As my partnership as an honorary owner for Leah Lang-Gluscic continues, so does my education level. While I am accustomed to being involved in an upper-level show jumping program thanks to my time with Altamonte Show Stable, my time working with Leah has introduced me to a world of upper-level eventing that seems so far away for most riders of my level. I have learned about pre-season vettings, various training exercises, and more, but one of the most interesting things I have learned about is the actual structure of ownership in itself.
I have always wondered what it must be like to be an owner of an upper-level horse, but through this process, I really have gotten a behind-the-scenes look. With education always on the forefront, Leah sat down with me one day to talk about what ownership really could look like for those who wish to invest.
A very happy AP Prime, one of the horses I am an honorary owner of, enjoying some turnout in Florida. Photo by Leah Lang-Gluscic.
While it varies with each partnership made, there are three forms of ownership that someone may commonly see in the equestrian industry:
- Full Ownership
- Half Ownership
- and Syndicates
Most of the information Leah shared with me is kept under wraps in the industry, but our goal with this experiment is to shed some light on the realities of ownership, so Leah willingly explained what her ownership structures look like in great detail. Again, each professional’s ownership structure is going to vary slightly, but that leads me to Leah’s biggest takeaway during this discussion:
If you own a nice horse and have a rider in mind who you wish to campaign them, give them a call.
Most riders are actively looking for excellent horses to produce or show, so don’t hesitate to reach out if you are interested in discussing options.
So let’s break down those three options I mentioned earlier.
In a Full Ownership agreement, the individual partnering with the rider holds sole ownership of the horse during the entire time the rider is showing it. Many trainers, such as Leah, will offer a discounted training rate for owners who wish to have them step in the irons as the horse’s rider. This is an excellent opportunity for someone who wishes to retain ownership rights to the horse! However, that full ownership does come at a cost. Just like owning your own show horse, the owner is responsible for all upkeep and show-related fees in this structure.
As an example, Leah agreed to share what her Full Ownership structure looks like. If I were to have a young horse who I was excited about their future and wanted Leah to have the ride on it, the first step would be to give Leah a call. She would assess my horse and ensure that it had the potential for upper-level competition. If she liked the horse, it would go into her program full-time with a $300 a month discount on training board.
Now, one thing that I felt it was important to stress here is that this option is for owners who truly want to leave their horse in the hands of a professional during the majority of its career. This is not a way to get your horse training for your own purposes at a discounted rate. If your goal is to have the ride on the horse after your rider has put some miles on it, then you are not looking at an ownership partnership, but a trainer and rider partnership. It is understandable that when the horse is ready to step-down that the owner may take the reins, but this partnership truly is so that the owner can enjoy the ownership experience and watch their horse develop under the meticulous care of a professional rider.
The second horse who I get to play the role of owner for is this handsome dude we call Studly! Photo courtesy of Leah Lang-Gluscic.
The next option would be a Half Ownership agreement. With this option, there is a significant increase in affordability for many people as the owner and rider both take a 50/50 stake in the horse. Again, the way this agreement is structured is going to vary depending on the professional. However, it is safe to assume that in most agreements of this nature, the rider would take on the riding, training, and feed costs while the owner would take on the hard costs such as entries, vet, and farrier.
Leah informed me that this option requires great trust between both rider and owner, as mutual financial decisions have to be made. Again, in her program, sometimes, this agreement doesn’t start with a 50/50 ownership structure, but she accrues more ownership in the horse as she invests more of her time into it. While sometimes she and an owner may partner together on the purchase of a new horse with an immediate 50/50 ownerships, other times, she may find an owner who already has 100% ownership of the horse but wishes to participate as an owner in a more affordable fashion. This is where the accrual process comes into play and why trust has to play a big part in this partnership.
Lastly, there is the most publicly talked about option in ownership: the Syndicate. Again, Syndicate structures can vary. Some take the average cost of investing in a horse and its annual upkeep and split that into “shares,” which multiple people can invest in. Others, such as Leah’s, serve as a sort of annual membership that mitigates the risk associated with full or half ownership.
The idea behind a syndicate option is that it allows more people to experience ownership in a feasible, low-risk fashion. These low-cost “buy-in” or “membership” options allow participants with the opportunity to enjoy the perks of ownership without having to worry about vet bills, entry fees, and so forth. And a big plus is that some syndicate investments can be tax-deductible! Leah’s are thanks to the American Horse Trials Foundation.
So why should people invest their time, money, or horsepower into ownership? There is a multitude of reasons, but one stands out in my mind: riders in our sport need the horses necessary to move up through the levels, but may not have the financial backing to invest in that caliber of horse all on their own. As lovers of the sport, it is crucial that we nurture and support it and our riders.
But that is not the only reason! Ownership, I have found, is truly a fun and once-in-a-lifetime experience! This behind-the-scenes look at the program put into an upper-level horse has been extremely educational and exciting. And as Leah pointed out, more and more events are finding out how to cater to owners to make it even more fun! VIP passes, owner dinners, and more — there are tons of perks to make the owner experience a phenomenal one for all involved.
In summary, if you love horses, ownership is a completely new level in which you can connect with the sport. The more people we can get involved, the more excitement we can center around the world of eventing, or any horse sport for that matter. And who doesn’t want that?