New to Horses?
One of the most rewarding aspects of running a riding stable is
introducing new people to the world of horses.
There is a LOT of information available on the internet, some good, some
bad, but I have compiled some highlights here from various sources that I
believe are quite important for new equestrians to know. Check out our
Links page as well for additional information.
THINGS TO CONSIDER BEFORE BUYING YOUR FIRST HORSE
1) Horses are not toys, nor are they machines- they cannot be stored away until next season.
2) Owning a horse is a full-time commitment: 24/7, 365 days a year—for years. It means lots of bills, finding someone
to care for it when you are away, being responsible for its health and training.
3) Horses are constantly learning—they can learn bad habits just as easy as good habits. Whether you intend it or
not, you are always training your horse.
4) Do not buy an untrained horse for you or your child so “the horse and you can learn together”. You will both end
up hurt or dismayed at horse ownership. Plan on at least six months of full-time training by a professional trainer to get
your untrained horse off to a good start. Be sure to continue working with your trainer so you will know how to manage
5) Ride lots of horses FIRST-- discover what traits you like and don’t like, and look for a horse with the traits that
appeal to you: age, size, energy level, attitude, training. Color and names should be of least importance.
6) Inexperienced riders should buy experienced horses—these horses will tend to ignore your accidental cues and
requests and can teach you a lot.
7) Older horses tend to have the training and disposition ideal for inexperienced riders, but they also tend to have
more wear and tear from years of use. Vet checks are very important when buying older horses. The costs of feed
supplements, special shoes, and extra vet bills can add up in a hurry.
8) You generally get what you pay for. That free horse may sound like a great deal, but there’s probably a reason no
one wanted it--- and horses are far from free. There’ll be lots of bills to pay, and a problem horse costs as much to keep
as a great horse.
9) Well-trained, young, high-quality, and/or very talented horses that can be handled and ridden by inexperienced
people are the most desirable horses on the market—and they are priced accordingly!
10) Untrained, unsound, elderly, and/or poor quality horses that can be handled and ridden only by experienced people
are the least desirable horses on the market—and they are ALSO priced accordingly!
11) Use your head not your heart--- don’t buy a horse just because you “connected”, or he nuzzled your shoulder,
or you love his name, or whatever. Bring a professional with you to help you find the horse best matched for you.
12) Just because the seller says the horse can be ridden by anyone, make sure they prove it by riding him for you.
Don't get on a horse without first seeing someone else ride it.
13) Don’t ignore real deals- they are out there. Some horses are very under priced due to conditions that have nothing
to do with the horse- divorce, college, health issues, etc. Just because the price is cheap does not automatically mean it is
a problem horse.
14) Be careful who you trust! “Horse traders” got their reputation for a reason- they were the precursors to the
modern-day “Used Car Salesman”. Get a written agreement that you can bring the horse back after 30 days for a refund
if it doesn’t work out for any reason, assuming it is still healthy, of course.
HOW MUCH DO HORSES COST?
There are two options in keeping horses: BOARDING and KEEPING YOUR OWN. I will address the pros and cons
of both these options. If you are first-time buyer, boarding your horse may be beneficial, especially for the first few
months, so that you can have hands-on help in guiding you through first-time horse ownership, especially in regard to
administering first-aid, handling behavioral issues as they arise, and general daily care.
KEEPING YOUR OWN HORSES AT HOME
To a horse lover, there is nothing nicer than seeing ones horses contentedly grazing out your living room window.
However, keeping horses at your home can be costly and time-consuming, and horse owners used to the companionship
offered at busy riding stables sometimes feel adrift when they are out on their own. Maintaining a farm can cut into your
spare time, and you may find yourself doing more maintenance than riding. Horses are social creatures, so plan on having
at least a small pony if not another horse to keep each other company.
Acreage prices have increased the last few years. Be sure to figure at least 1 acre of pasture per horse. Additional space
will be needed for your house and yard; barn(s) for horse(s), hay, shavings, & supply storage; and for pen(s), riding
Pasture-kept horses are the most economical to keep, but during the months where there is little or no grass for grazing,
you will have to feed hay. An average 50 lb. bale of Bermuda hay, which is common in NWA, is around $4.00 picked
up in the field (add $1.00 or more per bale for delivery, and add $2 or more per bale at the feed store). Grain averages
between $9.00 and $14.00 for a 50 lb. bag. How much feed and hay you will use each month will increase easily
depending on the amount of work your horse is in, as well as its breed and metabolism. Shavings or straw will be needed
as bedding for stall-kept horses.
Hoof care includes farrier visits, which average approximately $30 for a pasture trim with no shoes, or approximately
$100 for a set of shoes, and are necessary every 6 weeks.
Deworming should be done regularly, with doses varying from approximately $3-$10 per dose.
Don't forget yearly vet visits for about $100 ($50+/- farm call plus vaccinations once a year), and any veterinary care for
illness or injuries.
Supplies needed include tack (bridle, bit, reins, saddle, girth, stirrups, saddle pad), supplies (halter, lead, buckets, de-
icers, salt block), fencing materials, barn or shelter and repairs to each, or any health supplements your horse may need.
A tractor for maintaining pastures and arenas, a horse trailer and at least half-ton truck to pull it, are also necessities for a
well-run horse farm of any size.
You must also find a knowledgeable caretaker for those times when you are on vacation or unable to care for your horse.
BOARDING YOUR HORSES
Rising land prices in many areas has decreased the practicality of having horses at home.
Although board fees may seem prohibitive, from approximately $100 to $400 a month, they generally include all the
expenses of feed, hay, bedding, worming, and care, including maintenance of stalls, riding arenas, and pastures. These
fees also include the bonus value of the boarding barn’s experience and expertise in handling horses, their behavioral
issues, and emergency situations. Because boarding barns also generally have a variety of horses and owners,
companionship (albeit sometimes conflicts as well) for both horse and rider is a given, as well as better access to trainers
and riding instructors. However, depending on the distance you must travel, driving to and from a boarding facility can be
time-consuming and costly.
ALWAYS PLAN AHEAD
Anyone considering horse ownership should realize there are three areas of expense you must be prepared for:
• Routine maintenance (e.g. boarding bills, feed, bedding, insurance)
• Unforeseen circumstances (e.g. accident, illness and equipment damages)
• Euthanasia and disposal of the body. This may become necessary at any point in a horse’s life. It is
far better to make provisions for this before you need it than to find you’re struggling to afford it when the time comes.
It is worth thinking about the re-homing potential of any horse before you take on ownership so that you are prepared
for the future. Prior to purchase, your horse should undergo a pre-purchase veterinary examination. If you are a first time
horse owner, seek the advice of a knowledgeable horse professional. It is essential to ensure that you are aware of any
existing or likely issues you may have to deal with, including behavioral problems.
It is vital to look ahead and budget effectively to meet the needs of your horse. Ideally, put a little away every month or
when you can, to help you manage if and when unforeseen problems arise.
Be realistic about the effect on your horse, both short and long term, should your financial circumstances change. Not
facing up to looming difficulties can greatly reduce the options available to you once the problem has become too
overwhelming to ignore. Taking advice on personal budget management before your finances get out of hand may also
help you make the savings necessary to keep your horse.