Owning a horse is a fun and exciting journey. Before purchasing; however, it is important to realize the big commitment that comes with owning a horse that should not be taken lightly. Horses are very big investments in both time and money. Although it will be a lot of work, spending time and caring for your new companion will quickly become one of your favorite things to do. Here is a helpful guide we have created to help make your transition into the horse ownership world as smooth as possible.
There are many factors to consider when buying a horse. When doing your research before committing to a horse; consider a few key aspects.
Age is perhaps the most important thing to take into consideration when purchasing a horse. Most believe that a young horse is the best option because you will have many years together. However, young horses can be inexperienced and unpredictable. When paired with a new owner this may not be the best match. An older horse with experience can instead help you to learn how to become a better horse owner. Older horses are likely already use to being handled, groomed, and saddled. With a young horse the odds are you will have to teach and train them for these basic traits. For these reasons, its best to look to horses experienced in the style of riding you are interested in and around the age of eight years or older.
There are a few terms that could pop up on horse ads that you should be aware of. If this your first time owning a horse, steer clear of any horse described as "green" and "hot." Green suggests that the horse is inexperienced. “Hot” refers to a horse being hot-tempered which is not ideal for your first horse.
Although the breed you choose comes down to personal preference, it is important to keep in mind that looks are not the most important factor. Some breeds that are very calm and easy-going which is recommended first and foremost for first-time horse owners. At the same time, breed does not necessarily guarantee behavior. Nonetheless, some generally easy-going and eager to please horses that would be great for first time owners are:
- American Paint
- American Quarter Horse
- Gypsy Vanner
- Irish Draught
One of the most important factors is that you feel comfortable riding the horse. You also have to consider the horse's comfort. The horse should be able to stand balanced and walk comfortably while you are riding them. A horse typically can carry around 20% of its body weight. This includes not just your weight but the gear as well as saddles can be very heavy. This is important to consider when it comes to what size horse you decide to buy.
Mare or Gelding
You may have noticed that stallions are notably missing from that list. A stallion would not be the best option for a fist time owner. In fact, even experienced horse owners have issues with stallions. Geldings are thought to be more even-tempered and dependable than mares. This is because some mares can show signs when in season, altering their mood. This is not the case for every horse but in general sticking to a gelding or mare in the early stages of ownership.
Questions to Ask When Looking
It is essential to ask questions before agreeing to purchase a horse. It is not uncommon for sellers to be dishonest or stretch the truth a little to make a sale. Buying based off of an ad may not cover everything you need to know before committing to a horse.
- How old is the horse? You will want a vet to come in to verify.
- How long have they had the horse? Why are they selling?
- Any health issues? Colic?
- Anything to note as far as temperament?
- Any buck, bolt, or spook behaviors you should know about?
- What feed are they currently on?
- How are they with loading?
- Are they kept in pasture or a stall?
- How are they with other horses?
- What is their turnout routine?
Basic Care for a Horse
Many things go into the care and maintenance of a horse that will require a lot of time and work on your part.
There are a couple of options when it comes to housing. If you have space on your property, you can keep them there, or you can board your horse at a stable. Boarding may be the easiest if you do not have time to go out and check on your horse every day. When boarding a horse, there are different levels of care. Stables offer options of full board which means that they will be responsible for the day-to-day care of your horse. This gives you the option of extra professional support which can be helpful if you are new to this responsibility.
Horses' digestive tracts are designed for eating small amounts of roughage, grass, and hay throughout the day. An average-sized horse will eat about 20lbs of food each day. Your horse should also always have access to fresh, clean water and either a salt or mineral block. If you choose to board your horse in a stable, they will take care of the feeding giving you one less thing to worry about.
The age of your horse will play a big part in how much exercise they would need. Regardless of age, your horse should be turned out or exercised every day. A cooped-up horse is an unhappy horse. Ongoing lack of exercise can make them hot tempered.
Grooming is essential when owning a horse. You should be brushing out your horse before every ride as this ensures there are no small rocks or debris on the coat before you put the saddle on. Saddling your horse without brushing out any stones that may be on their coat would be the equivalent of you walking with a pebble in your shoe, uncomfortable.
Your horse will need yearly vaccines. In addition to this, you will need a farrier to care for your horse’s feet. Foot health is essential. Going lame could be detrimental to a horse’s health.
- Feed pan/ bucket
- Feed container (something that can keep rodents out)
- Water bucket
- Heating water bucket (if you live in an area that drops below freezing temperatures)
If you are boarding your horse at a stable, then you probably don't have to worry about barn management, but if you have your horse on your property, you will need the following tools:
- Manure Fork
- Fire extinguisher
- Dry place to store hay
Handling and Grooming
- Hoof pick
- Body brush
- Curry comb
- Shampoo and conditioner
- Lead ropes
- Fly repellent
Whether you are riding western or English, you will likely need to purchase riding equipment:
- Saddle blanket/ saddle pad
- Saddle with girth
- Brindle and bit
- Lead rope
It is a good idea to keep an emergency kit handy not just in your horse stable but in your trailer as well. You never know when you will come across an emergency and need to tend to your horse immediately. Here are a few items that are good to keep in your emergency kit:
- Vet contact information/an emergency vet number
- Zinc Oxide Cream
- Eye cleaner
- Wound dressing: cotton gauze, bandage, diapers (they make the perfect bandage for a horse's leg)
- Latex gloves
- Duct tape/ medical tape
Now that you have a good foundation on the basics, you are ready to get out there and choose your horse. Hopefully, you found this guide to be helpful as you prepare to become a horse owner. Although it can be hard to resist buying the first horse you see, be sure to take your time. The right horse will come to you. Today we just scratched the surface, be sure to come back for more blogs on all things horse to come.