thinking about buying a horse?

Everything you need to know and consider…

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Here’s a whole bunch of stuff you need to know about owning a horse. Keep up the good research!

company

Horses are herd animals and more often than not need the company of other horses. Yes, this probably means you need to consider your second horse already…If you have a lonely horse this can lead to behavioural issues like pacing, stomping, trouble controlling the horse when riding, after a while it could lead to social issues when they are around other horses, being difficult to handle…the list goes on. Even a horse in a paddock beside where your horse is kept will be a good thing for your friend. These animals shouldn’t be secluded.

vet check

Before you lay down the cash, (and after you’ve gone through and done your research and asked the right questions), tell the seller that you will only purchase the horse if they first allow you to have a vet check. I personally would never buy a horse without doing this. Get an equine vet to check out the horse’s overall condition so that they can give you the green light. Equine vets are horse specialists, they know exactly what to look for and they will give you the best advice moving forward. For example, the vet will focus some time on looking in the horse’s mouth to examine their teeth as this gives them confirmation of the horse’s age, diet, etc.  Once this is done you should ask the seller for any medical paperwork relating to the horse, make sure you ask this question in front of the vet and seller, medical paperwork relating to the horse is super important i.e. vaccination documents, any prior injuries, teeth check papers, worming,  etc.  This should not offend the seller, even when the horse is in your care you should always save any paperwork that the vet has given you even if it is only for regular vaccinations – this proves that you were taking good care of your horse.

owner history

It makes a big difference if the horse you are about to commit to has had 20 owners, or just one or two. You need to question why the horse has had so many owners if that is the case. Was it really a string of bad luck or something more sinister…The seller should have a clear knowledge on the horse’s history, they should be able to tell you exactly what the horse has been through as they too have had to go through this exact process with this exact horse. We would not recommend a beginner to buy a horse that has an unclear history as you will not be able to get the answers you need to complete the purchase confidently.

what size horse do you need

The size of a horse should be proportional to its rider. Weight is not the only thing you should consider when measuring up because height and your experience in riding also come in to play. A smaller horse may help your confidence, that’s something to think about…In saying this, if you are too heavy for the horse it can hurt their back and create leg soundness problems – and remember, they are not just carrying your body weight, they also carry the saddle etc. A horse with more bone is able to carry more weight, meaning, a larger horse can carry a larger human. In our opinion, a heavier person should not be on a small horse, and definitely not a pony size. Also, you need to consider the horse’s build verses your build, e.g. if you have long legs vs how wide the horse is, if you have the strength to control a large horse especially a large cheeky horse…

space & shelter

To start with, shelter must be provided for your horse in case of rain, wind, extreme sun, etc. Horses need shelter from extremes of sun, wind and rain. A stable would be perfect, a shed would be okay or as a bare minimum make sure there are trees that are able to provide shelter for such conditions. A waterproof rug can also be used to protect the horse from cold weather but must be checked daily to ensure it is not rubbing, slipping off or leaking.

When it comes to space, you should really have at least one acre for one horse that is securely fenced. Fencing needs to be checked regularly to prevent escape or injury. Make sure you check for any loose wiring, weeding, etc. Make sure there is plenty of water available for your horse within the space also. If you are using old bathtubs, just ensure they are kept clean and filled regularly.

vaccinations

Your vet will tell you what vaccinations your horse needs and often they are needed, it can vary.

feet

Have a farrier trim the hooves every 6 to 8 weeks to prevent them chipping or becoming too long and uncomfortable for the horse. Shoes are only needed if the horse is to be ridden on hard or rocky ground.

worming

When it comes to worming, follow the directions on the product but this is usually done every 6-8 weeks as a general rule of thumb.

teeth

Teeth should be checked one a year as a minimum.

diet

Horses are herbivores, which means they only eat plants-i.e. grass, hay, sometimes different forms of pellets, etc. Ask the seller what they feed the horse and if there are any special mentions when asking the question ensure you ask why. Most horses are perfectly fine with grass and occasional hay, this is assuming you are only using the horse for pleasure rides and not breeding, eventing, etc. A guide to the amounts of roughage (hay) is 1-2 kg per 100kg of bodyweight.

body

A healthy horse should not have its ribs showing, but you should be able to touch your horse and feel its ribs. In saying this, a big booty, big belly and a crested neck are all signs of an overweight horse. Make sure you watch your horse’s body conditions and ensure it is balanced and looking healthy. A thin or fat horse can attract a list of health issues, illnesses, etc.

temperament

This is one of the key factors to consider when buying your first horse. If you are a beginner, or only somewhat experienced, it really is best to go for an older horse who is experienced with riders of all ages – a horse who is calm and gentle and comfortable to begin with. Many people have different definitions of these character traits so it is important to make sure yourself and the seller are on the same page. A horse is a big commitment and if you make a mistake on your first horse it can scare you away from going on such a beautiful journey. From my personal experience, if you can get your hands on a retired police horse, they are often the greatest for beginners. On the contrary, if you are an experienced rider who is looking for a challenge you need to make sure that your level of riding experience, the time you have to dedicate to the horse, and the temperament of your future horse balance out to a healthy type of challenge. Do not put yourself at risk, it is a good idea to bring a more experienced horse handler to the buy with you to help you make a the big decision.

