So you want to buy a horse... - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 12 Old 07-04-2011, 10:39 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Jun 2010
Location: West Central Illinois
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So you want to buy a horse...

In the six years I've been riding, and the year I've been a member of this forum, I've seen many people eagerly buy their first horse. Sadly, the majority of those cases wind up less than romantic from people getting over horsed, getting hurt; or simply they find out that they don't have enough time, experience, or money to take care of their horse. For the sake of horse lovers and horses everywhere, I feel obliged to give a guideline for first time horse owners to help set them up for success!

Horses are beautiful, elegant, and powerful creatures. For thousands of years they have inspired awe in humans. During the early domestication of horses, only the nobility had the resources to own these beautiful creatures for sport. As the centuries went on, and horses were used more for work and transportation, the "commoners" got a chance at horse ownership. Since the creation and wide spread use of the car, horses today are almost solely used for leisure and sport. While horses are still "pets" of the higher class citizens, most anybody can own a horse today, and for the crazy horse lover, it seems like a dream come true.

However, horse ownership is a long term commitment that is NOT to be taken lightly. Horses require a huge amount of time and money to take care of. Not only that, but horses are unpredictable animals, and can be extremely dangerous even to the most experienced of horse owners. For these reasons, there are some things every first time horse owner should know and consider before picking out their first horse.

Before you start looking at purchasing a horse, you need to ask yourself if you have the time and money to care for a horse.
The American Association of Equine Practitioners estimated that the minimum cost to properly care for a horse for 1 (one) year excluding vet, board and farrier costs is $1,800. If you add in vet, farrier, and board (if applicable), your annual cost for caring for your horse can easily reach $5,000.
A general rule of thumb, if you can't afford to comfortably take $3,000 out of your yearly income, plus keep a minimum of $2,000 in a savings account in case your horse needs emergency vet care, you aren't financially ready to own a horse.

Taking care of a horse will require you to sacrifice at least an hour of your time every day. This time includes the basics of horse care: feeding, grooming, and cleaning his/her stall. If you have a ride-able horse, you will have to regularly ride it (about 3-6 times a week). This can add an additional 5-20 hours of work per week to your routine. (This number can depend on the type and amount of riding you do.) Spending this much time with your horse will mean you won't have as much time to go out with your friends, or relax and watch television when you get home from work.
If you can't find the time horse care requires, it isn't exactly a deal breaker. If you board your horse, the barn manager may be able to feed your horse and clean his/her stall which would save you some time and trips to the stable. If you have the finances to do so, you can find a barn that grooms, exersizes, and even tacks your horse as your on your way to the barn. This type of board usually runs into the thousands of dollars a month, and adds a considerable amount of money to your annual bill.

If you find that your time and money are in order, my next best advice to you is to wait at least six months before you go out and buy a horse. During this time, I would highly recommend that you take riding lessons (especially if you have little to no experience handling and riding horses). Riding lessons will give you a safe environment to learn proper horsemanship and gain confidence on the ground and in the saddle. If you choose to take lessons, take a tour of a few stables before choosing one. Here are a few things to look for in a good lesson stable:
  • An curteous, patient lesson instructor
  • The lessons will help you reach your riding goals (Don't go to a strictly dressage barn if your passion is barrel racing)
  • Fair prices
  • Healthy horses (The horses should have shiny coats, have no bones showing, and be bright and alert)
  • A clean stable and arena (no manure piled up in stalls, aisle ways clear of nails and other hazards, good lighting, etc.)
  • Happy students (If you see some students, ask them how they like taking lessons there, how long they've been taking them there, how they like the instructor, etc.)
Also during these six months, start reading up on horse care. Go to your local library and check out some books on horse illnesses, horse nutrition, and basic horse first aid. The internet is also a great place to get some knowledge on these topics, but remember to take things with a grain of salt. (Not to mention The Horse Forum is a great place to get answers to your questions and get advice and answers from knowledgeable horsemen) Another thing to be doing during this time is to start saving your money for purchasing your horse and the equipment you'll need for your horse.

