Buying Your First Horse or Pony
What To Bear In Mind Before Buying A Horse or Pony
When you make the decision to buy or loan a horse or pony there are many things to consider. This article will help you look at choosing a livery option and some of the questions you need to ask yourself before becoming the proud owner of your own equine.
The first question to ask yourself is whether or not keeping a horse is financially and practically possible and if you can find somewhere to keep him safely. The best place to start looking for livery yards is your local tack shop/saddlers, they often have advertisements for local livery services and stables/fields to rent and the staff will usually be happy to offer you any local information about places to keep ponies. Costs are usually from £20.00 a week for DIY to well over £100.00 per week for full livery, but depends on what services are on offer and the area. The usual options available are:
DIY Livery, where you rent a stable and possibly turnout but you supply feed, hay, bedding and take care of the pony yourself. This often appears to be the cheapest option but remember to take into account what the various supplies are likely to cost and your time and fuel visiting the pony at least twice a day;
Part Livery, this comes in a variety of guises, some yards take care of the pony but the owner exercises it, others deal with the pony in the morning but the owner takes care of it in the evening (or vice versa) and there are other yard specific variations on the theme;
Working Livery, this option is sometimes available at riding schools where, in return for using your pony in lessons under an agreed arrangement, the staff take care of it and you pay a partial livery fee;
Full Livery, where everything is done by yard staff – usually the most expensive way.
There are other options to consider such as grass livery where the pony lives in a field and either you take care it yourself or have a variation on one of the above livery arrangements or you could consider renting stables/field for your own use, although it is better for the pony not to be kept alone, after all they are herd animals and need company.
When you have decided which livery option may be best for you and made a selection of places to contact, make a list of questions to ask the proprietors, such as what is included in the price, if you have to supply feedstuffs, where are the best places to obtain supplies locally, is the yard supervised at all times, do the yard owners live on site, what happens if you are ill and many other questions you will think of yourself. If you are not clear on any of the answers you are given don’t be afraid to ask for more information, most yard owners are happy to help.
As you arrive at the yard make a mental note of how tidy it is, there is a difference between the “mess” on a working yard and one that is never kept tidy or maintained. Sloppy yard management can often mean sloppy animal care, for example if yard tools are left thrown on the ground they are an accident waiting to happen to human or equine. Have a look at the horses around the yard, do they look contented and relaxed or stressed and miserable? If you are looking at full or part livery options, make a mental note of the condition of the horses on the yard, are they too fat, too thin or just right, do they look as though they are groomed and exercised? If you are not sure that you are confident enough to assess this sort of thing on your own try to enlist the help of your riding instructor or knowledgeable friend.
The attitude of the horses on a yard can offer a lot of information on what happens when owners aren’t there – they are curious by nature and most will be very interested in someone arriving on the yard (unless they are eating!).
The majority of yard owners will have a way of presenting their yard to prospective clients and will answer your questions as you tour the site but don’t forget to ask any that are on your list but not covered while you are on your visit. When you have visited the yards you want to see take some time to choose the one you want and remember to contact the ones you don’t to say thank you but no – you may need them in the future.
So, you have found a home for your new pony but do you know what else you need to consider? Ongoing additional costs must have a bearing on whether you decide to go ahead. These include the farrier every 6 weeks or so (anything from £20.00 for a basic trim to £60.00 plus for a set of shoes), routine vets fees for injections as well as any unforeseen accidents/illnesses (variable), worming every 12 weeks or thereabouts (from at least £10.00 each depending on the wormer needed) , insurance cover (variable), rugs and equipment (several hundred pounds if you have to buy a saddle and bridle as well). Of course, depending what livery option you have decided on you may also have to include feed, hay and bedding in your calculations. (Estimated costs at April 2012).
As you can see, owning a pony (or indeed a horse) is a potentially expensive pastime but rest assured, it can be great fun too!