What to know before you buy a horse to ride
Where will you keep the horse?
This is the first thing that anybody should know before they buy a horse. There should always be a stable and field ready for the horse before it is bought. The animal can stay in a field for a few nights provided they have food and clean water but after that they will need a shelter at the very least. Stabling arrangements can me made with local riding schools or livery yards for anything between $10 and $200 a week. It's also important that the horse's living quarters are no further than 30 minutes from the owner's home so that they can visit regularly and drive their quickly if there's an emergency.
How much money can you spend?
Buying a horse with savings is easy enough. But the associated costs will need to be worked into the owner's general budget. For example, some people may have #50 that they can spend each week and others might be afford #250. Decide how much you're willing to spend. This will determine the place where the horse lives and other things like what food it eats or what treats it has. Any money that's left over from the weekly budget could be saved for a 'rainy day' and used for unexpected vets bills or new tack and farriers' bills.
How much time can you spend with the horse?
Like any animal, horses need lots of love and affection as well as exercise and training. This takes time. Can you visit your horse twice a day or twice a month? Before you buy a horse figure out what other commitments you have and how much time you can spend with the animal. An hour before work starts or a couple of hours after work - or both? If you can't see your pet regularly make sure that there's somebody who can check on it. How ever much time you decide to spend with the horse try to stick to that routine. Equines are creatures of habit and thrive on routine.
What kind of riding will you be doing?
The type of riding you plan to do affects everything from how much exercise the horse needs and what kind of feed it will eat to how much you should be budgeting. This question should also determine what kind of horse you buy in the first place. For example, if you're only planning gentle hacks then a placid older horse who doesn't need many dietary supplements or intensive exercise will be fine. But if you're planning to enter cross country or show jumping competitions then buy a younger horse and use better quality accommodation and food.
What tack will you be using?
Before you buy a horse you will need a head collar and lead rope at the very least. You may even need a horse box to drive it to its new home. That could be enough for the short term but if you plan to ride your horse regularly you will need to think about buying tack.This should include:
- A basic grooming kit should include a body brush, curry comb and a hoof
- A turn-out rug or stable rug depending on the time of year and
climate are also important.
- Correctly fitted saddles and a bridle with the appropritae bit for the
horse's temperament and ability.
- Riding hat, body protector, jodhpurs and riding boots
Where will you buy hay?
Horses are wild animals that can survive on roughage such as hay and grass for the Summer months. Depending on whether they are stabled or grazing and how much work they're doing, they'll need between one and three nets of hay each day. Ask friends and local riding schools the the best place to buy hay from. It should be good quality with little dust and contain very few dried plants as sometimes they can be poisonous. Local farmers are useful for this as they don't charge as much as equestrian suppliers but try different places to find the best hay for your horse.
How will you respond if the horse spooks?
Before even thinking about buying a horse, riders should be able to canter comfortably. They should also have had sufficient experience of riding different horses in different settings like forests, roads and riding schools. Horses behave differently when they only have one owner as they are not 'numbed' by the constant stream of different riders using them. It's therefor very important that people buying their own horse have experienced horses behaving unpredictably and understand how to respond to that. The best advice is to remain calm, relax and stay in control with a firm seat.
How will you nurse the horse if it's sick?
Be prepared for horses to become ill. They may be injured whilst playing in the field or even out riding. They may develop colic, laminitis, lameness or one of the many othe illnesses that horses can suffer from. It's vital that horse owners have the numbers of several local vets - especially one that provides 24 hour call out. Aside from this, numbers for equine dentists, farriers, equine physiotherapists, nutritionists and even spiritual healers are useful to have at hand stored in a phone book.
How will you keep improving your riding?
Let's not forget the reason people buy horses - because they love them and it's great fun. Owning a horse is the biggest learning curve and lesson that people can have when it comes to riding. But it's still important to have regular lessons. This helps to keep the rider improving and correct any bad habits that may develop from time to time. A private lesson once a fortnight or once a month is great. Some instructors will travel to your yard and give lessons there. There might even be an instructor who works at the livery yard or riding school where the horse is stabled. If you can't afford lessons then ask a friend to watch for 30 minutes and point out what they see. Whatever happens though, keep having lessons. Even the best are still learning.
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