So it's been six months, and you're still wanting a horse as badly as ever, its time to start your search. Before you go out to look at a horse, you need to have some things in order:
  • What will the main purpose of your horse be? Do you want a calm, surefooted trail horse, or are you looking for a show ready dressage horse?
  • Set a price range for the horse you're looking for, but leave a little wiggle room. Also, be realistic about your price range. You won't find a fully trained successful show jumper for $500. And be sure to make sure you have some money left to buy your horse's tack and other supplies.
  • Make a list of everything you want in this horse on paper. (Color, age, training, breed, gender, temperment, etc.) Take this list and prioritize it. If you must have a particular quality in a horse, mark it with an M (must have). If you would prefer a horse with a quality, mark it with a P (prefer). If a quality really isn't that important, but you would like it (such as color), mark it with a B (bonus). Doing this will help you focus your horse search, and may help you choose between two horses.
  • Write out a list of questions to ask the horse seller. Doing so will make sure you don't forget to ask an important question.
If this is your first time buying a horse, I HIGHLY recommend you find a trusted, experienced horseman to take horse hunting with you. They will be able to pick up on things a novice horseman may miss, that can give insights to a horse's personality. They can also ride the horse before you, and let you know if its safe for you to take a test ride.

If you can't find an experienced horseman to go with you, here are some things to do/consider when you go to look at a horse:
  • Pay attention to the horse's attitude. (Look for vigorous tail swishing, pinned ears, stomping feet, etc.) If a horse has a bad attitude, it may be difficult to handle and/or ride.
  • Look for a horse with good ground manners. A horse that pushes its handler, kicks, rears, or bites is an unsafe horse, and is not for the novice horseman. This is also an indicator a horse could have bad manners under saddle.
  • Have the owner ride the horse first. Have the owner make the horse walk, trot, canter, back, and show any special training the horse may have. If the owner refuses to ride the horse, or is hesitant, do not ride the horse. Get an experienced horseman to ride it before you do.
  • When you go to test ride the horse, always always ALWAYS wear a helmet!!!
  • Visit and ride the horse a couple of times before buying. Is the horse behaving just as well as it did the first time? Do you get along with the horse? Could you build a bond with this horse?
  • Once you have found "the one", have a vet perform a Pre-Purchase exam. This exam will tell you if there are any pre-exsisting conditions the horse may have that could hinder his/her performance and require medical attention.
When looking for a horse, DO NOT:
  • Don't buy your first horse from an auction. It is extremely difficult to pick out the "gems" at an auction. You will have no knowledge of a horse's background, and you will have no chance to ride the horse before you buy. Personally, I think its great to save horses from slaughter, but you need to gain a vast amount of experience with horses before you go willy nilly buying one from an auction.
  • Don't buy a green horse. Green horses have very little training on them, and they require lots of training by an experienced horseman to make them beginner safe. If you do buy a green horse, expect to pay big for the training.
Once you buy a horse, you will need to buy some equipment for your horse:
  • Halter and lead
  • Bridle
  • Reins
  • Bit
  • Saddle
  • Saddle pad/Blanket
  • First aid kit
  • Grooming kit
(I will make a second post that includes some very helpful threads other Horse Forum members have made on selecting bits, fitting saddles, etc.)

Finally, you will have questions about your horse. Keep the numbers of some knowledgeable horseman (including your vet and farrier) handy in case you need some emergency advice. If your just curious about nutrition, horse training, or horse health; you can find tons of information in books and online.

If you decide horse ownership is right for you, feel extremely lucky and priveliged to own such a beautiful creature. Good luck in your horse search, be safe, and most importantly, have fun!

Happy Trails!
A knack for horses
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post #2 of 12 Old 07-04-2011, 10:46 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Jun 2010
Location: West Central Illinois
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Links for tack and other equipment

If you don't know much about tack, here are some helpful, informative threads:

Western Tack:
Bit Information (Curb and Western type bits and hackamores)

English Tack:
Bit Information (Snaffle and English-Type Bits)

Making a First Aid Kit for your horse:
Making a Vet Kit
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post #3 of 12 Old 07-04-2011, 11:04 PM
Join Date: Jan 2011
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Great post!

I also think it's worth mentioning that owning a horse may not be half as fun/cheap as taking lessons, or leasing a horse. You can part-lease a beautiful horse for less then the price of board, and you aren't tied down to it if you decide it isn't a right fit. There's also the bonus of not having to deal with stall cleanup etc.
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post #4 of 12 Old 07-08-2011, 08:47 AM
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I know someone who wanted to get his daughter a horse, hinting to keep it at my place. I DO NOT board. Anyhoo, I told him that the best thing he could give his daughter was riding lessons before purchasing. She'll learn not only some riding skills but also handling them on the ground etc. He asked how much and I told him the average amount for his area and how often she should probably go. He said he can't afford that! I told him, if you can't afford that then how on earth are you going to afford a horse? The subject was quickly dropped.
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post #5 of 12 Old 07-08-2011, 09:00 AM
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And then there is me. Who let the family and teenager board here for 50 bucks a month. Including feed and hay. I dewormed her, I fed her, turned her out, let them ride my horses. ( and more, you get the picture) because I wanted to help a horse crazy kid.
They pulled out a couple of weeks ago because they found a free place. They said they couldnt afford 50 dollars a month. Very scary.
I learned and will not do it again. Susan

