Sunday, August 23, 2015
Owning a horse is a wonderful experience. I have owned a number of horses since I started riding eighteen years ago. As with most things in my life, I began riding horse with the purchase of two horses of my own. Over the years I have learned a lot about horses. Allow me to share some of the pitfalls associated with horse ownership. I have been given numerous fine horses purchased by well intentioned people frustrated at a bad relationship between themselves and their horse.
Do not rely on the seller of a horse to tell you if the horse will be a good match for you. I relied on the seller to discuss the quality of my first two horses . They turned out to be great horses after I was tossed unmercifully for four months. If you do not know a good deal about horses, hire someone to shop with you. I hired a horse trader to assist me in purchasing my third horse. He was the best horse for my purposes until I had a lot more experience to evaluate the quality of a horse from personal experience.
The initial cost of a horse is a small part of the cost of horse ownership. If you cannot ride the horse where it will be used, you are wasting your money. Make sure you can ride the horse the day you buy it, where you intend to use it, and you will not be looking for a new home for the horse. Buying a horse is simple.
It is better to look at the type of riding you will be doing and then purchase the best breed for that work. You would not buy a sports car for your 16 year old child with a learners permit without expecting some extreme danger to your child and the traveling public. Do not buy a horse meant to do something other than your intended purpose.
Looks are not everything. An older horse may not be the most pleasing to look at but it may be the safest for you. Someone in the relationship between you and your horse needs to know what they are doing. Unless you are an accomplished rider, buy a horse that can be patient and teach you to ride. A mature horse can be more forgiving than a young horse.
Horses need to be looked after 365 days a year. They are like 5 year old children that never mature. They are constantly making a mess and getting into everything to defy common sense. They are a herd animal living within their family the best they can. If they can find a way to make a simple lifestyle complicated they will do it every time. If you do not handle them regularly they will revert to their natural state which is a wild horse.
The best way to deal with a horse is to replicate their natural environment. Horses are not meant to be in small stalls any more than people are meant to live in small jail cells. It will take three years to condition a stalled horse for endurance competitions while the same can be accomplished in one year if they run with a herd and graze every day. It is best to remove them from their life as a horse to enjoy their company and let them go back to their life as a horse. The more space they have the better. Horses are creatures of habit, when you show up every day at the same time they will be their to greet you and your food. Horses love attention and food just like us. Do not underestimate the power of consistency.
The most difficult task with horses is keeping their weight high enough while continuing to give them work. A horse can lose an enormous amount of weight in a very short time (days not weeks). It can take weeks or months to replace the weight they lose. Unlike us, you cannot feed a horse quickly to fatten them up without taking the risk of crippling them(foundering). Horses are surprisingly delicate animals. It seems the purebred horses are more delicate than the grade horses. In other words, expensive horses require more maintenance.
My first two horses were beautiful when I first purchased them. After three months at three separate boarding facilities, I had to rent my own ranch and ask a veterinarian if they could be saved. Since then, I have maintained my own horses at great expense in both time and money. Some horses are easy keepers while others require twice as much care and attention. The best advice comes from those with good looking horses.
Do not ask a horse to do something you are not prepared to train them to do. If you do not have a plan for success, stop right away. Just like a child, your failure to be consistently in charge of the situation only emboldens them to act out worst the next time. Horses live in a very structured herd setting. They know which horse is in charge and which horse that they can overpower. Even though this structure may occasionally be challenged, it is not without consequences each and every time. You cannot lose to a horse without be challenged routinely. It is wonderful to bond with a horse but it comes with a firm understanding about who is running the show. If you are confused about who runs the program they will not suffer from the same problem.
I suggest you leave the training to those with the experience to get the job done without hurting themselves or the horse. Technique is everything. If you cannot ride the horse of your dreams, pay somebody to get them there. Be specific about your expectations and keep a firm handle on the horse’s progress. Training is a time consuming process best done in short daily sessions. It is not important if the trainer can get the horse to perform as expected, it is only relevant if you can ride the horse as expected.
If you have taken the time to read this carefully, you know if you are better off riding one of our horses regularly for a fixed fee. We give our horses a lifetime home with a limited number of riders. It takes a long time to train a good horse. It takes longer to train a good rider.
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