Can you still recall the moment you first decided to get a pet? It’s a rollercoaster of emotions – from the excitement of welcoming your pal home to getting used to the responsibility of looking after it. If you’ve recently chosen to care for horses, chances are, you’ll feel the same emotions and more.
It’s quite easy to fall in love with the idea of horse ownership and horse riding. Think fun horse riding training, a lovely barn where your four-legged pals can rest, and spending time together on the riding track–it’s a daydream worth turning into a reality.
However, like any hobby or activity you want to pursue, horse riding and ownership come with challenges you need to overcome. From making sure your horses have a safe space to stay in and grooming them properly, to feeding your horses nutritious food and bringing them to a trustworthy veterinarian–there are twists and turns you need to navigate so your loyal steed will be truly happy. Rise above common horse owner dilemmas with these tips:
In this article, we will talk about:
- Managing Your Budget
- Horse Lodging
- Basic Horse Health
- Best Practices For Grooming
- Finding A Veterinarian
- Dealing With Mood Swings
Planning your budget
Buying a horse is expensive as it is, but you need to remember to save enough money for essentials needed in owning one. Keep in mind that the cost of owning and caring for a horse varies – taking into consideration lodging, grooming, feeding, and medical needs, to name a few. Saving enough for costs and having a budget with a contingency fund can help you.
A ballpark figure to keep in mind is around $17,000 to $20,000 annually to cover lodging, food, grooming, medical, training, and general maintenance expenses. Always keep a little buffer money for unexpected costs such as emergency checkups and grooming tools.
Finding a place for your horse
Owning a horse is one thing, and giving them a place to stay in is another – after all, you don’t want to just leave them outside. If you have a property at your disposal, you can build a stable for your steeds then construct a horse arena when you’re ready. If this is not the case, you can always find the best lodging for your horses.
You have the option to rent a space, avail of full-boarding, or go the pasture boarding route. If you have yet to save enough money, go for self-care boarding. This involves paying around $100 to $200 every month then being in charge of your horse’s daily needs – from food to grooming.
If you cannot commit to visiting your horse on a daily basis just yet, the pasture boarding option doesn’t cost much at around $150 to $400 monthly and your horse will have access to a pasture plus a staff that can attend to its needs. The only downside to this option is the fact that they will be left in the pasture 24/7 and might be exposed to illnesses, especially if they cannot adapt to the surroundings.
While working on securing the funds for your own barn, the best way to go is the full-care boarding as it gives you peace of mind that your four-legged gem is taken care of for a monthly average rate of $300 to $700. Though a bit pricey compared to the other choices, this gives your loyal steed access to a stall in the barn, field for turnout, and a staff attending to its daily needs – from feeding and watering, to stall cleaning and blanketing.
Before you choose a lodging option for your horse, do your research, compare prices, and look up reviews. You can also consult with fellow horse owners for tips.
Choosing a healthy diet for your steed and helping them maintain a healthy weight
It’s common for animal owners to worry at the slightest change in the appetites of their companions. Worrying about which food to give and making sure they get enough nutrition are normal. When it comes to ensuring the health and sustenance of your horse, good pasture grass easily comes to mind. Since this isn’t always available, you can look into grains and hay. Including grain in your riding partner’s diet helps them get the proteins and minerals they need.
Hay, on the other hand, is the best alternative to grass and makes up an important part of its diet. The amount of hay you need to give your horse depends on its weight. Keep in mind that a horse needs to eat up to 2% of their body weight a day. According to experts, a full-grown horse requires around 5.8 to 6.8 kg of hay a day. Be cautious about overfeeding or giving your horse less food. Always factor in your maned friend’s metabolism and their activities.
If you need to make changes in your horse’s diet, do so with the guidance of a veterinarian. Changes must be done gradually as drastic changes may affect your horse’s health. Changes in feeding and diet can be done in a two-week period to allow your companion’s gut to adjust.
Working hand in hand with their diet is the amount of water you give your horse. A steady supply of fresh water is a vital element in proper horse care as it avoids dehydration. You can use buckets or automatic waterers when supplying water to your steed.
