So You Want to Own a Horse
Some things to consider BEFORE you giddyup and go-go to get one...
Since the ripe old age of four I have been obsessed with horses. Having passed the 40-something mark without losing interest (hey, I even kept all my Breyers :o), I think it's fairly safe to declare them a lifelong love. While the other kids in my kindergarten class were drawing stick people, I was drawing tubby little horses with ridiculous manes and tails. Every year (and often in between) I would ask the Lord, my parents, grandparents (both sets just in case), Santa Claus, The Easter Bunny - and anyone else that happened to be listening - if I could pleasePleasePLEASE have a horse for Christmas this year. If not Christmas, then maybe for my birthday (New Years? Valentines? Easter? Groundhogs Day?) Anytime's good for me, actually...
It wasn't until I was in my late 30s, however, that I finally got one - well, two (and my husband gets major points for the BEST Christmas ever - he got a 3 year sabbatical from ALL gift giving I was so happy :o) I always refer to the horses as my little Psalm 37s running around out there in the yard and pasture and give thanks for them most every day (I try really hard not to forget).
I count it as an additional blessing that we can keep our horses right here at with us, and I can't imagine having it any other way :o) Not everyone has that advantage, however, some people need to board. This lens will (I hope) help you become better informed about the things you should consider with horse ownership. Who knows? You might even come across a thing or two you didn't already know or maybe something you never even thought about.
WHO's WHO in the PHOTO: These are two of "the girls" Bella is a half Arabian and Lady, (who is busy mowing the grass in the background) is a purebred Arabian :o)
P.S. I know I said we had TWO horses earlier, but they seem to have multiplied. Er, latest head count indicates we now have a total of 9 (oh, my!)
UNWANTED: NOT JUST CATS AND DOGS...
Every year TENS OF THOUSANDS of unwanted horses are either shipped across the borders to slaughter or left in fields to starve. Why? Because too many people didn't fully grasp what was involved in horse ownership. It all begins with making a careful [and responsible] purchase...
WHO do you want the horse for?
Your child? Your sweetheart? Yourself?
*IT'S FOR MY CHILD*
**These are toughest, I think. When I was growing up, there were 7 other girls close to my age in the neighborhood; at one time nearly all of us were horse crazy and taking lessons. What happened? B-O-Y-S (they wiped out all but 2 of us at the lesson barn :o/
**Is your child already riding? How long have they been riding? Can they manage multiple sentences without the word "horse" in them? (I couldn't; still can't, now that I think about it :o) Do they think horses smell good? Believe it or not, I've noticed that others who have "got it really bad" (like me) LOVE the smell of horses. Are they willing to do ANYTHING? This wouldn't be safe these days but when I was 12 or 13, the girl across the street and I cleaned houses and scrimped and saved up enough to rent two horses together for a whole week at the barn where we rode. Every day that week, we pedaled our bikes 13 miles (ONE WAY) and spent hours grooming and riding "our" horses before making the trip home (the absolute best time I'd ever had, to be honest :o)
**If you think this might be a phase, consider leasing as an alternative to owning. Or try renting one as a test. Help them to volunteer at a local horse rescue to give them a good idea of what's involved in caring for horses (not to mention what happens when you don't!) If they are not already taking lessons, find someplace and get them started (then you can both see if this is something you really want to pursue).
**Be sure to factor in other things like your child will grow and an itty-bitty pony will not, BEFORE you make your purchase. Consider a "Backyard Betty" from a horse rescue for just riding around and hangin' out; rescues have some wonderful horses. But remember, these are not bicycles you can stick in a yard sale if you get tired of them or change your mind - they DO have feelings.
*IT'S FOR MY SWEETHEART*
**This one can be dicey; even though it's a great thought to look out the window Christmas morning and see a horse wearing a bright red bow, it may not be the best plan. Think about boxing up a halter instead with a gift certificate good for one Holiday Horse of their choice. My husband (and his dad) did a lot of looking and legwork, but ultimately he gave me the freedom to choose the one I wanted (and actually, I managed to mess that one up - see blurb in next paragraph and next module about breeds - when I judged the book by its cover, so to speak :o)
*ME ME ME ME ME and MINE MINE MINE!!!*
**This is, of course, the best one :o) One of the mistakes I made with ours (and I am actually glad I made it or we wouldn't have our Shadow, but I don't recommend it) was I did not properly research breed information. Tennessee Walking Horses are a wonderful breed; but careful consideration should be used BEFORE purchasing a former "big lick" horse (we got that information belatedly). Raised up north - and full of antiquated knowledge - I wasn't familiar enough with Tennessee Walkers to know that Shadow was totally wrong for my "old school" Huntseat mentality. Added to that, I was unable to "test drive" him properly as I was NOT in riding shape, (the fact that I walked 2 miles every day in 15 minutes didn't matter at all), had to borrow the farmer's old roping saddle (BIG), Shadow had not been ridden in a year and he was in a wide open pasture; so other than walking him around awhile, we didn't do much.
