I have thought about a title for this piece on how to buy a horse and my first instinct is to explain to people why you should not own a horse. Hence I have changed the title to admonish anyone who thinks they should go down the route of equine ownership.
Do You Own Land?
Owning horses is fine for people who have land, i.e. farmers who also have a long history of handling livestock. Any farmer will tell you it will be the horse you are calling the vet out for not the sheep. So before you think about this the first question is, do you have land and this kind of background?
Fewer and fewer people today are able to access this facility. When I was a child small fields abounded, land was cheap. Since then millions of homes have absorbed those semi rural areas making it harder for horse enthusiasts to find the perfect spot for their horse.
When Should I Start To Ride?
The time to start riding is, when you are young. Monty Roberts, won his first cup as a three year old. I was put on my first donkey at Sandbanks when I was about two years old and I screamed and screamed when they took me off. I so very well remember the rhythmic swaying of the animal as it walked along the sun drenched sandy beach with its long ears in front of me. I knew then that I wanted to ride forever.
A child who really wants to ride horses will get up at four in the morning, muck out any number of boxes, lead any number of leading rein children during the their lessons, groom any number of small restive, nippy ponies and all for nothing or the thought that if they work themselves into the ground they might just get a free ride. If this does not fit a description of you then stop reading.
What You Need To Know
In order to become qualified to manage, care for, train and ride a pony/horse you really have to have been doing it for a lifetime. However, this does not preclude that you might not have been riding very long and you might be very attracted to the idea of owning a horse, and you might just think that the time is right for you to approach the equine market place and indulge.
You might have had several lessons on horseback and feel that you are eminently qualified to ride anything. Firstly this would not be a reasonable assumption. To own your own horse you should first be able to break a young horse to saddle and bridle. You should be able to long rein, school and handle from the ground in every situation. If you are able to work with a young horse and train it to be obedient, kind, and well schooled, then by all means get yourself a horse.
We haven’t even touched the care work. You will have to recognise a litany of disease and skeletal problems. You will have to know when a saddle is not fitting. You will have to work out what kind of bit your horse needs, please not a snaffle and flash nose band. I’m getting sick of seeing people riding in snaffle gags with flash nosebands. But biting is for another article. So if you are familiar with mud fever, ringworm, colic, sore backs, teeth problems, skin complaints such as sweet itch, lameness of every kind from laminitis to strained ligaments and tendon problems then you are at the beginning of the long journey of discovery. If you can pass this list with a nod then I am happy to lead you onwards in the journey of ownership.
Do you know about conformation? If you don’t know about conformation then go and get a book about it. Conformation unlike most of this stuff can be learned from books. Look at how a horse stands, its pasterns, the angle of its hooves to the pastern. Are the front legs in a vertical line? Do then bend one way or another? Are the hind legs under the horse, or do they follow in a balanced line from his quarters. What are his quarters like? Is the head intelligent, with a kind eye or common with a mean small eye and an angry look about him. Now get an expert to come and have a look at this horse you might want to buy.
Buying A Ready Made Horse
Buying a ready-made horse or pony and becoming a weekend rider is nonsense. Horses are very bright they will quickly outshine you. You may end up training your horse to be the following; a bucker, a baulker, a restive horse, a stubborn headstrong horse, a rearer, a horse that has learnt to spin round in order to deposit its not very good rider, a horse that won’t lead or load in a box. Monty Roberts has more horses today with problems to work with than ever before. I wonder why?
Time & Money
But before you do that, how much time are you going to give to this animal? How much money is it going to cost you? Do you have the resources to manage a bad winter?
Turning a horse out in the summer is one thing, but keeping a horse in good condition in the winter through rain, ice and snow is quite another. These animals are domesticated, they are not wild. They need to be properly cared for and have an environment that provides for them.
Your horse will need new shoes every 6-8 weeks. That is around £65.00 a set. It will need hay in the winter, a large bale of haylage might be around £35-£40. A large bale of hay might be around £25.00, and may last you a month. You might need to give your horse hard feed. Look at the cost of that, and also at how much it is going to eat. How much are you going to pay for livery, if livery is what you are going to need?
Not So Sure?
Now I can tell you are beginning to go off the idea. Well don’t just yet. You see owning a horse is one of the most incredible experiences life can offer you. Sir Winston Churchill said, “No hour of life is lost that is spent in the saddle.” I whole-heartedly agree with him.
My horse is the most wonderful, beautiful, kind, loving, gentle creatures I have ever met. He is sound, traffic proof, and fun to jump and hack. He is peaceful and intelligent and does anything I ask. He is a positive paragon of perfection. But hang on a minute, why is he like that? Well the truth is he has to put up with me. I’m the boss of this outfit. I lead him. He does what I want. But at the same time we have a unique symbiotic relationship in which I worship the ground he walks on. I care for him and see to his every need. I know when he is sick and sad and what bothers him and how he is responding to life’s pressures. Horses are people too. They have souls, spirits if you don’t want to believe me then prove to me that you have a soul and I will prove to you that the horse has one.
So, if you still want to own a horse know this, that your learning curve will be vertical. Your purse will always be empty, unless you are very wealthy and your time full. Your experience of being a horse owner will require you to develop a sense of humour. The journey of discovery will be profound, its depths limitless. Your horse can take you through that magic portal where nature reveals its secrets, where you can touch infinity, where you can join the immortals, for only your horse knows how to take you there. So, if you are not ready to fly, to leave the ordinary world behind and touch a place so magical that we all speak of it in whispers, then you should not buy a horse.
Copyright © A M Taciturn 2009