cinch's owner had any disagreements?
Julie: No, nothing. I think it's been a win-win for us. Peg doesn't have any added expense for sharing Cinch with me. I use my own saddle, make my own fly spray, etc. I don't know how it works for other people, but because of our situation at the barn, Peggy knew me pretty well. Plus, she knew that the barn owner, Jill, was willing to half lease Goldie to me, so that said a lot.
H&R: How did the process start?
Julie: We went to breakfast and talked it out. We talked about what we were each comfortable with. Peg is very methodical and a thinker. She wasn't in a hurry, and that's why I feel lucky to even do this half lease. She'd spoken with other people, but then nothing happened.
I think the main thing when you half lease a horse, is that you're going to have to find someone who treats the horse like it's theirs. I would never do something to jeopardize Cinch. I know that's also why I was able to lease Goldie. For example, Goldie has a pink nose and would easily sunburn. Before taking him out, I'd put sunscreen on him so he wouldn't burn. If you're that kind of person who'll treat something like it's your own, I think it's nice. Then you feel like you don't have to worry.
We also did a three-month trial period agreement to start. Peggy wanted to make sure she'd be OK with Cinch being ridden by someone else. For me, it took a while to build up trust with Cinch. During that trial period I was on a ride in some tall grass . A deer jumped in front of us, seemingly out of nowhere, and Cinch did a 180 and then stopped. I knew he was a good one when he didn't bolt away.
I also did some arena work first with Cinch's previous owner, and she showed me some things.
H&R: How do you hash out the details of the agreement?
Julie: We already knew what the price would be because of my prior lease. But then I added $20 extra for medicine. What's interesting though, in my other lease I paid half of the farrier bill, and in this one, I don't. It's mostly the owner's preference.
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