Horse Ownership
Is it Right for Your Family?

Table of Contents
Why do I want a horse?
Is a horse right for my child?
What will my child gain from owning a horse?
What are the benefits to parents?
What are the Disadvantages?
How time consuming is it?
How will a horse affect my family?
What are the alternatives to Horse Ownership?
Do I have enough experience to care for a horse?
What will it cost?
Purchasing Expenses
Horse Care Expenses
Equipment and Supplies Expense
Competitive Expenses
What else do I need to know?

Whether you are looking for a horse for yourself or your child, there are many questions that need to be answered before taking the plunge!
Why do I want a Horse?
Horses fulfill many rolls and are a source of enjoyment for many people. Not only is riding fun, it is a great form of exercise. In many cases horse ownership is a lifelong dream which can finally be realized. Social and competitive opportunities become available with horse ownership, and frequently your own horse is a confidant and close companion. Being able to ride whenever you wish is one of the many benefits of horse ownership. Many horse lovers simply enjoy spending time with horses, and caring for them as another member of the family.

Is a Horse Right for my Child?

What will my Child gain from Owning a Horse?
Horse ownership offers many benefits. Caring for an animal teaches a child to be responsible. The routine and regiment of caring for an animal teaches children discipline. As with many interests, the rewards are the direct result of hardwork. Children will learn that hard work pays off, and develop a good work ethic. When children contribute towards the cost of keeping a horse they develop an appreciation for money and finances. A nervous or shy child will gain self-confidence from being able to handle a large animal. All these qualities will carry over into the child's life. Riding and stable chores develop strength, agility, balance and coordination. A family horse encourages teamwork and sharing. A competitive child will gain a healthy sense of sportsmanship and a good competitive attitude. (Horses can be very humbling!)
What are the Benefits for Parents?
Horse ownership can bring the family together when everyone takes a part in the day-to-day care and riding activities. Parents can be involved, and experience the joy of watching their children developing new skills. Skills which will provide pleasure throughout the child's life. Watching children enjoying their horse may encourage moms and dads to join in the fun and learn a new skill!
What are the Disadvantages?
Keeping a horse can be expensive. The animal must be cared for every day, twice a day, 365 days a year. If you pay someone to take care of the horse this is not such a problem. A horse that is cared for by the family must be provided for during holidays, vacations, and family crisis. Your child may lose interest or find another pastime. Horses are time consuming. Make sure that your child's other activities will fit in with a horse. Do you or someone in your family have the experience to care for a horse. If not, are you willing to learn? If you have any doubts about your chills level of interest, try some of the other options mentioned before committing to a horse full time!

 


How will a horse affect my family?
If the whole family is involved in your hobby, a horse can bring the family together. If however, everyone has separate interests, your horse will have to fit around their schedules, and might take time away from other family activities. If other members of the family are interested, it is a lot of fun to spend time together doing chores around the barn as a family.
How time consuming is owning a horse?
This depends upon your individual situation. If you plan to board the horse and pay someone else to care for it, your time commitment can be whatever you choose. Your horse care costs will be higher and your worries less. (You will also miss out on a lot of the fun of your own horse.) If you plan to have the horse at home, you will be committed to feeding and other chores at least twice a day. These can take 20 minutes or more than an hour depending on your circumstances. This is 7 days a week, 365 days a year, rain or shine. The horse will require grooming and other maintenance procedures that at a minimum will take half an hour a day, often more. You will also need time to work with the Farrier and the Vet. Between these two extremes, are numerous variables. You can board the horse and have someone else feed, and muck out for you. This will save you money but still give you time with the horse for grooming etc. The options are many, but it is usually possible to find an arrangement, which fits your schedule and budget. Some boarding stables offer a discount on your board if they can use your horse for lessons. Of course, the horse must be suitable for the type of riding that they teach. This can work in some situations, however an agreement in writing is advisable.
What are the Alternatives to Horse Ownership?
If you are not sure if you are ready for a horse of your own consider these options.
Lessons
If you don't already take lessons, improve your riding skill and horse care knowledge by investing in a series of lessons at a reputable stable. This will boost your confidence and knowledge and give you a better idea of your equestrian ambitions.
Camps
Around the country there are camps for both adults and children dealing with all areas of horsemanship. Sign up for a camp and you will receive an intensive course in your chosen area.
Leasing
This a great option. Leases are often affordable and can be for varying amounts of time. A leased horse offers the responsibility of horse ownership without the long-term commitment. It has the added advantage of allowing you to upgrade to a fancier model as your skills improve!
Sharing
If you have a friend who is also considering buying a horse, think about sharing. With a sharing agreement, everything is shared the chores, riding and expenses. For some people this is a great arrangement, just make sure that the sharing is equal!
Volunteering
For people who simply love to be around horses and do not want to ride, there are opportunities to help others. The Riding for the Disabled Association needs volunteers to help with their programs, as do other organizations. Helping others is a great way to make new friends with similar interests and may lead to other horse related opportunities.
Do I have enough Experience to Care for a Horse?
Only you can answer this question. How much actual hands on horse care have you done? Do you know how to clean a stall effectively, groom a horse, recognize a healthy horse, and know when to call the Vet? Are you comfortable with health maintenance routines and hoof care? If you don't know something is there someone you can call for help? Will you be comfortable handling a horse at home without help? Horses are large animals, and if you are alone you must be confident in your abilities to deal with any situation. Evaluate your level of experience, and decide how much you are capable of doing and how much needs to be left to someone else. Be honest. It is fine to learn, but it is also important to have help when you are not sure. A friend who has horses is a valuable asset. If you are a complete novice, board the horse until you are more experienced and comfortable around horses.
What will it cost?
This is the question most frequently asked by potential horse owners. Unfortunately, it is also the hardest question to answer. Horse prices vary greatly as does the cost of keeping them. The price of the horse is probably the largest figure involved, however there are several expenses, which at first glance may not be obvious. The following table summarizes the expenses involved. The figures listed here are at best estimates. Prices around the country, from area to area, and within the different disciplines vary greatly. The table is meant as a guide for first time horse owners to assist them in the decision making process. Roughly, the expenses can be divided into four categories purchasing expenses, horse care expenses, equipment and supplies, and competitive expenses. Pick out those which apply to your situation. The figures given in the following examples are the low and high ends of the price range.

