I would venture to say that more than half of horse riders started their riding education in the following manner: "I begged my mom for riding lessons and finally on my 8th/9th/10th birthday, she bought me a pack of riding lessons. I was hooked!"
Pay-Per-Play. Most people start out riding once a week. Some will find this enough time and will be happy with the moderate progress they see from week-to-week. While the lessons themselves can be fairly expensive, the cost of investment is fairly low. You may decide to purchase your own riding equipment (boots, helmet, breeches, gloves) but there's no reason for you to come to the barn on any other day besides your riding lesson day. Depending on the program, you may have the chance to show in a schooling show here or there and you may learn how to tack and untack. The commitment is low and the costs are pretty consistent.
Leasing. For those who are unsatisfied with moderate progress and wish to develop a greater understanding of horses and horse care, leasing is a great option. It is a low-investment opportunity to learn to care for a horse. This is a great introduction to owning since you will most likely have someone helping you out with your horse's care. You start to learn what it means to call a vet, schedule a farrier, fit tack, try out different tack, etc. If you expect to progress quickly, leasing is a great option to find a very nice horse at an affordable rate to help you move up the levels quickly. Another benefit to leasing is the ability to ride on your own. Through independent rides (or "hacks") you begin to learn what it's like to process the information your instructor has been yelling at you for the past six months. You start to become more of a trainer, and less of a rider (ideally).
Owning. Owning a horse is like nothing else, in my opinion. You become responsible for all aspects of your horse's care from feeding to riding to exercise schedule. You become invested in your relationship with your horse. You will see progress like never before. You will learn how to schedule all routine maintenance requirements (dental, vaccination, shoeing, etc). You will be in charge of your horse's daily care. It is an empowering feeling to watch your horse bloom under your care and experience your riding at a whole new level. For young adults, it's a great way to teach responsibility, care, and follow-through. For adults, it's a wonderful way to get away from the office every day and breathe fresh air. When you own a horse, they become a part of your lifestyle. They teach you to persevere and how to be strong.
I've owned at least one horse every day since I was twelve years old. My first horse was a 9 year old off-the-track thoroughbred. He wasn't anything too flashy or too athletic. He wasn't a very honest horse either, come to remember it! But for two years he and I worked it out and went on to compete in the 3' hunters under Archie Cox and Philip Klippa. When I outgrew his ability, I traded him for a 5 year old off-the-track thoroughbred who was an even bigger challenge. He brought me into the 3'6" arena (albeit not successfully) and eventually taught me quite a bit of dressage. I've often been called stubborn, but I'd like to think of myself as someone who perseveres. Never give up, never surrender!
For more information on the benefits of horse showing and owning, please visit ShowMom.com