O ne of the greatest joys that beginner horse riders consider at one point or another is the thought of going from occasionally riding a horse to actually owning one. Most commonly, this happens with children that have just been introduced to the world of riding and develop the sudden urge to ask for a pony every day. But, however fun and exciting that thought might be, the person that is thinking about actually making the purchase has quite a lot to consider.
To tackle this specific subject, we have put together a detailed guide about what to consider beforehand, what you’ll have to gather information about, the expenses, and more. Keep scrolling further if you are curious about what it actually means to own a horse.
Is buying a horse the right thing for you?
The first thing you’ll need to think about is if you actually want to buy a horse. You might have owned a dog or a cat before, or maybe even a rabbit or some chicken. If that seemed like a difficult time for you, or if you didn’t manage to get into a good routine with those animals, it’s ten times harder when it comes to a 1,000-pound animal. If, however, you’re up for a challenge and feel like you are responsible enough, let’s go further.
Consider the expenses
While the initial price is quite high, it will feel like nothing when compared to the continuous care that follows after. Think of the expenses as being the same or higher than those involved when buying and servicing a car over the years. To be more specific, these costs include:
Offer the proper environment
The environment can translate into keeping the horse in boarding or on your property. When it comes to boarding, the level of care can vary from paying for the space and doing the care work yourself to paying for everything and having someone tend to your horse entirely. The latter is an experience that’s similar to going for horse riding lessons, the only two differences being that it’s more expensive and the horse is only yours.
If you keep the horse at home, you’ll have to have everything from a paddock or a pasture, a barn or a stall with bedding and weatherproofing, food, cleaning products, care products, and so on.
Have the right equipment
Another important aspect that sits within the expenses is buying the equipment that you’ll need in order to train and ride the horse.
For the horse
For the horse itself, you will need everything starting with a bridle going to pads, a halter, a breastplate, a lead, horseshoes, boots, a blanket, and so on. Some are required when riding and some are required when training, but one piece that works in both cases is a horse saddle that fits the animal well, helps with desensitizing, and offers more comfort during rides.
There are many options when it comes to the equipment that a beginner rider should own and wear but one of the most important pieces that many forget to think about are the horse riding boots that are different from regular footwear through the heel design and ankle protection that they offer. These boots usually come in various sizes because comfort is the most important aspect when riding a horse, which is also why jodhpurs (or breeches) have lighter seams so as to not chafe the skin.
Do you have the proper knowledge?
Other than requiring the proper care products and quite a big budget, horses are also intricate beings that require you to know a whole lot of information so that you can deliver the best care. For a short briefing, let’s separate the knowledge into two aspects:
When it comes to physical health, we’ll be addressing the nutrition and exercise aspects. The first thing that you should know about the aspect of nutrition is that no two horses are the same, just as no two people are the same. Your animal is bound to have its preferences when it comes to food and treats and those will, in turn, influence its weight and health. That’s why we recommend that you speak to a veterinarian when the time is right so that you can put together an appropriate meal and exercise plan. The exercise plan should be followed no matter what; otherwise, long periods of inactivity can have a bad influence on muscles, joints, bone structure, and even mental health.
Largely for convenience but also for safety purposes, large animals that have grown on pastures in the past are now being kept in stables and barns which usually don’t provide too much freedom in movement, and leaving them there for extended periods of time has been proven to be a mistake. Inactivity and confinement can be detrimental to an animal’s health, even more so when its body holds great power and energy that needs to be released. If you must leave your horse in its stall for longer than usual, consider adding enrichment in the form of different feeding methods, frozen treats, toys, and so on.
One thing that could help you realize if there’s anything wrong with your horse, either physically or mentally, is to learn its body language so that you can have an easier time telling when something is off.
You’ll need to form a routine
More often than not, routines have been proven to increase efficiency, productivity, and to add to the delivery of better results. When an animal is involved as well, the added benefits include creating a sense of familiarity, increasing trust and self-confidence, and also ensuring a better bonding between you and the animal. However, you should be prepared to cut down on social events and leisure time unless you have a budget for a caretaker because what we are about to enumerate can take up all of your time.
Routine with the horse
The routines that are directly related to the horse have to do with the feeding and watering schedule, which you should try to maintain for as long as the horse is in your care. The only modifications that can occur along the way are related to the method, for example, when the horse reaches a certain age, you might have to feed the hay bales through an electric wood chipper to make the straw pieces smaller and easier to digest.
Other scheduled activities can include regular grooming so that you can tend to the coat, the mane, and the hooves, regular health check-ups to stay on top of the annual shorts, tooth inspections, and deworming procedures, and last but not least, exercising and training to keep the animal in top shape and stimulated.
