Can you afford a horse? That’s the first question to consider before even thinking of purchasing an equine. Horses are expensive — always have been, always will be. That doesn’t mean middle-class people can’t own them. The majority of horses in the US are owned by middle-class individuals. Owning a horse means sacrificing other things such as dining out, fancy vacations, new cars and other life amenities.
The cost of a horse depends on whether you keep it on your property or board somewhere else. If it’s the latter, you might opt for a relatively inexpensive self-care operation instead of boarding at a show barn with a big-name trainer. The difference in boarding runs from a few hundred dollars a month to a few thousand.
Are you prepared to shoulder the other costs involved in horse ownership? Horses require farrier care every six to eight weeks, an annual teeth floating and veterinary visits and vaccinations. Those are the basics. Of course, horses are quite creative at finding new and improved ways to hurt themselves. You’ll need savings — or a healthy credit balance — for any emergency veterinary care. Unless you’re an experienced rider, you’ll likely still need to take lessons or hire a trainer for your horse.
Being a horse owner means any extra money you come by, will most likely go to your horse — the needs are endless!
Even if you can afford a horse, do you have time for one? If your equine endeavors currently consist of a weekly riding lesson and you long for more, consider leasing a horse before making a purchase. Leasing allows you to ride at least a few times a week, and also gives you an accurate idea of how much time you have to spend at the barn and with a horse.
Horses are a lifestyle. The word conjures up glamorous people at horse shows or racetracks, but the true meaning is that many parts of your life revolve around your horse. Caring for a horse at home can be a day and night job. Going away even for a day involves finding someone to feed your horse and clean the stall. If you board your horse, you must pay every month even if the horse is lame and can’t be ridden. Significant others who aren’t horsey often don’t appreciate the time and money spent on horses. Can you maintain a work/life/relationship/horse balance?
Life can change in an instant, but decide whether planned life changes and buying a horse are compatible. Do you plan to marry, have a child, go back to school, take a new job, or move a considerable distance within the near future? If you now rent, are you considering buying a house? All of these issues will impact whether or not you can keep your horse.
How well do you ride and how much do you know about horses? Be honest regarding your riding abilities and horse care experience. You aren’t going to fool a horse. If you’ve only been around horses a short time, continue taking lessons and learning about horse care. In a year or two, your increased skills will mean you can consider a wider variety of horses.
Dreams versus reality
What kind of horse are you looking for? It’s crucial that your abilities match potential horses. You might dream of riding a fiery Arabian or rehoming an off-the-track thoroughbred, but if you’ve only ridden a year or so on a couple of school horses, those probably aren’t good choices. As the saying goes, “Green horse and green rider equal black and blue.” That doesn’t mean you can’t buy a horse somewhat above your riding level, if you work with a good trainer. The sad truth is that it doesn’t take long for an inexperienced rider to ruin a well-trained horse.
The right one
How will you go about finding the right horse? Your trainer can help you, as can trusted and experienced horsey friends. Work within your budget, and know what kind of horse you can purchase with the amount of money you have. If you don’t have a lot of money, you may have to choose between the younger, fairly green animal and the older “been there, done that” horse. In either case, have the horse vetted before buying. Your choice depends upon your own experience level, your plans for your horse and the vet report.
Take your time
As much as you yearn for your own horse, it’s important to take your time when making this important decision. Try riding several horses before deciding which suits you most. It’s likely you’ll learn more about your own abilities from those experiences.
Jane Meggitt graduated from New York University and worked as a staff writer for a major New Jersey newspaper chain. Her work on pets, equines and health have appeared in dozens of publications, including The Daily Puppy, The Nest Pets, Horse News, Hoof Beats and Horseback magazines.