Callow Double Clover is an Irish Draft x Thoroughbred and loves the cold weather!
Part One of this post asked you some hard-hitting questions to help you find your ideal horse.
Here are more points to consider.
4. What Is Your Budget?
It is normal to expect that the price of your horse is the only large amount you’ll ever have to spend on him. But you need to budget for his monthly outgoings, plus the unexpected costs that crop up with horse ownership.
Be prepared for the following expenditure:
(a) Purchase price of the horse.
(b) Monthly boarding bill.
(c) Shoeing every four to six weeks.
If you can’t be there to hold your horse for the farrier, you will need to pay someone to do this for you.
Some barns require this to be done twice a year, and some insist on extra shots, such as strangles.
(e) Worming at regular intervals. This can vary between daily and every six weeks, depending on the system you or your boarding barn adopts.
(f) Supplements. For example, electrolytes in hot weather and joint supplements for an arthritic horse.
(g) Extra vets’ bills.
No owner expects their horse to get sick, but if he does you’ll need you to pay for his care.
I hope it doesn’t happen to you, but just be aware that these unforeseen problems can arise. You may want to check the cost of horse health insurance?
The purpose of this list is not to frighten you, but to help you make an informed decision when buying a new horse.
Investigate the costs of boarding barns, shoeing and regular vaccinations ahead of time. If you budget properly, there is no reason why you can’t make horse ownership work for you.
5. What Living Situation Can You Offer Your Horse?
Depending on where you live and the breed and type of your horse, he may be happier either stabled overnight (during the day, in hot summers) or being left out 24/7.
If your budget restricts you to grass board (living at pasture 24/7, with a field shelter) you need to look for a horse which will be happy with this arrangement.
This is unlikely to work for most full Thoroughbreds or other hot-blooded types. Good candidates are the hardy native British breeds such as Highland, Exmoor, Dartmoor, Dales, Irish Draft and Welsh Cobs/Mountain ponies and crosses with those breeds, and with cold bloods such as the Percheron or Clydesdale.
I own an Irish Draft x Thoroughbred (pictured above) and Cruz is a ¾ Thoroughbred/Welsh Cob Cross (pictured left). They always have the option of coming into their stalls, yet they both adore the cold weather. I let them grow their winter coats out fully, and when it’s below freezing, they still prefer to stay outside. In the summer they have fans in their stalls to keep the flies away.
You should consider putting fans in the field shelter if your horse will be out in hot weather.
6. The Boarding Barn
I will be writing a post later about how to choose the right boarding barn. But here is a quick check-list.
(a) Is the barn in good repair and does it look tidy?
(b) Are the stalls clean and airy, without being draughty?
(c) If required, does the barn offer field board with good pasture and a run-in shed in good repair? Will your horse be with other buddies? He shouldn’t be left alone.
(d) Is there enough bedding in the stalls?
(e) Do the horses look content and well-cared for?
(f) Are the aisles clear of potential hazards such as wheel barrows, pitch forks, etc.?
(g) Is clean water available at all times in the stalls and paddocks?
(h) Do the horses get sufficient turn-out? (At least 6 hours a day.)
(i) Are the paddocks large enough for the number of horses in them, and is there enough grass? If not, is hay supplied to make up for the lack of grazing?
(j) Is the fencing in good repair? No barbed wire, loose trailing wires or debris in the paddock?
(k) Are the riding arenas regularly graded, with good footing, no stones, and not cluttered with equipment?
(l) Do the boarders have the same riding interests as yourself?
There are many other considerations, but these are the main ones to help you choose a good barn.
7. How Often Will You Be Able to Ride?
The answer to this question will heavily impact the type of horse you should be looking for.
If you are only able to ride on the weekend, your new equine buddy will need to be extremely laid back. You will also have to be realistic about your long term goals. A horse which is only ridden twice a week will not be able to do heavy work, as he is likely to pull a tendon or suspensory.
You may want to consider having a capable rider exercise your horse during the week (at least three days) if you want a fit, trained horse which you can take to shows. Perhaps you could lease him out?
8. What Size Horse Do You Need?
Be sure to find a horse which is neither too large nor too small for you.
You will read about a lot of rider to horse weight ratios, some of which are completely off base. As a rule of thumb, your weight should be between 10% and 15% of your horse’s weight when he is fit. (Not when he is fat!)
Buy a measuring tape from a saddlery store and use it to gauge the weight of any horse you are considering buying. The instructions for weighing are printed on the measuring tape and it is very easy to use.
You also need to take into account the overall picture you and your horse present. As an example, long legs dangling below the horse’s stomach line look rather silly.
9. How Fit Does Your New Horse Have to Be?
A big consideration when buying a new horse is how much work you’re prepared to put into getting him fit.
You may need a horse that is immediately ready for full work. In this case, make sure that he has been ridden regularly and will not break down under a regular riding routine.
If you have the time and patience to bring him back into full work, you may get a bargain on a horse whose owner is no longer able to ride him and is desperate to sell.
Be careful not to override him when you try him out, so he doesn’t strain anything. But get the owner to pop on him first! Take into account the fact that he may be a little more ‘up’ once he gets his stamina back.
It took me many years and a lot of buying dissasters befored I worked out this sensible approach to horse purchasing! Now I have three lovely horses who’ve been with me for over fifteen years.
Save yourself a lot of heartache: take the time to think through exactly what you want from your horse, and what you have to offer him. Then you’ll find your perfect equine partner.
Horses are my big obsession, and I'm constantly striving to get better, smarter and more in harmony with my equine buddy, Cruz Bay.
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