WASHINGTON can be a real tease for horseless horse-lovers. Here you are, surrounded by horsey-set meccas such as Potomac and Middleburg, but too poor, too busy to own a horse. Well, now there's EquiShare.
EquiShare is a new horse leasing program that allows members unlimited access to a variety of high-quality horses for $210 a month -- about the price of boarding alone at most stables.
The concept was the brainchild of husband and wife Paul Schopf and Jane Seigler, the owners of the Reddemeade Farm in Silver Spring. After a year of planning, they opened EquiShare in August.
"Washington is a very transient town," Seigler says. "There's a lot of people who have moved into the city for a year or two or three to work on the Hill or something, and maybe left a horse behind that they don't really want to or can't move here. Or, there are just a lot of professional people who've done a lot of serious riding in the past, but just don't have the time or the energy to deal with all of the commitment that owning a horse entails. Maybe they haven't ridden for five or six years, but this is the chance for them to get back into it."
Most of the 15 members fit her descriptions; they're professionals in their 20s and 30s.
Mary Porto, a foreign service officer, lives with the constant possibility of having to make an international move on short notice. She's owned horses in the past and, just before joining EquiShare, she had a less-than-perfect experience with single-horse leasing at an expensive hunter-jumper stable.
"This provided a great alternative," she says. "It provided a variety of horses for me to learn different things on. I think one horse can be very limiting."
So far, there are six horses to choose from: three young Thoroughbreds, a Belgian, a Quarter Horse-Thoroughbred cross and a large pony. Several more are in training. Seigler makes the point that they are "schooled horses; not school horses." Each was carefully selected and schooled on the flat, over fences and on trails before it went into the program. Riders have to take a test to demonstrate that they can handle them.
Ann Kost, who started riding three years ago, rides almost every other day, after work as supervisor of a telephone section at Blue Cross Blue Shield, and on weekends.
But, she and her husband, who she says lumps horses and boats in the same money pit category, did some calculations before she joined EquiShare. "We looked at how often a week I was riding, and what kind of money I was putting into it. Then, we looked at how often I would like to ride and what that would have cost. This worked out to be a lot more economical."
EquiShare offers quite a few economic advantages over buying a horse: there's no capital investment, no veterinarian or farrier bills and even tack and grooming supplies are provided.
Wendy Bebie, an attorney who is currently spending most of her time raising two children, says that in addition to the financial savings, she enjoys the hassle-free aspect of EquiShare. "If one of the horses is sick or lame, you just ride somebody else. You don't come out and bandage its legs. So, there's kind of no worries; you just get to ride."
Seigler points out another benefit of multi-horse leasing. It eliminates the dilemma facing many first-time buyers: choosing a horse too advanced for their skills or one that they outgrow too quickly.
Reddemeade has a large indoor arena, a cross-country course for prospective eventers and, since it abuts parkland, the trails are almost endless. Seigler and Schopf are building a second stable and lighted outdoor ring to be finished this spring.
GETTING THERE --
Take New Hampshire Avenue north of the Beltway. At the light just north of the junction with Maryland Route 198, make a right onto Ednor Road. Reddemeade will be on your right, about a mile down. For information: 301/421-4481.