My issue was:
1. I could continue to pay $35+ per ride to take lessons on school ponies, which, once the barns determined I could ride, was actually paying $35+ per ride to school their ponies for them. Eventually, beating up on ponies that don't turn, stop, or go got annoying because I myself really wasn't learning anything.
2. I could try to find something to lease, but in my area people have this infernal idea that half leases should pay a monthly fee PLUS half expenses, again to ride a lesson horse. Not a lot of private horses up for lease as I live in a college area and students are no longer bringing horses, likely because the ones that would have had trouble affording it don't have mommy and daddy helping at all, so they don't have horses in college;
3. I could find the money and buy something to bring along. I chose option 3 because then at least I am investing my time and $$ into producing something that goes the way I want it to go and does the things I want it to do, as opposed to paying for the privilege of doing it for someone else.
It's not always easy. I can afford board + shoes + the occasional lesson, but I'm not getting lessons 3x a week and if the horse ever needed expensive footwork etc I'd have to find places to cut back.
I also had to decide what I really wanted to do. Realistically, I could not afford a nice horse + the lessons required to do the hunters or jumpers, so I went back to something I know better: eventing. It's more expensive in some ways but less in a lot of others, and I'm enjoying it. However, I am realistic. My goal is to maybe, someday, go training, if I get over my general chicken-ness. What's nice about being an adult is that nobody can say boo about it and I get to do exactly what I want with my horse.
I didn't enjoy just taking lessons once or twice a week and just going around in circles, so for me buying was the best way to accomplish what I wanted even though financially it does not always come up roses (board + shoes + stuff = about $775 a month for me.)