**If at all possible (and if you're not already doing so) get back in the saddle first! Take some lessons or rent a horse - but get yourself "ride ready". Visit the horse where he lives now on more than one occasion (we went FOUR times :o). Look around his environment; old and somewhat shabby don't matter as much as horse friendly and tended do. Horses poop between 10 and 15 times every 24 hours, so beware the place whose field is ALWAYS clean (we have a place not far from us in the spotless paddock category; Why? Because the people are not feeding their horses properly and they are EATING their own manure - Ugh :oP
**Check out his body language toward people when you see him (is he friendly? cranky? disinterested? fleeing the scene?) especially toward the person who owns him. Ours will all come at a whistle and automatically drop their noses in their halters when asked. On one of the farms we went to were HIGH dollar show horses in a horrible barn. It was dim, dusty and depressing with low ceilings and completely closed in stalls (there was a tiny window to dump the feed through). The proud owner of this sorry establishment was bragging about his prize stud who was worth about a gazillion dollars - yawn - and went and pulled the horse from his stall to show us (and he was pretty, but oh so very unhappy :o( Actually, I guess I WAS impressed; or maybe more like astonished at the amount of hatred emanating from that quietly standing horse toward his oh-so-clueless owner at the other end of the lead rope. Might want to watch your back there, buddy, because if that horse ever gets the chance, he is gonna HURT you (wow).
1. The LESS experienced the rider is, the MORE experienced the horse should be (horse and rider learning together is a road to disaster that leads straight to the Emergency Room);
2. The MORE excitable the rider is, the LESS excitable the horse should be (your horse will easily pick up on your feelings, whether you mean for him to or not);
3. Think about this purchase as only SLIGHTLY less important than getting married or giving birth; after all, horses CAN live up to 40 years :o)
WHO's WHO in the PHOTO: This would be an itty bitty me with Champ (L) and Shadow (R) on the very best Christmas ever (My 'warm fuzzies' appear to have carried over into the photo as it was taken with an OTD Digital Camera; Um, that'd be Older Than Dirt, in case you're wondering :oD
points to ponder...
1. Horses are relatively simple to understand
- Except when they're not
2. People are basically honest
- Except when they're not
WHAT do you want to be able to do with it?
The A-B-Cs: Allegiances, Beliefs and Corruption
* SOME OBSERVATIONS ABOUT HORSES IN GENERAL *
Lets face it, everyone has an opinion; but it's always best to form your own, right? (At least I think so, but then that's MY opinion, isn't it? Ha). The tricky part is being able to get your hands on enough UNbiased information about all this stuff to actually form one. After all, you're the one buying the horse. It's not about whether or not they match your DREAM; it's more the match to your REALITY that counts. That picture perfect fantasy horse can quickly become a night-mare, and that is NOT a fun bubble to have busted :oP
I think the Bedouins had the best idea when bartering for horses; the horse would be concealed behind a curtain or tent flap which was lifted up in increments, very slowly. In this way, any conformation faults or soundness issues were noticed FIRST as the horse was inspected carefully from the ground up. The "ooooooh" factor can definitely be dangerous - and we're all susceptible to some extent - so find someone you trust (and who's willing to smack you back to sense if you need it :o) to go with you on your horse hunting expedition.
Decide what it is you are going to want to be able to do with this horse: Show? Trail Ride? Hang out? Tricks? A little bit of everything? List it all out on paper if it helps, but TAKE YOUR TIME! As silly as this may sound, I highly recommend watching "Black Beauty" [Warner Home Video] to help you see how it is from the horse's perspective. We attend auctions periodically (for tack and supplies) and it hurts my heart to see those horses that come through multiple times, always a little lower each successive time - it takes a devastating toll.
Avoid those "great deals" and "fixer uppers" and just follow the old adage: If it sounds to good to be true, it will probably cost you a fortune or put you in the hospital...maybe both.
I pledge ALLEGIANCE to the breed...
People in general can become fiercely loyal to many things; I know I am a staunch supporter of chocolate in almost any form. While this is admirable in most instances, it can become a hindrance when gathering information on different horse breeds. Just because your best friend thinks AQHA hung the moon is no reason to run right out and buy a Quarter Horse. In the same vein, you shouldn't necessarily discount an entire breed because of a handful of disparaging remarks either.
