I’ll chime in. I’ve been riding over 25 years (started as a tot) but have only owned 2 horses for brief periods – the rest of the time i’ve leased and catch ridden. SO and I just purchased our first home (no acreage), we live in a suburb of a VERY horse expensive city, and I work ~65 hrs a week. I’m currently horse shopping very actively so expect to have a horse ASAP. I’ve been horse shopping since Sept though so have been leasing/catch-riding/lessoning in the mean time.
So I will give my current situation as well as my planned schedule once I own.
I have two horses at my disposal currently plus a trainer who lets me take lessons on her personal horse. I am very fortunate that I am a very capable, confident, and soft rider so people want me to ride their horses.
First horse is an OTTB that I lease from a private owner that is kept at a boarding barn a 10 min drive from my house. I ride her before work 1x a week plus 1 weekend day (plus any of the weekends the owner is away). Weekdays I ride for ~20-30 min before work between 6:30 – 7:30 and then catch the 8 AM train downtown for work.
Second horse is a high-spirited Welsh/Arab cross that was purchased to be a schoolie in my friend’s lesson program but is definitely NOT schoolie termperament. I’m petite so friend has asked me to exercise pony whenever I can as everybody in her lesson program is scare of pony and refuses to ride her. I try to ride her 1-2 days of the weekend but the barn is ~45 min away and with winter cold weather I’ve gotten kind of lazy/wimpy about getting out there.
Third horse is the personal horse of my trainer – a 17 yr old PRE that was out of work for a few years and is now coming back into it. Previously trained to a high level. She’s quite protective of him so I’m super appreciative that she lets me lesson on him while I search for my own horse. However she’s expensive so I typically only lesson every other weekend.
So basically during the work week I ride one morning and then my weekends are spent barn-hopping to ride each of the three (so annoying that they are at 3 different barns!)
I expect to buy something young and green (~3-4 yr old) and am a firm believer that babies should only be worked 3-4x a week for max 30 min. I expect to keep horse at a barn ~10 min from my house and work the horse weekends and 1-2x weekday mornings. Weekdays will be quick sessions before work whlie weekends will be a short ‘working’ session and then exposure work (hacks around the property, de-sensitization work to ‘scary’ things, ground work and manners) as well as longer grooming and bonding sessions.
Once horse is going under saddle for a few months I’ll start lessons 2x a month on weekends in the off-season and then we’ll see what I can manage during show season when most trainers are unavailable for weekend lessons.
Once horse is 5-6 years and a more solid citizen/established dressage horse then I’ll probably look for a part-time leaser who can ride a couple times during the week. For a less skilled rider I’ll charge a higher fee and for a more skilled rider I’ll essentially waive the fee — but that’s much further down the road.
Horses are such a time and money suck, and honestly I cringe when I crunch the numbers and look at what my per-ride cost is on a monthly basis. But at the same time I’m a miserable cow when I’m not riding so my husband has learned to accept that the time and money is worth it to have a pleasant wife to be around 😀
We’re also trying to start a family right now and I do wonder if I’m crazy to be looking to buy when my already tight schedule is about to get even more hectic. However I’m actually TRYING to get a horse before we conceive because I know that if I have a horse I’m really excited about, I’ll make it work — vs if I’m just catch-riding or riding a lease horse out of convenience I’ll quickly let the horse drop off the radar.
As for leasing vs buying – I’ve been leasing and catch-riding for 10 years. I am so done with not having control over the horses’s training, maintenance, upkeep, etc. To me the financial investment ot regain that control is worth it.
Hopefully in the next year or two I’ll change jobs to one with more flexibility and shorter hours. My goal is to find a job that allows me to work remotely 2 days a week and those days will become my riding days.
I’m not sure I’ll ever want to have the horses at home to be honest. The cost savings are typically outweighed by the time required to care for the horses daily but also all the maintenance and upkep of the property. Plus I NEED an indoor in winter or else I won’t ride (too wussy) so unless we move to a warm climate I expect my horses will always be boarded.
ETA: in buying our house having close-access to boarding barns was a high priority. We compromised on commute for this. So our commute to work is ~40 min door to door with a direct train (we live ~5 min from the station and our offices are both a 1 min walk from the other end station). Because of this I have a choice of barns that are within a 15 min drive of the house – something I’ve never had before. However because we are about as close in to the city as you can get for horse country, the board prices are steep. It’s painful, but the reality of the city we live in. Someday I’d love to move to a more wallet-friendly horse area, but for now I just cry a little at what it costs then soldier on.