Providing the best grooming
It’s safe to say that two of the most distinct features of a horse are its shiny coat and well-maintained mane. Beyond the beauty of your four-legged friend, you also need to make sure you clean its hooves, body, face, teeth, and tail – after all, these contribute to the magnificence and overall hygiene of your prized pal. Like some animals, your horse might not be welcoming to the idea of grooming, with a few of them becoming grumpy.
Luckily, you can teach them to love grooming and how to be patient during the process. Get started by skipping tying them during grooming. Avoid reacting to their moodiness and keep petting their heads as you go through it.
Timing is also key. Pick a time when he is relaxed or just after your riding practice. Scheduling grooming after a ride or a turnout guarantees that he is not too nervous or filled with energy. Take your time in leading your horse when it comes to turning and moving. Do not rush the process as this may agitate your friend. Be on your guard in the first few times of grooming your horse to avoid its initial reactions to brushing. Keep grooming sessions short and build from there. Remember that it’s a training process for the both of you.
Finding a medical professional you can trust
Like how you find and depend on a doctor for your medical concerns, the same meticulous process should be followed for your equine. To get started, you can get tips and recommendations from fellow horse owners. They can forward a few contacts you can check out and take it from there. Keep an open mind as what works for other horses may not necessarily work for you.
When choosing a veterinarian, take note of these qualities, he or she must possess:
- Good communication skills that discuss your horse’s health in detail, including the costs of vaccines and treatment, if needed
- Proven track record that encompasses good education and wealth of experience
- Trustworthy character that highlights integrity, honesty, and professionalism
- Friendly and approachable so you can talk about your concerns freely
- Possesses good horsemanship which means he can handle your horse with care and compassion
- Check on his availability – can you call on him for emergencies? This is quite hard to pin down but a vet who tells you that he can be reached via mobile for urgent concerns is a plus.
These are just some of the qualities you need to consider when looking for a veterinarian. If possible, set appointments with your vet candidates and have a chat with them. At the end of the day, you need to be comfortable with the person who will be part of your support team when it comes to ensuring the health of your horse.
Dealing with poor behavior
It’s not uncommon for horses to show signs of behavioral problems such as aggression, fear, poor eating habits, unpleasant stall behaviors, and performance problems during riding. Aside from managing a healthy diet, it’s safe to say that dealing with behavioral problems will be one of the toughest challenges you will face as a horse owner.
Don’t fret as the right attitude and getting expert advice can help you solve these:
- Aggression toward other horses – if your horse is showing signs of aggression, it’s best to separate him from other horses and provide him with adequate space, food, and water. Avoid punishment as this can worsen the situation. Do consult with a vet if needed.
- Aggression toward people – this is commonly seen in equines kept in stalls where they feel confined. To manage this, you need to ensure your safety and that of the other people helping manage your horse. The cause of aggression must be identified and removed. This behavior can be changed with counterconditioning and desensitization.
- Wood chewing – this behavior brings you back to the type of diet you give your four-legged friend. Most likely, they chew on wood because of lack of roughage in the diet. To treat this, make sure he gets a balanced diet and enough exercise. If possible, cover exposed wood or eliminate it completely.
- Kicking – this happens when your horse constantly kicks the stall which may cause damage stalls and injury to your pal. This is often attributed to aggression, boredom, or frustration. In some cases, kicking happens when they anticipate food. To manage this, avoid providing food when a horse kicks and let them enjoy more stimulation, exercise, and social contact.
Keep in mind that behavioral problems don’t just pop out of nowhere. Some of the factors involved are the environment, the diet they consume, and the amount of exercise they get. Avoid generalizing the behaviors of horses and do consult with a veterinarian as soon as you notice that something’s amiss with your steed.
Splurging on accessories and general maintenance
Like other hobbies you’ve pursued, you have the option to treat yourself and your loyal riding partner to accessories every now and then. These essentials don’t just add to the aesthetics of horse riding, some also ensure comfort for you and your partner. Some of the things you can initially look into include farrier and tack, with the latter involving must-have gear like saddles, saddle pads, and bridle, to name a few.
You can also reward your horse with a waterproof horse blanket, a wound spray, a fly spray, a feed bucket, and a water bucket as well. These may seem a lot but choosing which to buy can make daily maintenance easier.
Any endeavor requires patience, time, investment, and room for adjustment Horse riding and ownership involve commitment, especially when you’re responsible for the life of your equine. Making the right calls and consulting with professionals can help make this a fun learning experience.