Horses, like people, are collection of individuals and there is one out there that's right for you. The best way to look at it is that EVERY breed is capable of producing a lemon (it's best to avoid any horse - no matter how pretty - that has too many things that need to be "fixed" unless you have an awful lot of time, patience, and knowledge!)
Now there ARE some obvious absolutes when choosing a breed: my husband for example, who is 6'1" and weighs over 200lbs, would probably not do well with the smaller breeds (Morgan, Arabian, Haflinger, etc.) but should seek out larger boned horses instead (Percheron, draft crosses, Tennessee Walkers, etc.). Your pocketbook may also dictate your direction to some extent: I may be dead serious about wanting (and oh, yeah: wishing-wishing-wishing for :o) an Andalusian, Lusitano or Fresian, but my checkbook clearly indicates I am joking...
Underneath this module are a couple of links to some breed lists with some basic information.
Balancing the BELIEFS
Be leery of blanket statements and half truths about barns and breeds - look what happened to the Pit Bull. Handling is every bit as important as heredity, so be sure to factor that in: all Arabian horses are not necessarily too hot to handle any more than all Quarter Horses are always calm. Perhaps this is a good time to warn you (a bit belatedly), that most of the "horse people" I run into around here [on the Reneck Riviera] consider me to be on the bananas side of the fruit basket (and you are certainly free to agree with this assessment, but - for the record - I prefer the term "eccentric" :o)
There is NO law that says you have to compete. If you don't want to, don't. Just because your other horse buddies are in the ring does not mean you are obligated to follow suit. I HATE competition - I get way too stressed (shoot, I can't even handle bidding for stuff on Ebay without sweating profusely and having heart palpitations and how silly is that? :o) The reverse is also true: just because your pals are all about hanging out with their horses and hitting the trail is no reason you can't shine in the show ring if you want to.
Simply because a horse is a "rescue" horse doesn't mean he must be a nag. You would be amazed at the number of registered "big bucks" horses that wind up (usually through no fault of their own) at auctions and rescues - particularly Arabians (who are woefully misunderstood, and don't get me started). Don't discount adopting from a legitimate rescue based on other people's disparaging comments. I'm constantly amazed (and disappointed) by the superiority complex many horse owners seem to have about their own purebred's "poor relations" :o/ With that in mind let me also note that just because someone charges a fortune that fancy schmancy registered steed they're selling, it's no guarantee they will live up to their pricetag OR paperwork. It doesn't really matter if the Sire of the seller's triple registered "darling" of his stable was a Tri-State Champion if all his "get" [offspring] are a bunch of triple registered turnips.
One more note: The only person that needs a stallion is a breeder! This includes horses that were used for stud and later gelded - this often does not go well...So don't buy into statements like, "He'll calm down once he's cut/been gelded..." Think instead about what'cha gonna do if he DOESN'T??
CORRUPTION: It's not all politics and used car salesmen
It is most unfortunate that some people feel the need to embellish their horse's abilities and virtues to a fictional degree. There are some honest owners out there, but they are hard to find floating around in the sea of storytellers. I'll use two of our "accidental rescues" for examples:
Cinnamon: FACT - He is an Appaloosa; FICTION - He is a dead broke trail horse (wanna see a rodeo?)
Max: FACT - He is a Quarter Horse; FICTION - He just needs to be "snipped"/gelded (he turned out to be a chryptorchid and required a much bigger surgical procedure to turn him into a gelding - and yeah, they knew).
- and we won't even get into the details of trying to just FEED them in the beginning: let's just say mealtime and suicide attempt were pretty much synonymous around here for awhile...
For the full stories on our horses, visit our web site in the link list below.
ASK ABOUT A TRIAL PERIOD. Some owners will allow you to "lease" or "test drive" the horse for a specific period of time before you actually buy them. This is a great, low risk way to see if you two take to each other (if you don't then it's no harm/no foul, right?) If you DO choose a trial period, however, I strongly suggest you WRITE IT ALL DOWN and have it signed by all parties involved (this protects everyone!) so there are no misunderstandings on either side.
Look how Chester Weber spells success... - R-E-S-C-U-E -H-O-R-S-E :o)
- Former Rescue Wins Horse of the Year Title
Owned by Chester C. Weber, Jamaica has been described as a quirky but talented horse whose story is unique in the world of high performance horses. The Dutch Warmblood was destined for a European slaughterhouse before Belgian driver and FÃ©dÃ©ration
Here a couple of good sources to learn more about... - Horse Breeds - Horse Showing - Our Four-Legged Family Members
I recommend running a search on any breed you are interested in to find out more. A basic search on a specific breed will generally bring up the registry organization (and they'll have LOTS of info: but remember, it will also be in their favor).