Horses are proof that God love's us and wants us to be happy!
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post #6 of 12 Old 07-08-2011, 09:59 AM
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Good post! Wish more people would stop and think before they buy.
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post #7 of 12 Old 07-08-2011, 10:26 AM
Join Date: Apr 2011
Location: PA
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My biggest thing is no matter how much you pay for the horse the actual price you pay for the horse is going to be the most inexpensive thing about the horse! People often say it was free or very inexpensive, thats great but that free horse is going to cost you lots!!
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post #8 of 12 Old 07-08-2011, 10:26 AM
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My husband was the one who has been shocked....but I knew a lot going in & I read as much as possible, ask the seemingly dumb questions to anyone & everyone.
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post #9 of 12 Old 07-08-2011, 09:47 PM
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my friends and family believe that because i own a horse, that makes me rich. i have explained to them that it is because i own a horse than i am NOT rich!!
But truthfully, i would work overtime and weekends to keep my boy. He makes all this daily grind totally worth it.
GREAT POST, by the way!!!!

Life seems mighty precious, when there's less of it to waste.
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post #10 of 12 Old 07-08-2011, 10:52 PM
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Yunh. I feel that I ought to weigh in, because a lot of these posts seem to be based on the assumption that prospective horse buyers are going off seriously half-cocked.

And I agree, but I want to speak for the rest of us who ARE NOT. I am taking lessons to learn to ride, and to handle horses on the ground, and I am asking advice from my trainer and from experience horse folk. A couple of weeks ago I learned to recognized mud fever. Last week I learned how to do a little bit of horse chiroproactic and how to recognize when a horse's back muscles are sore. I've learned how to catch a horse that wants to play games instead of being caught, I've learned how to stop a horse from pawing in the cross-ties (or at the hitching post) and why that is important. I've learned about bedding, and mucking, and fly control and what's important, including disinfecting stalls. I've learned how to groom and tack, and assess saddle fit, and how to deal with a horse who is pissy about being ridden. I've learned how to deal with the temporary freak-outs you get from horse who forget they've ever seen the grass mowed, and who don't want to cooperate under the saddle.

I plan to lease a few horses to make sure I know what it is that I want from a horse. I've asked about what happens when the horse can't be ridden any more. Next on my list is to ask what happens to the body when the horse dies (whether expected or not). I'm planning to board my horse, because I know that only an idiot has "horse" instead of "horses" - or at least, horse + mini or + goat or + lama or some other herd-type critter. I've got a savings account that will handle horse emergencies, and I'm prepared to come walk horse around in the ring for hours for colic until the vet gets there...but I've also briefed myself on the best ways to avoid colic, and will be boarding horse at a barn that feed small amounts several times a day and doesn't put horse out on lush green grass for uncontrolled feeding. I have been briefed on how often horse will probably require visits from the farrier, and have the names of good farriers in hand. I have the name of a good vet that makes horse-calls. I know that horse needs to be monitored for its weight, and I know that horse needs to be worked 5x per week, whether it's in saddle on on-ground. I know that horse should not rely on hand-fed treats. I know that horse needs to know that I have a grasp on the situation and can be trusted to provide and protect. I know that horse has to be specially fitted for saddle, and that bridle and other gear require attention. I know that horse, for me, needs to be at least 8 years old, because otherwise horse will not be experienced enough to deal with inexperienced me.

So. I do NOT know everything about horse. But I do know a heck of a lot more than the "So you want to own a horse" threads assume. I know that there are people out there who are getting horses without thinking things through, but I also want you people to understand that there are a LOT of us HERE who know kind-of what we don't know, and we ARE prepared for horse ownership, and getting more so every day.

Please stop peeing on the rest of us. (This is not a dis on "A Knack For") - it's more a reflection of the general approach here that anyone who wants to buy a horse must not know their butt from a hole in the ground. Yes, many people do not. But there are a lot of us who do, and we're thoughtful and ready and don't need to be shuttled into some heap with the people who buy untrained horses because they feel that growing with the horse would be a good thing, or some other such rubbish.
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Last edited by serafina; 07-08-2011 at 10:58 PM.
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