Riders under 18 probably won’t be anywhere on my lease agreements anymore. And it’s not because they’re irresponsible or poor horseman.
Regardless of how you feel about it, Safe Sport adds a new layer of complexity to how we communicate. It affects riders and trainers, but also owners. I’m an adult amateur and have been fortunate to have one or two lovely horses to my name at any given time. In years past and prior to the adoption of Safe Sport, I’ve had a few parents lease my horses for their kids to ride and show. In most cases, these “kids” were older teens (16+) and very savvy. Frankly, I wouldn’t have trusted them with my horses if they weren’t!
The other wonderful thing about these kids is that they were marvelously communicative – if they had a question about tack, if the horse came in with a small injury, or if they won a ribbon at a show, I got a text. As an owner, there is nothing better than knowing that your horse is well taken care of and seeing someone win aboard a horse you brought along. I beamed every time I got one of those show pictures.
Leases are complicated by nature, communicating with the person who has your horse should be the easy part.
I know now to start a group text and to put other safeguards in place to cover myself legally and as per Safe Sport protocol, but doing so definitely changes how I feel about leasing when a junior is involved. Instead of feeling comfortable with my leaser and having an open line of communication, I now have to additionally have a plan for communicating with the rider who will be my horse’s person for the duration of the lease. Leases are complicated by nature, communicating with the person who has your horse should be the easy part.
I believe kids need to be protected from predators, period. That being said, the new Safe Sport rules add a whole new dimension of uneasiness to leasing that, as an owner, I’m not sure about. Open and good communication is critical between owner, leaser, rider, and caregiver regardless if the latter is one or multiple people. I have never had a bad leasing experience, but I wonder what would have happened if communication hadn’t been so open.
I’m not a professional. Leasing horses isn’t a business proposition for me, but rather a way to keep my horses going when life gets crazy. Good, communicative leasers are hard to find, and I’m not sure that I ever want to cut short or complicate any sort of communication that has to do with my horse’s welfare. I’m so grateful to have had such trustworthy leasers in the past, but the next time I have to make the decision to send a horse I own out on lease, it may have to be to an adult-only situation.