For many, owning their own horse is a life-long dream. These majestic creatures can provide long-term companionship and fun for their dedicated owners. Horses are a huge commitment however, and horse ownership shouldn’t be pursued without some serious thought. And, once you’ve determined that owning a horse is a good idea, there’s still a lot of work to do in finding the right horse for you.
Consider the Responsibility
Before you do serious research into selecting a horse, take some time to consider if the responsibility of horse ownership is really right for you. These days, horses can live 20-30 years, when they are cared for properly. You need to make sure you’re ready for a long-term commitment, or that you’re willing to do the necessary work to find your horse a good home should you come to the conclusion that you can no longer care for it.
Horses demand lots of care, and you can expect to put many hours into your horse on a weekly basis, if you hope to develop a good relationship with them. They must be fed, groomed, walked, and given adequate love and attention.
Besides the time commitment of caring for a horse, there’s also the very serious monetary commitment. The initial purchase cost for most pleasure-riding horses ranges from $500-5,000, although you can certainly pay a lot more than that if you want a fancier breed.
Purchasing costs are only the beginning, though. Over the long term, you’ll spend much more feeding, transporting, outfitting, and generally caring for your horse. If you don’t plan to keep your horse on your own property, you’ll need to pay for stabling too. Here is an example of an average yearly horse budget:
- Stabling: $3,000 (can range from $100-500 a month)
- Hay and Grain: $623
- Stall Bedding: $230
- Veterinarian Expenses: $300-1,000
- Farrier Service (Blacksmithing): $100
- Tack (tools, saddles, etc): $800-1,000
As you can see, the costs to care for a horse over a year can certainly add up! And this doesn’t even include riding lessons, insurance, traveling expenses, competition expenses, and the like. Unless you can comfortably take on these costs, you should reconsider committing to a horse.
Decide Which Breed is Right For You
If you’ve read this far and are still seriously considering horse ownership, good for you! Although the commitment and costs are daunting, horse ownership can be a truly rewarding experience for both the owner and the animal. Now, you’ll need to put some serious thought into which kind of horse best fits for needs.
First, consider the type of riding you want to do. There are several different types of English and Western riding styles, so consider which style which best fits you. Once you’ve decided on a riding style, you’ll only want to look at horses that have been trained in that specific discipline. Consider your own horse riding skills and experience, and the temperament of the animal that would be best for you. Unskilled riders generally do better with older, calmer horses.
A horse’s pedigree will also tell you the traits which it is more likely to have, and the skills it is good at. A distinguished pedigree can greatly increase the cost of a horse, so decide if having a specific skill set associated with a pedigree is important to you.
Where to Buy Your Horse
There are many avenues for finding the best horse for you. Public auctions and private sales are two options. To find leads for horses that might be up your alley, inquire at the stable where you plan to board your horse or take lessons. Riding teachers, breeders, the local newspaper, and your nearby tack store are all resources for locating a horse sale that could be of interest to you.
If this is your first horse purchase, ensure that you have a knowledgeable helper to come with you, to evaluate the horse and its abilities. Riding teachers can be especially good at helping you select a horse for your riding abilities.
Get a Pre-Purchase Horse Examination
Before you settle on the sale of a horse, you want to have its health checked by an experienced veterinarian. Because of the time commitment and financial burden associated with owning a horse, you don’t want to end up with an animal whose overall condition is not in top shape.
Seek out a veterinarian who is familiar with this breed, and who has no conflicts of interest with the current horse’s owner. Discuss your plans for the horse with them, and ask them what pre-purchase examination procedures they think are necessary. The veterinarian will be able to assess the horse’s overall state and discuss its health with you, to help ensure that you make an informed purchasing decision.
Once you’ve got your horse at home or at the stable, it’s time to start enjoying your new friend. You’ve just made a new lifetime partner, albeit one who depends on you for its health and welfare. Remember to give your horse as much love and attention as it gives you.
What to Expect When Owning A Horse. (2007) American Association of Equine Practitioners.