Are You Ready for Your First Horse?

Dogs aren’t the only best friend of man. Horses have not only been excellent vehicles of transportation, but they can be quite the pet as well. Horses are beautiful to look at and can help to develop good nurturing skills and a sense of responsibility in a young person. If you love horses and are thinking about getting one, here are a few things you should know.

Do Your Research

Have you been researching this decision for a long time? Do you feel ready for a horse of your own? Well, you’re still not ready. Sign up for riding lessons. Start volunteering to help take care of other people’s horses at a local boarding stable. Read every horse book in the library. Talk to owners on forums. 

Read until you feel like you’re going to explode, because unlike a dog or any other pet, caring for a horse can be quite challenging and complex — not to mention expensive. They need more than just food, shots, and daily walks. Their stall needs to be mucked out daily. Their water bucket needs to be kept clean. Their hooves must be trimmed regularly and shod, depending on how often and where you intend to ride. They also need to be groomed regularly to keep their coats and hooves clean and healthy. And of course, they need regular riding for exercise.

Plus, horses are notorious for developing health problems at the most inconvenient times. For such large, strong animals, they’re remarkably delicate. You may not need to go to vet school, but you should learn the different health issues horses can face and the basics of how to treat them. Do you know how often a horse needs to be dewormed, and how to dose and administer the paste? Did you know that they need their teeth regularly checked and filed down? Do you know the signs and symptoms of colic? Do you know what a choking horse looks like? Do you know how to prevent halter strangulation? This knowledge is all part of being a horse owner.

Make Room for Them

Horses are huge animals — most people don’t realize quite how big they are until they find themselves standing in front of one. You can’t just put one in a kennel or your backyard and call it good. They need plenty of space to graze and exercise — at least 1-2 acres per horse, as a rule of thumb. They also need access to shelter from the elements. 

Consider your horse housing plan. Do you have a large backyard that you plan on keeping your horse in? If so, you’ll need to build a small barn, or at least a horse shelter. You’ll also need to check and potentially rebuild your fence — you need something sturdy and visible, like steel wire, wood/vinyl rail, or no-climb fencing. Barbed wire is dangerous and should never be used. 

Do you plan to board your horse instead? Most horse owners don’t have the space to house their horse(s) on their own property, so they pay to house their horse on someone else’s property instead. There are many different types of boarding facilities with different levels of amenities. Some are just a grassy lot with a shelter. Others are full-scale barns with all the bells and whistles. Some do some of the work for you, like mucking and feeding, while others require you to do all of the work yourself. It’s a convenient option, but keep in mind that the fancier the facility, the more you have to pay. And depending on where you live, boarding fees can cost anywhere from a couple hundred to a couple thousand per month.

Let Them Socialize

Horses are herd animals. They need to be surrounded by friends in order to feel secure and have good mental health. Even if they are not physically in the same paddock, it is important that your horse at least be able to see other horses. This is one of the benefits of boarding your horse — since there’s plenty of other horses at the facility, yours will always have a friend. However, if you’re planning to house your horse on your own property, you’ll need to make plans for at least two. 

Fortunately, your horse’s “herd” doesn’t necessarily need to be composed of other horses. Many 1-horse owners keep donkeys, goats, llamas, alpacas, and even ponies to keep their horse company, but there are many reasons why these animals can be worse than just having another horse. Also keep in mind that different horses can have different preferences in companion animals. If you’d rather stick to horses, there are lots of aging and “unrideable” horses available for adoption that can make wonderful and loveable pasture pals.

Although horses can require quite a bit of work and expense, there are many benefits to owning one. Not only does caring for a horse make a bad day better, but it can be good for your health as well. Don’t listen to the people who say that the horse “is doing all the work” — clearly these people have not ridden a horse, or at least not correctly. Horseback riding is a great form of exercise for the human as well as the horse. And when you go into it properly educated, you can make sure that your new pet is healthy, comfortable, and happy. 

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