Guest post by Nicky from Horses & Foals.
My first experience with horses was a very long time ago. I was 5 years old when my dad took me with him on a short ride.
However, even though I’ve been raised on a farm around horses and animals, I made a few mistakes when I bought my first own horse.
That’s actually something that many first time horse owners experience when they are starting out with horses.
They don’t know what to really expect and usually face one or more of the following challenges.
1. Buying the wrong type of horse.
You may have fallen in love with the idea of riding a fiery and spirited steed, but if you are just starting out that is not the right horse for you.
Look for a well-trained, older, settled horse that can help you learn safely.
Once you know what you are doing, you may well realize that this is the type of horse you really wanted all along. Very nice older horses are often available for a small adoption fee or free to a good home.
Partnering with this type of horse can be a life-saving decision for the horse, and maybe even for you!
Also see: 101 Questions to Ask When Buying a Horse
2. Not understanding all the cost involved.
Be realistic about what it will cost you to give a horse a good home.
Acquiring a horse will be the smallest of your expenses. Before you start horse shopping, check around to see what horse care involves.
Check how much you will have to pay for insurance, boarding, feed, hay, veterinary and farrier care, tack, grooming equipment, trailering costs and incidentals.
If you have ample pasture of your own, your feed expenses will be less, your horse will be healthier and your vet expenses will be lower.
No matter how healthy your horse is, you will need to have the vet out at least once a year, and the farrier must come once every two months.
Also see: How To Afford a Horse on a Budget
3. Not investing in some riding lessons.
Riding a horse is an art and a skill. Nobody can just jump on a horse and ride safely and competently.
Before you buy your own horse, invest some time and money in riding lessons, and volunteer some time with a rescue, assisted riding service or similar organization.
Riding lessons help you learn how to behave in the saddle. Volunteer work helps you understand just what’s involved in caring for a horse each and every day.
Working with a rescue gives you a good idea of exactly what can go wrong and what’s needed to remedy problems caused by poor care and outright neglect and abuse.
Both formal lessons and equine volunteer work will help you gain confidence.
4. Skipping safety measures.
Whenever you ride or work with or around horses, you must be sure that you are properly dressed for the occasion.
You need an ASTM/SEI certified riding helmet, good boots with a heel, comfortable riding pants that cover and protect your legs and a long-sleeved shirt.
Without a helmet, you could suffer a severe head injury from a minor tumble.
Also see: 5 Best-Selling Riding Helmets Under $100
Without closed-toed boots or shoes, you could lose a toe if your horse accidentally steps on your foot.
Without a one-inch heel, your foot could slip through the stirrup, and you could be dragged.
With lots of exposed skin, you could suffer cuts, scratches and/or road rash if your horse runs away through trees, you are thrown into the bushes and/or you are dragged.
If you decide to ride or work around horses bareheaded, in flip-flops or thin canvas shoes and with lots of skin exposed, you are courting disaster, and you deserve whatever happens to you!
The same is true of your horse’s tack. Always ride with properly fitted tack.
Make sure your saddle and bridle fit your horse and that all buckles and fasteners are correctly done up.
Be sure your saddle blankets and pads are clean and free of stickers and burrs or anything else that might bother your horse and cause him to buck.
Check your girth before you set out and occasionally during your ride to be sure that it is secure. Never ride with incomplete, broken or damaged tack.
5. Ignoring proper vaccinations.
Your vet should come once a year, perform a complete exam and deliver all recommended vaccinations for your area.
If you fail to vaccinate your horse, you are inviting trouble and expense.
Keeping your horse up on all his or her vaccinations is a cost effective way to prevent the spread of disease in your local equine community while protecting your horse against suffering, illness or even death.
6. Neglecting supplements in your horse’s diet.
This is actually optional. These days there are some wonderful formula feeds that can (along with plenty of good quality hay and grazing) provide all the nutrition your horse needs.
Talk with your vet to determine whether a complete feed may be just the thing for your horse.
In some instances (e.g. if your horse has a metabolic disease, such as Cushing’s) complete feed may be too processed and too rich.
In this case, you will want to feed mostly hay and other forage, such as beet pulp, and your horse will need supplements. Again, work closely with your vet to determine exactly what your horse needs.
7. Not asking for help early.
If you are experiencing a problem with your horse, whether it’s a behavior problem, a health problem or any other, seek help if you are not able to arrive at a solution quickly.
Talk with your vet first. Even if the problem doesn’t seem to be health related, your vet can give you good referrals to professionals who can help you.
In some instances, what may seem to be a behavior problem may actually be a diet that’s too rich, tack that’s improperly fitted or an illness or injury that’s causing pain.
Your vet can help you determine exactly what the cause of the problem is and make good recommendations to help you solve it.
In the long run, this will save you time, money and frustration.
Nicky Ellis has been an editor at Horses & Foals since 2017. Horses have been in her life from her earliest memories, and she learned to ride a horse when she was 5. She is a mom of three who spends all her free time with her family and friends, her mare Joy, or just sipping her favorite cup of tea.