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First Real Horse Of My Own Ahhhhhh

1733 Views 11 Replies 9 Participants Last post by  horselovinguy
I've had Arabians growing up and used to show so I mostly know my way around a horse, but that was 15+ years ago and I recently had a draft horse kind of fall into my lap (inb4 crushed lap jokes)

She's the first horse that's 100% mine and ahhhhh how do I horse. She'll be staying in a really nice stable at first so she'll be at least shielded from my ignorance but man it's been forever since I've dealt with horses and she's 2300 lbs...

So hello Horse Forum! I could use some general tips/advice. Thankfully she's coming with all her own custom-made tack, so I can't screw that up at least, but I personally have like.. no horse gear like, boots, helmet, etc. Like I said I've handled horses plenty in the past, but that was when I was younger so everything was basically provided to me.

Her name is Belle and she's 16 years old, already good with being ridden, and very friendly/mellow. Right now she's been eating round bail and just grazing, so I'm switching her to timothy hay and I'm on the fence on if I should feed anything in addition to that. I know no grain, been reading about high fat diets etc but not sure I'm going to do that. She's not going to be doing field work or anything, just being spoiled and taken on easy rides (plus whatever other fun activities I can come up with).

I assume I need to buy some kind of riding boots. What about helmet? I have a highly rated bicycle helmet, is that good for riding or is that a dumb statement?

Honestly I don't know what questions I should even be asking, so any sage advice from draft horse owners is appreciated!
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First, buy a helmet. That's your # 1 priority. Preferably a riding helmet, though I know some who ride in bicycle helmets. Helmets should be new though, not used, not bumped and dented, and not very old. They also need to fit your head properly, so ideally, go somewhere where they can do a proper fitting for you.

Take lessons on her. Is there someone at the barn who can teach you? You are what we call a re-rider (so am I). A lot of things have changed, and this is a new horse so you should have someone coaching you a bit, at least until you get your bearings again. Also, at this size, she could really hurt you.

Do you have brushes, leads, buckets, etc? You should not borrow those things if not.

A good pair of boots will be pretty important eventually, but for now, something with a heel will do, even a rainboot. Though honestly, with a horse this size, you may want to invest in something that will give your toes some protection.

Have fun!
 

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That’s great - congratulations.

Yes definitely invest in your own riding helmet rather than bicycle helmet since you will be using it a lot.

You could probably use some boots you have as long as they have a heel and no inner zipper - I have riding boots but I most often ride in my blundstones or sometimes tall rain boots if the paddock is muddy.

It’ll be fun to choose a grooming kit etc. They come in cute colours etc,

In terms of fun things to try I love the book Horse Speak by Sharon Wilsie. There are lots of exercises for communicating with horses. I part-board and I am only around the horses 1-2x a week but I have used the techniques with a bunch of horses and they absolutely love it and me by extension.

Have fun!!!
 

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That’s great - congratulations.

Yes definitely invest in your own riding helmet rather than bicycle helmet since you will be using it a lot.

You could probably use some boots you have as long as they have a heel and no inner zipper - I have riding boots but I most often ride in my blundstones or sometimes tall rain boots if the paddock is muddy.

It’ll be fun to choose a grooming kit etc. They come in cute colours etc,

In terms of fun things to try I love the book Horse Speak by Sharon Wilsie. There are lots of exercises for communicating with horses. I part-board and I am only around the horses 1-2x a week but I have used the techniques with a bunch of horses and they absolutely love it and me by extension.

Have fun!!!
Ooo I have to check that book out. Great advice so far from everyone thank you!
 

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I would get on YouTube and watch every episode of The Principles of Training with Warwick Schiller. It's such an amazing introduction to all the key training concepts in handling and riding. You will end up using every single piece of information you learn there! I would also recommend watching a ton of his other free videos, too, but that series is a great place to start.

 

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I would get on YouTube and watch every episode of The Principles of Training with Warwick Schiller. It's such an amazing introduction to all the key training concepts in handling and riding. You will end up using every single piece of information you learn there! I would also recommend watching a ton of his other free videos, too, but that series is a great place to start.

Sold! I'll absolutely give them a watch!
 

