Betrayal of Trust - why I do not free lease 

The crash of 2008 hit some of us pretty hard. I lost two homes, a career and my income. With sixteen horses to provide for, it has been a period of severe trial for me. Now, six years later, down to eight horses and with one book out, another in production and a third in the research phase, I feel there is some light glimmering at the end of this long tunnel of despair.

After the financial reversal, I was lacking funds, and with several young untrained horses I was forced to be creative and embarked on an experiment of bartering training in exchange for the use of the horses, which also contained a sales agent option whereas the lessee could earn a healthy percntage of the sale price if they arranged a sale during the term of the lease.

My first experience with this free lease/sales agent deal was overall good. The horse did not sell, nor was he trained in the discipline agreed upon (eventing), however, he was extremely well schooled through 3rd level dressage, earned a stellar show record, and came back to me healthy, happy, sound and trusting.

This experience encouraged me to try it again. Although I placed the next gelding in a respected facility, with a rider who had Olympic aspirations, it could not have been a worse experience, as the horse was roughly handled, ridden hard in poorly fitted saddles and his trust was destroyed--never to be fully regained. When not being ridden hard and put away wet, he was warehoused in his stall, and it broke his heart. I was misled and lied to by this operation on multiple occasions as to his condition and his schedule, his pricing and its changes. When I visited my horse and saw the state he was in, I hired a trailer the next morning and rescued him out of their control. It took a full year of pasture rest to get a portion of his brain back. His value was estimated at $40,000 at the beginning of this experience, he is worth less than half that now.

My third try was a woman who presented herself as a skilled 3-day eventing trainer, and she agreed to take a four-year old gelding of mine, train him in eventing and market him--all on contract, which included the promise to keep him insured. The horse was sound, sane and sweet tempered when turned over to her. Evidently early in the 'training' the gelding was injured. Instead of stopping and having him properly vetted, she worked him harder, because she told me later 'he had a poor work ethic'. Eventually he began trying to rub her off him against the arena wall, as he was in pain and she continued to punish him by pushing him on. She did not tell me any of this until she returned him, and to this day she denies she injured him. Shortly she called and said she was returning my horse to me, because he had a bad attitude and she could do nothing with him. 

I had a vet out to check him, and he confirmed his stifle was injured and if it did not heal it would require surgery. At age six now, he is still unhealed and will indeed require the surgical procedure. Amazingly, and surely a testament to how wonderfully forgiving horses can be, his mind did come back, and he is once again the sweet, loving boy he was before his horrible experience with that insensitive and abusive 'trainer'.

Then we come to my most recent experience, when a seasoned eventer took a three-year old gelding of mine on a free lease/sales agreement. I was impressed with her maturity, and liked her enough to trust her with my horse 500 miles away--knowing I could not visit him. At the two year point, the lease was up for renewal. According to the lessee he had never been out in public, and was barely trained at walk/trot/canter and only schooled over cross rails. Plans had been made during the term of the lease to have him out 'cubbing' and appear at shows, and that she would provide me with photos of him under-saddle so I might put him up for sale, but the time went on and none of these things occurred. Various excuses were given, but the result was he was never tested in public. She had expressed her affection for him on numerous occasions, therefore I made her an offer of purchase for $5000 based on his green broke level of training or I would bring him home. At the last minute she purchased him--that was in April.

Come June and I was contacted by a person who had seen him perform at Preliminary level, where he won all phases. How does a horse who can barely walk/trot/canter win a Prelim event? They don't--that level requires training and schooling at Novice, then Training level. Under further questioning the person let me know he had been schooling last year at all the 'big events' across southern CA, and drawing quite a bit of attention. I thought at first that there must be some mistake--my horse was barely trained, and never seen in a public event--she must have been mistaken. Unfortunately, the report was true, and I had been bamboozled again and cheated about the value of my horse.

I will be financially back on track in time to begin breeding again next spring. Breeding seems to be one of the few things I can get right--with a record of only 8 horses that have been competed, still 6 of them have been winners--that is 75% winners. Of those  I have had 3 national champions, with one that has reached international level, plus it looks like this one is on the fast track for Advanced. However, it is painfully apparent that I am terminally inept at character assessment. So you can be sure I will never offer a free lease option to anyone again--no matter how compelling their story.

My creative venture was a failure, for never was even one of my horses sold through this arrangement, and two were permanently damaged, and another was taken from me for a pittance. Like most of my poor horses that I put through this stupid ordeal, I too am permanently injured and untrusting from my treatment.