Saturday, January 8, 2011

Your First Horse: Part 1

I saw this topic on another blog today and it's one that I'm really interested in.

I give riding and horsemanship lessons to kids during the summertime and parents always say "We're considering getting a horse, do you have any advice?" And the answer is always yes. Yes I have a lot of advice.

My advice, in its longest form, would take several pages. I have actually written up kind of a pamphlet for parents on what to do/expect when getting a horse. Here is the shortened version:
  • First rule: always take an experienced horse person with you when you go to look at a horse and you can never get too many second opinions. You do not want to end up with a horse unsuited to you.
  • Lease a horse first! That is one of the best pieces of advice ever. Then you know what owning a horse is like, but at the end of your contract you get to give the horse back if it's not for you.
  • Never get a horse that is young or green broke. I would probably place a minimum age at 5 or 6 for a well-trained horse. I really hate it when people say that their child and horse can "learn together" because 99% of the time it doesn't work out.
  • Take lessons. I don't care if you used to own horses when you were 20. You can always learn more and even professionals take lessons.
  • I highly recommend a vet check. You never know what might be wrong with a horse and you certainly don't want to buy a horse to later have it die on you.
  • Know what discipline you want to ride in and buy an appropriate horse. If you want to ride trails, don't buy a show horse that's never been out of an arena. If you want to barrel race, don't buy a gaited Paso Fino.
  • Be fully equipped to handle a horse before you buy one. Have a stall and pasture with safe fences or a boarding barn lined up, know how much tack and feed costs and where to get it.
  • Don't buy a $200 horse and expect it to be a great kids horse to show in 4-H or open shows. Chances are a horse that cheap has something wrong with it. Spending slightly more for a horse than you want to will result in a higher quality horse that will incure less training and upkeep expenses than the foundered bratty pony you got for free.
  • A good rule of thumb when buying a horse for a kid is that the child's age plus the age of the horse should add up to at least 20.
  • If you have kids, consider getting involved in 4-H or Pony Club. They will make a lot of friends and learn a lot. It is totally worth it.
  • Also know that if you buy a horse for your kid, you have to get involved. You can't just leave them to their own devices. Also ask yourself if your child is responsible enough to handle a horse and if they really actually want a horse, not just the idea of a horse.
  • Be safe! Don't get a horse with bad habits unless you are a determined and good rider with a great trainer. Always wear a helmet and boots. Don't skimp on safety! If you "don't want to spend the money" on riding equipment so your daughter can take lessons, then you are not read to buy.
I highly, highly recommend 4-H and/or Pony club in addition to lessons. Also, read up before you consider getting a horse! There are many, many great books, such as Horses for Dummies or others such as this one:

Fantastic, complete and full of information.
Favorite new horse person book!
There will be a Part 2...

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