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Things you'll need right away for your grooming kit:
Hoof pick and brush--for a horse this size I'd get separate ones--not the brush/pick combo. Those combos are usually lightweight and bendable and th brush is tiny. For a draft horse hoof you want something sturdy and a full size brush.
Curry brush or curry gloves--something rough to scrub and get mud and old hair off
Regular horse brush--decently firm one--not one of those super soft ones
Mane and tail brush/comb if you want her to look "pretty". Although some people don't use these at all because they can pull out a lot of hair
A STOOL! Much easier to groom a draft well with a step stool--one that doubles as a mounting block is great.
Fly spray and some first aid items--antibiotic cream, cortisone cream (these can be natural/herbal or over the counter)

Fly mask and/or fly sheet for Summer and blanket for winter if she'sl living outdoors in a cold climate
Muck boots and riding boots--I recommend both. Much boots/rain boots are cheap and will keep your feet dry and clean in muddy, poopy dry lots and pastures and even in stalls. But if you wear those to ride in too---you'll need to find special muck boots with the right kind of foot size and heel to fit into the stirrups and you want to clean them with a hose before getting on your horse or you risk getting your saddle and stirrups all dirty. Whenever I ride with muddy boots (when there was no way to clean them), I leave debris on my saddle and end up sitting in it.

Helmet of course--helmets are specifically designed for the types of falls people have from specific sports. A horse riding helmet will protect you much better than a bike helmet.
But I'm also assuming that a 16 yo draft is probably pretty mellow and safe--despite her size. But b/c of her size--as people said--a simple mistake could really hurt you.
You might also want an apron of some sort, like farriers use--for cleaning her feet on muddy days. A draft foot is huge and holding that muddy mess on your leg will destroy your pants.

And lastly, do your due diligence on re-learning about horsemanship, but also trust your instincts and believe in yourself and be relaxed around your horse. Take lots of deep breaths and have fun with her! Horses love relaxed people.
 
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Congrats & welcome!

First question was going to be, are you the dude or the beauty, but then you said her name's Belle...

My kids made do with bike helmets their first years of riding - anything labled with 'horse' in the title is so exxy & their little heads were growing out of helmets regularly, & they weren't going to pony club or competing where people would put them down for not being 'proper', so who cares, so long as they were safe!? Just that bike helmets are often more... aerodynamic, shaped that if you fell on the back of your head, you may well break your neck because of the helmet, so I ensured I stuck with more... shapely helmets, for justin.

Lots will be just the same as when you were last in the horse world, but a bit has changed. Recent info has shown that it's worse to keep horses cooped up in stables than we used to think. Not only for their mental 'health', but their digestion, soundness, metabolism, etc is also effected from lack of free movement/exercise. Likewise, it's been shown that sedentary pasture horses also often get too little exercise for their own good. 'Paddock Paradise' is something that was around 15 years ago, but the management is quite common these days, as a way of motivating movement, as well as reducing grazing area, 'conditioning' feet, etc.

Diet & nutrition studies/info has come far in the last 15 or so years. As you mentioned, you've read that cereal grain is not a great idea. It is because it's quite hard for the horse's stomach to digest & is very high in starch, which causes probs. Info on metabolic probs, which are the biggest(but not only) cause of laminitis in horses, are much better understood. If your horse is an 'easy keeper', you may want to even restrict that hay & not have to feed her anything more for bulk. *Altho it has been found that 'starving' a horse in the name of dieting, even for many hours at a time, is seriously bad for them - they're 'trickle feeders', built for tiny amounts of roughage going through their system near constantly. So options to restrict calories may be feeding low energy forage, a grazing muzzle to reduce grass intake, a 'slow feed' net over the hay, to reduce the amount she can get at a time...

If you need extra calories, lucerne/alfalfa hay, beet pulp, ricebran, copra... etc are among some good, low starch, easily digested additives. Generally speaking, & esp if she is only on hay with little fresh, she will need added minerals, essential fatties & perhaps vitamins, for a well balanced nutrition. If she doesn't need extra calories, while not generally the best option, low dose(like, you may only need to feed a cup or 2 a day) 'ration balancers' are an easy option to provide 'the basics', while you do your homework into what may be best for her.

Hoofcare is another thing which has undergone huge changes in the last couple of decades. Thanks to research, we now have a far better understanding about hoof function & (healthy) form & what effects that. We have a good understanding of processes & 'disease' such as laminitis, 'navicular' & effects of peripheral loading rigid rim shoes', and we now have a heap of great innovative options, such as hoof boots & composite shoes, which minimise/avoid most of the issues with conventional shoes or bare feet. So it's not just a choice between (conventionally) shod or barefoot today.
 

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A lot of good information already presented....some things more to add to it..