Some great general information on breeds and different types of horses; definitely worth checking out :o)
- Oklahoma State University
Has a pretty good list of horse breeds in alphabetical order for you to look through.
- Horse Show Central
This site seems to have all kinds of information on shows all over the place (wow).
- Come Visit Us: Epic Farms Home Page
Welcome to Epic Farms where we are striving to share the big picture. We are an approved 501c3 organization. Our mission is simple: To create and maintain a family-friendly environment that will promote equine based learning...
Beware the blast from the past...
It's almost impossible to find an adult horse without ANY issues (unless you grew 'em yourself :o) but to keep disasters to a minimum it's best to find out as much about his background as you can (IF you can). Even the big stuff can help, i.e. "He was shown".
WHERE will he or she be living?
Home Sweet Home or a Horse Hotel?
Be sure to factor in your lifestyle and personal preferences - Do you travel or are you a homebody? Work like a Trojan or avoid manual labor like the plague? Want to have other people handy to ride with? Prefer to be alone with your horse? Have more time than money? Have more money than time? Show? Compete? These things are all important when making this decision. Be careful about appearances, they CAN be deceiving: Fancy digs are nice to see, but I promise that your horse will NOT care if he has a shiny brass plaque engraved with his name by his stall in a billion dollar barn. He will be much more interested in a 4F kind of place: Food, Friends, Fun and Frolic :o)
Of course I don't think I need to tell you that if you live someplace like an apartment, that's going to pretty much decide for you...but here are a few more thoughts on each option:
*HORSES ON THE HOME FRONT*
- Less expensive, certainly, but YOU are the one "on call" 24/7.
- Horses do not understand things like "Saturday morning", "holiday", "inclement weather", or "I'm sick". They do, however, understand things like "feeding time", "hungry" and "HELP!" (see photo below this module).
- Words like "vacation" tend to disappear from your reality (Me? I could care less; I have horses, so what else matters? :o)
- It is one thing to ask a friend to stop by and feed your fish if you aren't able, as opposed to asking someone to "stop by" morning AND evening to feed your 9 horses....
- You can spend a lot more time with your horse(s) easily and know how well they are cared for (that's the biggie to me).
*HORSES IN HOTELS (BOARDING)*
- It costs a lot more money this way, but someone else is (hopefully) on call 24/7
- Be sure to check references; is it stall boarding or pasture board?
- Are the people that work there careful or careless with the horses? Watching them tack up can be a quick way to assess this: Do they PLACE or PLUNK the saddle down? (Hint - "place" is the one you want :o) Is there a lot of reprimanding going on? Are the horses there calm or nervous? Is the barn open and airy or dim and closed in?
- Are there people actually living on site in case of an emergency? (See photo below this module :o)
-Will your horse have turnout time? Alone? With friends?
- Is it a secure facility? Horses do get stolen (scary, but true).
- Do they have someplace for you to ride? What are the other people like that keep their horses there? Do you like them? Want to slap them?
- How far away is it? Can you fit frequent visits into your schedule? Will you be able to keep tabs on the care your horse is (or isn't) receiving?
WHO's who in the photo: Taya [one of "the girls"] looking suspiciously at our neighbor's dog who was trespassing near her stall :o)
UM...EXCUSE ME, can we get a little help here please? Somebody?? Anybody??? - Horses have a natural talent for getting themselves in a pickle...
NOTE: Max was in a hurry to have fun one breezy afternoon and took off to play with his pasture pals before I could remove his halter. He did NOT stay this way long at all as I was afraid to just leave him in the cowboy halter and kept checking on him through the windows in the house (this would be why). Apparently he decided he could just take the halter off by himself...
WHY this is such a major decision
Otherwise Known As The Four R's...
*RELATIONSHIPS and RESPONSIBILITIES*
Depending on how much you decide to tune in to them, horses are capable of forming deep and lasting bonds with their person. They are herd animals and extremely gregarious by nature. The choice, however, is yours: unless he came from a place that imprinted and followed similar philosophies, initially he will probably NOT offer you anything past a superficial friendship (and some horses are wary of risking even that).
Horses live anywhere from 25 to 40 years, depending on the quality of care they received and what their job was before you got them. Other factors can come into play, but those are the two biggest. Although many horses do accept their "lot in life", I don't think ANY of them really appreciate being shuffled around from place to place, any more than we do (or at least I don't like it...do you?) Think about it this way: can you imagine spending 20 or 30 YEARS as a foster child? Ugh :oP
*REGISTERED or RESCUED?*
I strongly encourage everyone to look into horse rescues first (just make sure they are legitimate). There are thousands of horses looking for a home, and it is not much different than going to your local animal shelter for a puppy or kitten. Be sure to get as much background as you can though, and don't bite off more than you can chew!
