Owning a horse is a big responsibility. It requires a commitment of both time and money. The new owner should be prepared to spend time grooming, exercising, and caring for the animal, or assume the responsibility to see that the basic care will be performed daily. Unless the horse is kept on the owner’s property, travel time to and from the stable must be considered. The costs of owning a horse can add up quickly as you provide shelter, feed, medical care, shoeing, and riding equipment.

If You Choose A Pet Horse
Before buying a horse for their children, parents would be wise to reinforce the child’s commitment. Arrange with a local stable for lessons for your youngster. Give your child the opportunity to participate in supervised care of a horse for a month or two. If the youngster “sticks” with the chores of horse ownership, he or she is probably responsible enough to own one. Before you purchase a horse, decide where you will keep the animal and how much it will cost. In many instances the purchase price is not as much as the annual boarding fee. If you live on property that can support a horse – legally and physically – be sure that you have adequate stabling. If you live in a cold climate, you might want to consider boarding the animal, at least during the winter months, at a stable with an indoor arena. Riding in freezing weather is unpleasant and can even be dangerous for both horse and rider.

What Kind of Horse Should You Get?
Because riding is a team sport – of the horse and rider – it is important that you buy a horse that suits the temperament and style of the rider. A nervous, fearful rider should have a calm horse that will not react in kind. A child should not have a horse or pony that will bolt. An experienced rider will want a sensitive horse that responds to the slightest commands.Before you decide to buy a horse of your own, you should already have some riding experience or have taken riding lessons. Once you understand your riding abilities and limitations, you will be in a better position to choose a horse with a temperament that will suit you.You should also consider the type of riding you intend to do. “English” riders may want a purely pleasure horse for riding “on the flat.” Other “English” riders may want a horse that will jump, or even one that can be taken on the hunt field. “Western” riders may want a horse to use for trail riding, working cattle, or other “Western” show events.Whichever style of riding you prefer, it is best if the first horse you buy is already “schooled.” First-time horse owners should avoid younger animals that require a lot of training. An older horse that already has the skills you need is usually a better buy for the first-time owner and younger rider.

Where Do You Look For a Horse?
A good place to buy a horse is the stable where you ride or plan to keep the horse. The stable owner has an interest in keeping you satisfied, and knowing your abilities and temperament he or she can suggest a suitable animal. Riding instructors are also good agents for locating a suitable horse since it is important to them that their students do well in competition.Breeders are another good source. Generally they want to see their animals well placed and will make every effort to provide a horse you can enjoy. Most every breed has a registration association that can direct you to breeders in your area. A common source is the classified section of your local newspaper or the bulletin board of your local tack shop. Here you have little knowledge of the seller and little recourse should the horse purchase prove unsatisfactory.

Trying Out the Horse
When going to look at an animal, the first-time buyer should be accompanied by a knowledgeable horseman or horsewoman. There is so much to observe and so much to ask that the inexperienced buyer may have trouble remembering it all. Observe the horse in the stall and pasture, and how it behaves when someone is loading, hauling, and catching the horse.Temperament should be most important to you – leave health to the experts. Look at the horse’s eyes and ears and general manner when it is brought out. Does it look alert? Be sure that you look at the animal in a well-lit place, preferably outdoors in the sunlight. Watch the owner saddle up the horse. Does it stand quietly? Does it kick or bite? Do not buy a horse with bad stable manners.

Do not get on the animal right away. Ask the owner to ride the horse first. Watch how the animal acts when mounted – does it stand still or does it dance around? Ask the owner to take the horse through its gaits, the walk, trot, and canter. Does it look smooth? Does it toss its head or fight the bit? If you are buying a hunter or jumper or other specially trained horse, ask the owner to demonstrate.If you and your adviser are satisfied that the horse is safe for you to ride, it is your turn to mount. Once again, observe how it reacts when you mount, and how it reacts to your commands. Try out any special skills that the horse has. This is a major investment and you should be allowed to test the animal thoroughly. You could make observations on a second visit that you did not see the first time. Many times a brief trial period (7-10 days) can be arranged for the prospective buyer. This allows the buyer to have the horse and see if the two are really compatible.

Discuss exactly what the pre-purchase examination will include so that the necessity of additional tests such as x-rays, drug tests, or endoscopy can be determined.   After you have purchased your horse, your veterinarian is your best source for information about vaccinations, parasite control, and other routine health matters as well as emergency medical care.  One final point that all horse owners, beginners and experienced, should remember is that a horse is a living being whose life and welfare is in your hands.  As we domesticated horses, we deprived them of their natural, all-day grazing patterns. It is therefore vital to take care when choosing a feed and feeding pattern. Research various feeds, with their pros and con, including factors, such as a horse’s individual temperament, age and workload, that affect the amount and type of feed appropriate for that horse. Educate yourself on the fundamentals of feeding and make sure you know the golden rules for first-time owners when deciding upon an appropriate feeding routine.

Housing your horse, whether in a stable, field or in a combination of the two, requires careful thought and planning. Issues, such as workload and type of horse must be taken into consideration. It is natural for a horse to graze freely and for as long as possible. There are instances, however, when a horse is better off indoors. Safety and warmth are of paramount importance. Topics such as stable fittings and structure are discussed, together with ideal field options and the hazards of poisonous plants.When it comes to expense, purchasing a horse is just the beginning. Equipment costs can, in many cases, exceed the initial outlay on the horse! This basic equipment you will need to invest in includes saddles, bridles, grooming kits and rider’s clothing. A happy horse means a happy rider. A horse’s welfare should always be of “overriding” importance to the thoughtful owner.

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