A riding helmet, not a bicycle helmet is designed to give as much protection as possible from a horse-riding mishap to the areas of the head most likely to have trauma exerted....
All approved helmets must pass the same tests to get certified...the difference is price.
Helmets have changed in they can cost as little as $34.99 to easily over $700 for off the shelf models, not custom.
All helmets have a manufacturing date sticker/stamp...you want that date as close to today as possible so do check boxes you not purchase a old helmet as products do lose protective properties and get out of date in safety features easily.
Have a price range you are comfortable spending and stick with it....try-on several for the most comfortable fit as that varies tremendously...not comfortable not wear and then what good is it. :cautious:

Footwear....
When you are referring to having your feet in close proximity to a horse weighing in at 2,300 pounds, that is a lot of weight, force and ouch if you get stepped on.
Proper riding paddock boots of leather will take a lot more force applied to the top of the foot and stay together than a synthetic or vinyl product.
Someone mentioned toe protection...please, please do not wear steel-toed anything around this animal !
Steel-toes crush under the force applied a stomping hoof will exert...crushing your toes and good chance of severing them from your foot inside that boot.
You never want to hear someone having their boot pried open off their toes mangled inside it by EMS...:eek:
You must think differently in handling this animal of massive size no matter how gentle she is, she is massive in weight to your puny.....
To me, yup if she stamps her hoof on your foot you just broke your foot in many places...but you did not sever your toes from your foot steel-toed shoes present the risk of.
You need a riding shoe, low is fine so can be worn with jeans, or riding pants...a "riding" heel though to help stop the slip through that can happen. I prefer laces so when wearing different socks I can tighten or loosen as needed for comfort.
Many recognize the name Ariat for footwear and they offer a huge line of English, western or some hybrid cross in appearances fitting a huge array of feet and are not ridiculously expensive.

Just some things I learned years ago you don't do with the big horses....
When cleaning hooves, never ever put that hoof to support it on your bent leg...like sitting a baby on a lap...sure way if pressure is applied to destroy your knee and possible break your leg...that goes for any horse but double important when referring to drafts!
Never kneel down but crouch...to put a knee down makes you very vulnerable to injury from....
Your horse weighs well over a ton...you must think differently in handling it to remain safe.
You may need to have stocks built to get a farrier to do foot care...something to look into quickly if that becomes true cause you need to build them to hold her size and weight.
I know of no farrier who charges the same for draft-care either so be well warned & prepared.
Fencing is not "standard" for most gentle giants but over-sized so where she is turned out needs a different look of approval...
Your Belle is massive and normal height top-rail if you have wood fence is not high enough guaranteed nor strong enough to hold her.
If the fence is not electrified with a big punch of ouch felt...speak to your barn about that and if going to bring home, you need to build differently to hold a draft horse from the point of dreaming of....
Barn & shelter head clearance is not standard... so based on her height you might need to re-design a future living accommodation to be tall enough. How tall is Belle?
I have 16 hand horses and a 10' clearance under rafters in my barn and would not ever go less.. If Belle is much taller than that, special considerations may need thought of.
Stalls .... everyone today rants about 14x14 in size....not sure that will fit a animal of this size not in just dimension but in door opening size are things you must be aware of for safe passage in/out.
Feed buckets need to be special over-sized as the head and jowl of the horse is far larger and not fit in standard size opening buckets...floor pans for feeding feed/supplements and muck basket{?} for a stall water source depending upon the size of that head is again something needing to consider.

Feeding...
The diet of a draft is very different than that of a riding horse most are accustomed to feeding.
You mentioned doing some reading...
Dr. Beth Valentine is a draft expert on feeding to keep them healthiest as simple wrong choices can be devastating to a draft... She is the leading authority recognized and she is no dummy when it comes to other horse species either..
Please look up her special diet for EPSM with a emphasis on drafts. We are not permitted to give links to social media sites but that is a hint in where it will be found if not elsewhere today.
This is also another excellent resource... https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=2ahUKEwiczIzq3vvxAhUEG80KHcuRCcEQFjADegQICRAD&url=https://www.draftresource.com/&usg=AOvVaw0fMA4GEWvy9hMMRQWfPKRn

My last thoughts are...
You mention having the horse at a fine facility so, boarding barn currently?
Start now looking for vet & farrier to service your horse..
Many vets and farriers don't do the big guys, they don't. Don't assume care is a given because you are at a facility, ask and inquire to be sure.
Because of size, injury risk is far higher for these professionals and dosage amounts of drugs needs to be considered as are the tools of administering those drugs not all professionals have.
The drafts I had in my care when I worked the industry, the team of horses I competition drove were incredible animals...but, but you never forget the size and punch of them innocently bumping you with their head, placing {not stomping} placing their hoof down on your toe, nor tacking them up is a experience few truly get until they look at that 17+ hand wither and you need to put this where??? :eek::p:LOL:
Oh yes, I don't own, but I did care for, ride and drive several different breed of draft in my lifetime...wonderful animals, loving, smart and giving...for that you need deep pockets to afford and give good care... and in return a partnership incredible formed beautiful to see. ;)
@QtrBel owns several drafts currently so is well versed in draft. I called her to this post so she can contribute tidbits of her many years experience with these beauties she knows to help you on your journey.
There are a few other members who have drafts I hope will come and share for you too...I don't know all of their sign-in names to call them though.

