While bringing in a dog, cat or even a small animal to your home is something one really needs to take seriously, the addition of a horse is honestly a whole new level of consideration.
The expense, space and skill level, as well as the term of the commitment is many times over that of the addition of a new puppy to the family.
- A horse costs a great deal of money to maintain. (See the blog about the cost break down here). The fact is, horses are a luxury many people cannot truly afford. Depending on where you live, that price can be $1,000 to $5,000 or more a year. Fencing, shelter, farrier care, parasite prevention, vaccinations and dental care are all expenses above and beyond the fact this animal requires as much as 30lbs of quality forage and suitable concentrated grain ration a day. Hay can be $3 to $25 a bale across the USA. Grains vary from $10 to $30 per 50lb bag. You can do the math and see how costs can spiral wildly out of control to give good care, right?
- Horses need space. Horses are naturally meant to cover a tremendous amount of land a day while roaming to find the best sources of forage. They are not meant to live on stark 1/4 acre hillsides and in backyards. If you hope your land will sustain the horses in the warmer months without added hay, you also need to realize that horses need several acres per horse of very well maintained pasture full of grass (not weeds and not eaten down below 3 inch blades). Consider whether you can afford boarding ($350 to $1,000 a month) or whether your land has safe fence, shelter and enough space before seeking a horse.
- Horses need special care to be healthy. You need to be sure you have access to a trained professional for vet care, dental care and farrier care before committing to a horse. There are places in the USA (rural spots) that finding the above professionals is nearly impossible if you’re the owner of only 1 or 2 horses. This spells trouble for a horse in your care. Make sure you can provide what they need. Remember farriers need to come every 8 weeks as a general rule, and they run $25 to $60 a trim. Dental care is annually, at least, and floats run $25 to $150, and sometimes there is a farm call for those. Vet care varies, but it is never cheap.
- Horses are accident prone. Most good owners will be honest and tell you that horses look for ways to “nearly die” pretty often. This can mean colic, a need for stitches, lameness . . .just to mention a few things. Colic surgery can cost $10,000. A single midnight emergency vet call is likely to run $1,000 for whatever has gone wrong.
- Horses require skill. Because you took 4 riding lessons at age 8 or cleaned stalls for a barn for summer cash as a teenager or paid for a trail ride on vacation with your family in Tennessee each year does not mean you know how to handle a horse or how to ride a horse. What it may mean is you’ve developed a misguided (meaning dangerous) view of horsemanship and your skill set. The chances are great that you’re a novice, a basic beginner. Frankly, most folks we meet that have owned horses for quite a few years are still at “advanced beginner” status in the saddle, so let us assume that if you’ve not owned horses since childhood, since your grandpa had one you claimed or ever, you are going to need lessons. A lot of lessons. Before you consider buying a horse, first commit to 6-12 months of weekly lessons. If you feel you cannot afford this, there is NO QUESTION, you cannot afford a horse for any reason. Ask around and screen instructors. Make sure you believe they sincerely want to teach horsemanship, not just get you in and out without a care to be sure you’re learning. More on this here
- Trust your Trainer. As you take lessons, hopefully you find the trainer wishes to help you, once you’re ready and are sure you have the time, facilities and finances to have a horse in your life, find the right horse. Trust the trainer if they tell you you’re not ready or that the horse you’re looking at isn’t the right horse. Make sure to take an expert in the field with you when you go to buy because lameness, illness or behaviors are easily hidden by other “experts” with a newbie looking. Don’t be duped out of arrogance that you know more than you really do. Choose the right horse for you, and do not pick a horse that is flashy or green right off. More on this here.
- CONTINUE LEARNING. Don’t assume after 6 months of lessons, you can buy a horse, take him home and everything be perfect. Sadly, we often hear people say things like this, but when we’ve been around their horses, we can see the damage being done to the horse. Horses are sensitive. They are intelligent. You need to be committed to learning over your entire lifetime to be a real horseman/woman. If you adopt or buy a horse, try to find mentors and continue to learn and become better. The horse deserves it. More on this here.