Routine around the stable
A very important routine that you cannot skip has to do with the cleaning of the stable or the barn where your steed sleeps and stays during bad weather. The manure needs to be removed promptly, the floors need to be washed, and the whole place needs to be bug-proof. One way to make sure that horseflies or other bothersome bugs won’t stress out your animal is to treat the space with a chemical-free insect fogger that can ensure a long-lasting effect.
What you’ll need to know before you make a purchase
Now that we’ve gone through the basics of what to expect when you own a horse, it’s time for us to be focusing on the actual buying process.
How to search
While searching for the right horse might sound easy at first, know that the descriptions in the ADs and salesmen aren’t always what or who they seem to be. What we recommend is that you ask for the help of a person that is knowledgeable in this domain and can guide you in the right direction. You could look into buying a horse from the following sources:
- Individual Sellers or Online Ads
- Private or Public Auctions
- Experienced Dealers or Trainers
Even once you have found the right horse, things aren’t over. When you go for your face-to-face meeting, you’ll need to check if the information you have received so far matches with what you see, so check the following:
Physical attributes and history
Everything from the age to the breed, size, and gender needs to coincide with what you’ve been told about the horse before setting up a meeting. Our recommendations are to avoid younger horses that haven’t been trained long enough and definitely don’t go for a stallion, as those can be a handful. Instead, opt for older geldings or mares with training experience, a good size for your height, and a good medical background. For that last information, you can ask the owner for the name of the vet and farrier that has been seeing the horse or even for the contact of any previous owners.
When you’re first seeing the horse, you’re bound to spend a little time talking with the owner, looking at the living conditions in the stables, and most importantly, taking note of the animal’s behavior. Check for any strange movements, changes in mood, and observe how it acts around the owner and when it is walked around. It’s very important to watch it move, as this can tell you more about the level of energy, how likely it is to listen to commands, or if there might be any lameness in the legs. If you don’t pay attention to these details, you might end up with an ill-tempered steed that will make your first owning experience more difficult than it has to be.
Regardless of its temper, however, even the mildest horse can have a moment when it gets scared – thus turning a walk into a trot – which is why you should make sure that you have the right horseback riding helmet that fits you well and will keep you safe in case you go down unexpectedly. With the right equipment, you can safely tackle everything that might come your way, should the animal have a sudden shift in behavior until it gets used to its new home.
Do your part
To make sure that you are doing everything right and no information escapes during the meeting, do the following:
♞ Ask for a ride: Whether you decide you want to hop on the horse or have the seller go for a ride, this step is one that you shouldn’t omit. A ride can reveal if the animal is comfortable with the riding equipment, if it stays still, if it allows for an easy mount, and if it behaves well in the paddock.
Once you have made the purchase
When your first horse is finally in your possession, we’re sure that there’s nothing that you would like more than immediately going for a ride, but you must be mindful of the animal’s experience as well. Offer it enough time to decompress and adapt to the new living environment and don’t start the training right away. We recommend letting at least a week go by, with the last few days consisting of bonding activities like grooming, walking around, feeding treats, and so on. After a week has gone by, you can start the desensitizing process, which means acclimating the animal to everything that might be new, like the sound the cars on your property make, the various animals that live there, other people that might be handling it, and so on. Always start slow and work your way up when it comes to introducing new experiences.
If you’ve made it this far into the article and buying a horse doesn’t seem like a good option after all, then here are the alternatives that you can go for:
- Loaning – Instead of owning a horse, you can choose to loan it for a few months to a year. Look around for someone in your area who can provide this service and give them a call. Depending on the way they like to do things, you might have to pay a larger fee to have the animal together with every item it needs to be delivered to your home or you might have to pay a smaller fee to take the animal home and gather everything you need for it yourself.
- Riding Lessons – The easiest route if riding is all you care about is just going for riding lessons, where caring for the horse is left to the professionals.
- Volunteering – This is something that isn’t available everywhere, but you can give asking a try. Some riding clubs offer the option of volunteering in taking care of the animals and the stables in exchange for free riding lessons. This way, you can engage in both the care part and the riding part.
- Horse Rescues – This last volunteering option is more for those who don’t find riding to be the most important aspect and simply want to care for these beautiful creatures. In rescues, the main interaction usually aims to start a bonding process to help with rehabilitation and has the end goal of getting horses to trust people again.
Now that we’ve reached the end of our article, the only person who can decide whether or not owning a horse is a good idea for you is you. Consider everything we’ve covered here and do research work for yourself as well. Only make this decision if you’re sure that it will be a good one for both of the involved parties.