My husband and I have owned and raised horses for many years. This adventure started about 22 years ago, shortly after we bought our first home. I didn’t know much about horses at the time but we both thought that they would be fun to have. Little did I know what it would entail, but we dove right in and bought our first horse when he was just 5 months old. I had no idea what to expect in caring for this little guy other than he was going to get bigger and eventually need more food. He is still alive today and we now own 10 horses.
If you are considering horse ownership, be aware there are many things involved in their care that you should know about before you decide to get your first horse. Most of the things below, we’ve learned over the years from talking to other horse owners, our own experience and research into the unexpected. This information may not by any means be complete, but it should help to get you started and hopefully you will find it helpful.
Be sure that you are willing to commit to its care.
First of all, horses have a fairly long life span and can live for at least a quarter century or more. That is a very long time to care for an animal and you can compare it similarly to raising a child. And just like children, there is a time commitment involved taking care of a horse. Be sure that you are ready for this type of responsibility.
They will need to be fed and watered at least twice a day, groomed regularly, have its hoofs maintained and taken to the vet on occasion as needed.
You will also need to train and exercise your horse and if it is kept in a barn, there is the time involved in keeping the stalls clean, sanitized and laying down fresh bedding.
It can be very expensive to own a horse.
Yes, it can be quite expensive to have horses. You will need to decide if you can afford to spend that kind of money and if it is worth it. Keep in mind the reason why you want a horse in the first place.
If you plan to keep your horse in a stall, there is the year round cost of food such as alfalfa hay or grass hay, the price of which can vary depending on the market. You will also need to purchase grain to help supplement their nutritional needs.
If you decide to keep your horse in a pasture, you should be aware that during the winter they will not have access to grass as it will be covered by snow, therefore, you will need to purchase hay to feed them when the weather gets cold. Make sure you plan ahead to purchase enough hay to get you through the winter months as this tends to sell out quickly because of high demand.
Horses can also drink quite a lot of water so you will need to have an adequate water supply nearby. Depending on usage you may see an increase in your water bill.
Horse tack and grooming supplies, such as saddles, blankets for under the saddle, halters, lead ropes, reins, and bits should all be added to your cost. Don’t forget the cost of transportation such as a horse trailer. Oh… and you will need to have a truck with enough power to pull your trailer.
Unless you know how to trim and balance hoofs and shoe your horse, factor in the cost of getting farrier services. Keeping their hooves properly trimmed is needed for your horse to maintain orientation to the ground. Shoes help to keep better traction especially on rough terrain or may be needed in special cases such as for racing, or remedial procedures in the case of disease or injuries to the hoofs.
Depending on the purpose for which you are getting your horse, you may want to either have it trained by a professional or train it yourself. For example you may need to get a round pen or access to one if you are doing your own training, same with a race track for racing, access to cows for cutting or a chariot, for chariot racing, etc.
And finally, registration fees or membership fees in the organization you register them in, such as American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) or American Paint Horse Association (APHA). This is great to have to help keep track of their blood lines and for future if you are planning to breed your horse.
Have a suitable place to keep your horse.
Horses are large animals and they need room to roam. You will need to have suitably sized place to keep your horse. If you have the room, make sure your property is properly zoned to have horses. If you don’t, you may have to lease some pasture land or find stables to board your horse. This can also add to your cost.
They can be housed in a barn with a stall. You will also need a place to store your tack and another place to store hay bales, grain and sawdust. You will also need a water supply nearby from a spigot.
If your horse will be grazing in a pasture, make sure the property is properly fenced and there is access to water, such as a stream or springs. If not, you will need to transport water and have some sort of large container to keep the water in.
They will need veterinary care.
Veterinary services should also be factored in for general wellness care or if they become injured, depending on the severity. Most of our horses are kept in pasture and I have seen injuries, ranging from small nicks and cuts to deep gashes requiring stitches. We have been able to address the minor injuries but the more serious ones required attention by a vet.
If you decide on a colt, you may want to have him gelded. If a mare and you plan on breeding to either increase your herd or to sell at a later date, there is the cost of in-office breeding or artificial insemination. This is commonly done now as most stallion owners are reluctant to hand breed out of fear that their stallion can get injured by kicking from an unwilling mare. There are additional costs for stud fees too, unless you acquire your own stallion.
Horses also require dental care too for a variety of reasons. They may need to have their teeth filed in a process called floating as their teeth continually grow and create hooks, which can make it difficult to chew their food or hold a bit. It can damage their cheeks too. Other dental problems may be needed for teeth that are excessively worn, broken or for infected gums.
Removal of the wolf teeth by your vet may be necessary too so that the bit can be seated properly in the horse’s mouth without causing problems.
Also any special medication as needed such as de-wormers and shots for the West Nile virus.
Be aware if your horse is experiencing signs of colic too as this can be life-threatening. In most cases, you can treat for minor colic however if it becomes more serious, you will need to contact your vet.
Special care may be needed depending on the age of your horse
If you decide to get an older horse because they are mellow, broke and can be easily ridden, consider that caring for a horse that is older is not the same as for a younger one.
As our first horse is getting older, we have noticed changes in his weight. This may be caused by worn, broken and eroded teeth making it difficult for him to chew food or perhaps he is not drawing the same amount of nutrition due to his age. We therefore have to supplement his diet with easily digestible foods which has been specially formulated for geriatric horses.
Older horses may also be faced with additional problems in their joints such as arthritis and will therefore need medications like glucosamine to help keep them comfortable.
Cushing’s disease is another potential problem for older horses caused by a hyperactive pituitary gland. A sure sign of this is that the horses coat will be long and wavy all year long. They will also drink more water than usual and tend to be sluggish. If unchecked could lead to laminitis which is a disease that affects their hoof and is very painful.
Horses are beautiful and majestic creatures. They are wonderful animals to have and we certainly enjoy the time we spend with them. We have raised most of them from foals and it is interesting to see their personalities develop as they mature. Like children, each one is special. If you do decide that horses are for you and you can commit to their care, be sure to explore the different breeds that available, choose the one which have the qualities you desire for your purpose and enjoy your time with them.