Purchasing Expenses

Price
Horses can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars. A horse intended for trail riding and pleasure can be found for $500-$5,000. Of course, you can pay a lot more. As expectations for the horse rise, so does the price. If you wish to compete you will need a horse that has been trained in your discipline. This adds to the purchase price. Experience, training and breeding all add to the purchase price.
Research
This may be as little as a few phone calls or 15%-20% of the purchase price to pay an agent. There may also be travel expenses if you are forced to shop out of town.


Pre Purchase Exam
This is recommended for every purchase. For a pleasure horse, this should be no more than $100. For a more thorough vetting expect to pay $250-$500. Transportation
Shipping is expensive. If you do not have your own trailer expect to pay 25-$1 a mile.

Horse Care Expenses

Board
Another great variable. Depending upon the services provided ranges from $50-$2,000 a month. Full board may include feed, bedding, training and care, but may not necessarily include worming, shoeing etc.

Healthcare
Vaccines $20-$100 every 6-12 months Worming $4-$12 every 6-8 weeks Hoof care $10-$25 for trimming every 4-8 weeks, or $40-$100 for shoes every 4-8 weeks. Dentist $20-$100 once a year.

Equipment and Supplies

Stable tools
Stable forks $20-$30 each
Brooms $10-$20 each
Wheel barrows $50-$150
Grooming tools
Brushes $3-$20 each
Supplies
These include first-aid items, grooming products, etc. Budget $10-$100

Tack
Good second-hand tack can often be found at very reasonable prices. Prices for new tack.
Saddle $500-$2000 each
Bridle $50-$200 each
Halter $10-$100 each
Blankets $75-$200 each
Bandages $20-$100 a set

Competitive Expenses

Lessons
Lessons are important for everyone. Pleasure riders can improve their skills and maintain or improve their horse's level of training. Anyone wishing to compete successfully needs to continually practice and improve his or her skills. The quality of instruction varies greatly as does the cost, it is wise to shop around. Expect to pay $10-$200 an hour.
Entry Fees
For a local show the fee per a class may be as little as $5-$20. For recognized shows expect to pay $20-$200.

Traveling
A serious competitor will need his own transportation. Truck and trailer $5,000-$75,000. Horses that travel need health certificates and additional vaccines and tests. $10-$100. Traveling with horses involves other expenses such as stabling, hotels and eating out.
Insurance
An expensive horse is worth insuring. Policies vary greatly from a simple loss of use policy to coverage for surgery and other medical procedures. Insurance can be tailored to any circumstance.


What else do I need to Know?
Now that you know the pros and cons of buying a horse, you are ready to go shopping! But where do you start looking for a horse? What type of horse should you buy? Where will you keep it? And how will you take care of it? All these questions and many more are answered in a new book.
Your First Horse. How to Buy and Care for Your First Horse.
Your First Horse is a practical manual describing how to buy and care for a horse. The author discusses the factors involved in selecting a horse and notes the pitfalls to avoid. Topics include where to look, what type of horse to buy, how to evaluate prospects, trial periods and pre-purchase exams. How to recognize good conformation is analyzed and clarified with diagrams and summary tables. Finding and evaluating equestrian professionals (Veterinarians, Farriers, Boarding stables and equine Dentists) is discussed.
The second part of the book is devoted to horse care. Subjects include the care of stabled horses, pasture management, grooming techniques, choosing and buying foodstuffs, health maintenance, common ailments, lameness and hoof care.
Your First Horse is an invaluable guide for current and future horse owners. The author writes knowledgeably from a horseman's viewpoint, thoroughly addressing horse buying. The horse care section is spiced with tips from professional stable managers, and is a detailed horse care manual.

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Send questions or concerns to Jacqueline Dwelle (jackie@firsthorse.com)
Last updated July 2014
copyright Jacqueline Dwelle 1998 - 2014