test ride

It’s perfectly okay to ask the seller for more than one test ride. It’s also a good idea to ask the seller to not catch and get the horse ready for the ride before you come. This is a process that you should be there to witness and try-out for yourself. Many horses can be difficult to catch, this doesn’t make them bad, but you need to know what you are in for and you need to know what you should do in order to successfully catch the horse. Also, putting on a bridal and saddle can be just as difficult with some horses and can also be scary for beginners if they are not given the information they need to overcome the horse’s stubbornness (and sometimes cheekiness). Once the horse is ready to go, ask the seller to first jump on and ride in an open space, and only then if you feel comfortable, you should ask the seller if you can have a test ride. As part of this process, I would also ask the seller to demonstrate how they get the horse on and off a float. I would also ask how often they ride the horse and describe what your intentions are, i.e. do you plan on riding every weekend? Once a month? How much does the seller currently space out rides?

behavioural quirks

Horses have strong personalities. Their personality is very important and must be a match for you and your level of horse experience. A horse with a strong, outgoing and sometimes cheeky personality can teach you a lot as a rider, but this type of personality is not for a beginner. Some horses refuse to do certain things without giving a fight, some horses like to test your skills, some horses can be very forward, and then some horses can have a 5 year old child on their back and be as peaceful as they come. Indication of behavioural quirks is important, so you need to ask the round-about questions, such as; how the horse acts around other horses, what spooks this horse? How do they behave on trail rides? Do they prefer to be in front or hang back? Does the seller ride with or without a whip? How does the horse react to getting on a float? Get to know the horse through the seller, get as much information about their personality as possible, and don’t just ask the cute questions, make yourself a list of things that are important to you and your stage of riding so you are prepared and you can make a confident decision.

commands

Make sure you ask the seller what commands the horse knows and is comfortable with and if they are currently working on any commands that you should continue with. Not all horses are trained in the same way and certain things can vary, for example some horses are very responsive to vocal commands, make sure you list these down and keep up the training.

the fun bits and pieces

When you start up you will need to buy a list of bits and pieces for yourself and your horse. These things include, but are not limited to:

  • Helmet
  • Riding boots
  • Jodhpurs (riding pants)
  • Saddle blanket
  • A saddle
  • A Bridle
  • A halter
  • A lead rope
  • Grooming equipment
  • A float, which alone can cost in excess of $6,000 (second-hand), but you might not need one, or you can always borrow/hire one
  • Pitch fork and wheelbarrow for poop scooping

microchipping your horse

Yep, you should also consider microchipping your horse, especially if you’ve paid the big bucks! Horses do get lost and can be stolen. This is not a must, and it’s also not as crazy expensive as it sounds. Microchipping can be done for about $160, of course this depends on who is providing the service and where you are in Australia.

agistment

If you don’t have the land to own your own horse you can always look for suitable agistment options. Agistment can cost $40 a week (if you’re lucky), and upwards. Make sure you check the property first to ensure that; there is plenty of nice grass, the minimum required space at the very least is provided, a clean water supply, shelter, not too many horses (or other animals) cooped up in the same area, you negotiate feeding arrangements, etc. Payments must be made to your agistment provider regularly or up-front.

have you considered leasing a horse?

We recommend leasing a horse first if you have not had a horse before. Leasing involves going halves (or whatever is negotiated) between yourself and the other owner of the horse, in all associated costs, and of course you both get the pleasure of riding the horse whenever you please. Not only does this cut the costs but it also allows you to soak up all of the learning you possibly can from the other owner as they have already had some experience with owning a horse prior to you joining the negotiation – ask as many questions as you can, and build your confidence.

human contact

You need to establish a relationship with your horse. Be there. Spend time with your horse, and not just by riding your horse. Hang out. This reinforces that you are its leader and that you will keep your horse safe. The horse needs to be your friend. Interact with your horse in a way that makes them feel safe, no sudden movements, be gentle, talk to them they do listen to you and they really do feel you. The horse may show you signs of love such as softening their expression around you – this is a great compliment as it shows that they feel relaxed around you. The horse may follow you around, try to groom you, use you as a scratching post for his/her head, he/she goes quite when you speak, he/she whinnies when they see you from excitement (and you don’t have food in your hands) – these are all great signs that you are building a strong relationship.

some horsey terms and definitions that you may see in sale ads

Green:

A horse that is in the early stages of training. Horses described as being “green” are definitely not suitable for beginners, or even intermediates. These horses are really only for very experienced riders who also have an understanding of what it takes to further train the horse.

Soundness:

No illness, i.e. when buying a horse you will need the vet to check that it is sound. 

No vices:

No crazy behaviour.

Gelding:

A male horse that has had his testicles removed.

Mare:

A female horse.

Filly:

A young female horse, usually less than 4 years of age.

TB (Thoroughbred):

A horse of pure breed, especially of a breed originating from English mares and Arab stallions and widely used as racehorses.

QT (Quarter Horse):

A horse of a small and muscular breed noted for agility and speed over short distances. It is reputed to be the fastest breed of horse over distances of a quarter of a mile.

Stallion:

A male horse that has not been gelded (castrated). Also describes male horses whose racing deeds and pedigree are such that it is desirable to breed from him.

Colt:

A young male horse either two or three years old that has not been gelded.

Lunging your horse:

This refers to an exercise that includes making the horse go around you in circles with a lead rope to practice commands or for the simple benefit of exercise.

Unbroken:

An unbroken horse is unsafe to ride. A horse that is broken is deemed safe to ride.

Seasoned:

A seasoned horse refers to a horse that is competing or ready for competition.

Spell: 

A horse that has had a minimum two-month (60 day) break from racing.

Tack:

Refers to the equipment of a riding horse – saddle, bridle etc. Short for “tackle.”

In Foal:

Pregnant mare.

Farrier: 

A specialist in equine hoof care.

 

Have we missed something important? Let us know!

Thanks for reading.

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