So, you want to buy your own horse? It can be a rewarding experience, but owning a horse and taking care of it can involve quite a few surprises along the way. Reading horse care books, you will pick up the basics. But you will not really be ready to own a horse until you also have practiced taking care of one. Books simply do not give you sufficient context to know what it is really like.
Things The Horse Care Books Don't Tell You
If you are considering a new horse or your first horse, it's not just about going out and buying one. There is a lot to be considered, and you should begin with a few things here that just aren't always spoken of so publically.
You may want to start with this huge list of things to know before buying a horse before you begin, then dig deeper with the items below. Let’s go over some things that may surprise you about taking care of a horse.
Owning and caring for a horse is really expensive.
Have your own property with a barn on it? Awesome—you will save a lot of money taking care of a horse. But chances are good you need a public stable. As a beginner, this is especially useful. Why? Because then you have people to help you with all the horse care things you didn’t learn from your books. We have already written a bit about how much it costs to board a horse, but there is more to it.
You may have read that your stabling costs could range anywhere from a hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars. You might be planning on going with the lower end of that bracket. But what will that actually get you?
Here is where you might find yourself caught off guard. You might think that a couple of hundred dollars a month will get you access to a nice stable with some amenities. But often, that will just get you access to a bare-bones shed out in the country. You will then have to spend more money on everything it is lacking.
How much do you have to pay if you want to stable your horse somewhere with a lot of amenities? Now you are looking at a cost that could range into the thousands. All told, at the bare minimum, the cost of horse care will add up to a couple of thousand dollars a year, but it is far more likely to be closer to $4,000 a year.
If you happen to have the space and property to keep your horse at your own home, then you have many other expenses to consider. Things like a helper to be there when you aren't, how much food costs for a horse, and even upkeep on the barn, fences, or property. Needless to say, it is not cheap. Want all of the details, check out our post on how much it costs to own a horse for more information.
You will be doing a lot of hard work.
Horse care is a very physical job, and it is one you need to be in great shape to do. Of course, it can help to get you in shape and keep you in shape, but you are not going to want to jump into it unprepared. You are going to require strength, stamina, and fairly good health. You do not want to be constantly fatiguing while taking care of a horse. If you are always fighting with your health, you will soon become exhausted and burned out.
In fact, even if you are in great health and you are fit, you can expect to feel pretty blasted on a lot of days. For that matter, you are going to have plenty of aches and pains regardless of the shape you are in. Back problems and hip problems are common among riders, and working in the barn can lead to plenty of bruises, scrapes, and hives.
So, along with taking a lot of time to care for your horse, you also will probably be spending more time taking care of your own health as well. And when it comes to budgeting, there may be weeks when you are forced to pick between treating your maladies and treating your horses. It's more than riding a pretty horse, it's a lifelong commitment of physical and emotional support.
The time commitment to care for a horse is huge.
How much time are you picturing spending every day taking care of your horse and riding? Maybe you are picturing an hour or two.
A survey revealed that around 30% of participants spent two hours a day on average with their horses. 27% spent three hours a day. 15% spent four hours a day, and 16% spent five hours a day. A mere 12% of participants spent only an hour a day or less with their horses.
So, can you get away with an hour or less? Maybe, but it seems likely this is only possible if you are paying for someone else to help you with horse care.
Really, caring for a horse is a second job. You will need to think hard about whether you are really prepared to commit several hours a day to horse care and riding. How will that fit in with your day job and other commitments?
I think not planning for the time involved should be on the list of mistakes first-time horse owners make.
You cannot take care of your horse 100% on your own.
You might think that the more advanced your horse care experience and abilities become, the less you will need to rely on other people. That is true to an extent, but even advanced horse caretakers will tell you that you need a team of individuals to assist you with various aspects of horse care.
You may need someone to help you with your initial barn setup. There are also some jobs you never will be able to do yourself. You won’t replace a professional farrier or horse vet, for example. You will need to select all of the professionals who work with you with great care. This becomes extra-important if you are going to be competing.
Here are some tips for choosing a horse Ferrier to work with your animals. Plus, you might benefit from these tips for staying on your vet's good side. It always pays to know them well and treat them with respect!
There are a lot of unexpected hacks that can make horse care easier.
Even though taking care of a horse can involve hours at the barn each day and a lot of hard work, there are things that can make it easier. In fact, there are a lot of weird hacks and simple workarounds that you may never encounter in a horse care book.
- If you want to restore whiteness to a horse’s dingy tail, you can try soaking the tail in ketchup.
- One of the most useful first aid supplies to keep around for foot abscesses is a pack of diapers.
- Hanging a mirror in your horse’s stall can reduce anxiety.
- Applying a little oil to your horse’s coat prior to clipping makes for an easier job and better results.
- Washing saddle pads by hand is faster, easier, and more effective than you might realize.
It will take you some time to pick up on all the little hacks that make life in the barn easier. But you can get started by checking out 41 Genius Horse Care Hacks You've Never Thought Of.
You will need to find ways to balance life.
One of the hardest things about horse care actually has nothing to do with your horse—it has to do with self-care. Basically, you are going to spend so much time and energy taking care of your horse that you are probably going to start neglecting yourself without even realizing it.
But gradually, the effects will catch up with you. You might find yourself getting sick more often, or feeling more pain than you used to. You could lose sleep even though you are exhausted. You might be moody and irritable, feeling like you are constantly on edge. All of this means that you are probably overworking yourself and are risking burnout. That won’t be good for you or your horse.
What can you do about it? Well, you may need to delegate some of your horse care tasks to someone else now and again, even if you don’t make it a permanent change, so you can catch up on other commitments, including taking care of your physical and mental health. In general, you should make sure you are eating a healthy diet, getting plenty of sleep, and taking some time to just relax. You also need to make time for family and friends.
Hey, at least you don’t have to worry about exercise—you are getting plenty of that!
Horse Courses by Elaine Heney
- Listening to the Horse - The Documentary by Elaine Heney & Grey Pony Films
- Shoulder In & Out Training for better balance, bend & topline development with your horse
- Over 110+ Polework Exercises & Challenges to Download
- Dancing at Liberty & Creating Connection with Your Horse (11 lessons) - Grey Pony Films
The Best Way to Learn About Horse Care is to Do It
Your average horse care book will tell you that a horse is a major commitment. But the reality is, there is no way for the pages of a book to really tell you what that means in terms of everyday hard work, long hours, and expenses.
Likewise, a horse care book cannot tell you all the tips, tricks, and hacks you need to save time and energy with grooming, feeding, and more. So, before you think about buying a horse, you should practice horse care with a mount at your riding school. You also should get your instructor to help you.
You may want to strongly consider leasing a horse before you buy one. You can get the experience of horse ownership that way without getting fully invested until you are sure you are ready. This also gives you a chance to figure out how to balance horse care with other obligations.
Once your own knowledge and experience of horse care go far beyond what a book can teach you, you will know if you are ready to own your own horse.