And for the very last... WELCOME to the Forum!!
Enjoy your time with us and the joy of horse and now horse ownership!!
🐴...
 

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HLG was pretty spot on.

You really don't want any horse resting it's leg on yours. They should be able to hold their own. Drafts like Danes for whatever reason like to lean. Not a habit you ever want started and if they do, one you want broken. You can use a stool to rest the foot on while you clean. Never had a problem with a sturdy hoof pick/brush combo. There hooves are bigger but not any different material constructing.

Feed pans on the ground or an old tire with a tire bucket is best. They need to be eating close to the ground.

Feed wise, if she is maintaining on pasture and round bales, no problem. I've added alfalfa or more recently peanut hay. Alfalfa has several options and if they are on pasture or hay then pellets or cubes can certainly be used to add that extra if necessary. High fat low starch if she needs even more but it doesn't sound like you are going to be doing anything but mild work. She may need nothing extra. Mine are on mixed pasture, bermuda rounds and if those run out then mixed ryegrass rounds. I've had a couple that as they got older needed a bit more boost and the Senior Weight Accelerator from MannaPro was what worked. I have used Pro Add Ultimate when I had one that was losing topline and that's a good add on. The less you feed per serving the better when it comes to concentrates if you ever have to go that route. Even the high fat and low starch is better with several feedings of 3 pounds spread out. People will tell you that doubling the serving to 6 pounds is not an issue because of their size but that is the quickest way to hind gut issues with a draft. Dr Beth Valentine and Rural Heritage, Draft Horse Journal and Small Farmer's Journal are all good resources.

Vets - many that have not worked with and even those that have if it has been a while between, will often dose for weight. Their metabolism means less is more and if you dose for weight, that horse may be hitting the ground or very unstable and not safe to work with when half or even quarter dose would have done just what you need. Many farriers won't work on a draft. Except for shoeing where we had someone come in when I was in TX, I have had to do most of the work myself. Not because mine were not well behaved but because drafts have a rep and most farriers won't give them a chance. Buying a set of stocks can mean the difference between having someone willing to work on them or having them tell you sorry, no.

Fencing better be stout and reinforced. Even a pen with draft sized panels or they can walk it anywhere if they get a mind to. Electric is your friend. The hotter the better to keep them off of any fence or it will be down in no time. Seen too many half drafts snap wooden corner braces in two. One of my girls had to have square stock tubing. The gate took three men to hang. She would have anything else looking like a crushed can when the mood struck.

While they can be sweet and loveable like teddy bears, they are horses and may not always be so amenable. If you don't have a firm hand and consistent expectations you may find they will run you over literally not figuratively.

Mine are hitch bred and could be hot to handle. Most don't expect that but you need that fire to get them moving out with such flair.

As for you - Riding not bicycle helmet. Every sport has target zones where injuries occur and sport specific helmets protect from those most common to that sport. Bike is front. Riding is back.

Boots - here is where I disagree with the above. Yes a solid pair of leather boots will offer good protection but steel toe can mean the difference between bruised and broken. BUT, the biggest caveat is the safety rating and brand of boot. Cheap, foreign boots are the ones that fold and can pinch toes. Some American brands are not much better.. Know what you are buying. Stick with tried and true - made for industrial use. My husband had a 70ft pine slide off of a trunk base cleaning up after a hurricane. He would have lost his foot had it not been for steel toes. They didn't pinch or fold. That tree was much more than any draft will ever apply pressure and pound wise to your foot. I've had my run ins and have had the bruises but no breaks until the one time I was wearing my leather boots coming off a ride and getting called to handle a draft for someone. My son - an ATV accident. Steel toes means he's walking. AGAIN, the manufacturer matters. If you want to see a good demonstration look up Myth Busters segment on steel toe boots.
 

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QtrBel....
I did not know that about steel-toe boots...
Will absolutely look into that and the brands favored for better protection.
I don't do cheap boots for my hubby, protecting his feet in his trade is also a necessity...
I'm amazed no store, specific to work shoe & clothing ever mentioned this...now I will do my own research.
Thanks for sharing that so important info. (y)
🐴....
 
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