Even if you are planning to show in registered shows, I would still highly recommend looking into the rescue route; there are plenty of papered horses out there too!
WHO is WHO in the photo: Our daughter giving Rina a big squishy hug :o)
WHEN are you planning to make your purchase? - Tomorrow? Next month? Next Year? Maybe in the vague and distant future...
HORSES CAN BE RELATIVELY EASY TO KEEP AND FAIRLY INEXPENSIVE TO OWN...
Except when they're not.
It may be tempting to "shoot the wad" on an irresistible equine find (this is the part where your loyal friend should smack you back - to REALITY :o) If you are planning to board, however, I would be sure to tuck aside several months "rent" as a precaution. Perspectively speaking, if you lease an apartment you would be required to pay first and last month's rent PLUS a security deposit - kinda makes sense from that angle, doesn't it?
Also, consider setting aside some money for an emergency fund for your horse while you're saving up to buy one or after you've found your new friend. Even if you can only squeak out $10-$20/month for this you'll end up with $120-$240 at the end of a year. Remember: Disaster NEVER strikes at a convenient time :oP
You may also want to check into equine mortality insurance. A grim thought, to be sure, but definitely something to consider (could you afford to run out and purchase another horse if something happened to yours??)
WHO is WHO: The funny face in the photo above is Max (one of our accidental rescues): He cost us quite a bit right off the bat (choked on Day 2 and required an emergency vet visit, then there was the special surgical procedure he needed that we knew nothing about...)
HOW much are you willing to do to make it happen?
What will you give up to get if you need to?
*AS LITTLE AS POSSIBLE*
This would [unfortunately] NOT be us:
"I have lots of money, so I can afford to pay someone else for the hassle of caring for my horse, I just want to ride..."
If this IS YOU, I have two things to say;
1) You will still need to keep an eye on the person caring for your horse (just because you pay $800 month to board at an exclusive facility does NOT mean your horse is getting $800 worth of care - see article link below);
2) We will happily accept any donations you would like to make at our website; we are a 501c3 non-profit so all donations are tax deductible (see our link below)
...sorry, couldn't resist :o)
*I'LL DO WHAT I CAN*
I think most people fall into this category. Make a list, if you need to, how this purchase will effect your monthly budget. It would also be a good idea to see where you could give up a couple of things to start an emergency fund, or maybe just some things you could give up if you need to.
*AS MUCH AS IT TAKES*
This one IS [totally] us:
* We rarely eat out or go to the movies (the horses are our entertainment);
* We don't have cable (but we are up to 3 channels now and only one of them is fuzzy);
* I don't get manicures or pedicures and my haircuts are semi-annual events;
* I pack a lunch for work everyday to save money (actually that's done by the lunchbox fairy - see my 3..2..1 lens for more on that story);
* My husband still drives the car we bought when our daughter was 6 months old (she's 18);
* We don't really go on vacations (although we DO count eating out a vacation since we're "away" from home and I don't have to do the dishes :o)
* We sometimes shop at thrift stores and love to hit the flea market (hey, it's fun!)
I can summarize my thoughts on this issue fairly simply; there are horses in my yard, what else matters? :o)
Here are the links mentioned in the above modules
- See what can happen if you don't keep tabs on your horse:
When horse owner Anne Maria Cray of Grantville, Pa., started spreading the word that her 5-year-old Thoroughbred mare, WeWe C, was available for a breeding lease, she never imagined that the horse would end up in the middle of a welfare case...
- This is for those of you with "pots of money" :oD
Epic Farms is a small, family run 501c3 (non-profit), any and all donations are not only deeply appreciated, they are also tax deductible! Mission Statement: To create and maintain a family friendly environment that will promote equine based learning
- Shadow's Story: Equine PTSD
Shadow and Champ (both Tennessee Walking Horses) were 8 1/2 years old when we got them. They had been living together way out in the country for about 2 years before we came along...
Hopefully this information was helpful to you... - ...now go out and find your own little ray of pasture sunshine!
In case you're wondering about the rather odd looking expression on the horse in this photo; it is our Taya and she is all but cross-eyed in ecstasy (I'm scratching her tummy and it feels GOOD!!
Epic Farms on Etsy - Click on the link below to visit our horse lover's shop
- Epic Farms on Etsy
for a unique selection of handmade horsey gifts, scrapbooking die cuts, cards, jewelry, ornaments, home decor...100% of the proceeds are donated to charity - Woo!