There is a lot of hurting that's going on out there. Just look around you and I guarantee you will come across someone who's life has been torn apart because of the current economic climate.
Frequently these problems are exacerbated for horse owners as people struggle through layoffs and foreclosures. One look through just about any newspaper's classified section and websites like Craigslist will reveal a horrifying truth ~ a vast majority of horses have zero worth these days.
So what's a body to do if you have a horse you just can't bear to part with and you're worried about his future if you do decide to try selling? There are a few options to think about, though for your horse's sake be proactive.
As long as you do your homework on any potential home, including personal research and ensuring a way to keep tabs on where your horse is if you allow a lessee to take him off your property, leasing is one way to maintain ownership while having someone else assume the costs of upkeep. A lease allows another party to keep and enjoy a horse without laying out the purchase price.
When negotiating leases, I always outline everything that the lessee can expect to pay for (board, feed, farrier, veterinary care, etc) and add to those costs an insurance policy with the lessor as the beneficiary. Standards of care are covered, allowable uses, locations where the horse can be kept and other caveats can also be included but make sure you have a binding contract IN WRITING to cover both you and your horse. One more tip is to clearly outline that surprise visits will happen, so the lessee should expect them at any time.
Another potential work-around would be to offer labor in exchange for board costs. While this won't help if your horse is at home, thinking about moving your horse to a stable and making such an offer can cut your costs exponentially. Good labor and hard workers who are reliable and capable is hard to find, believe me. Most barn owners are glad to discuss options, especially if they have plenty of satisfied paying customers.
Sadly, the fact is I don't see things getting better any time soon. Easing your own burden is often at the forefront of our thought process, which leads to the barrage of animals offloaded into rescue. This is why I so strongly advocate doing all that you can to support your local legitimate rescue groups. You can find out more about rescues in your area by searching online, calling local equine professionals and retailers as well as contacting the IRS for a listing of tax exempt 501(c)(3) organizations local to you.
One final note ~ this is the holiday season. Consider being nicer (and more charitable) to your fellow human beings as well as horses and other animals in need. There are more out there than ever.