TIPS ON BECOMING A HORSE OWNER
President, East Tennessee Farriers Association
Member, American Farriers Association
Here are some things to consider before you take the plunge. Are you going to keep the horse at your farm or board it at a horse facility? If it's kept at home do you have good quality pasture with access to good quality water in large enough quantities for the horse to stay healthy? You will need approximately 1 1/2 acres per horse, local ordinances may require more, and 16 gallons of water per day per horse. If not, do you have somewhere to store good hay and grain to supplement the horse's diet? Do you have the time at least twice daily to feed and water the horse? Did you know that state laws and local ordinances regulate the type of fence you must have for keeping livestock? Is the fencing in good repair and is it horse fence, not cattle fence? This means no barbed wire and some other types of wire fence, which can cut the horse, requiring the veterinarian to come out to stitch the horse up. Is the pasture free from trash and foreign objects that can cause injury to your horse? If you plan on keeping the horse in a barn do you also have the additional time it takes to clean the stalls twice a day? You will also need extra storage space for keeping bedding. Do you have the means to dispose of the horse's waste in a desirable manner? Is the stall large enough for the size horse you have? Stalls should be no smaller than 12' by 12' for the average 900 lb horse.
Can you take time off of work or school to meet the farrier every 4-6 weeks to have the horses hoofs trimmed or shod? The current cost to trim a single horse can run from $15.00 to $45.00. Shoes on all four hoofs can range from $40.00 to over a $100.00 depending on the type of shoes, the experience of the farrier and what is being accomplished by shoeing. If your horse has an injury do you have the extra time to doctor it? This can run from 20 minutes to over an hour extra each day the treatment is required. Also consider the cost of any medications that may be required.
Don't forget about a de-worming schedule. This needs to be accomplished every 4 to 8 weeks, depending on the medication used. And yes, horses get vaccinations too. This will need to be done every year. If you plan on taking the horse off your property to go riding and you will come in contact with other horses, then you may need to vaccinate twice a year. If you will be riding at home, do you have an area that is safe and free of distractions with good footing? If you plan on traveling out of state you will need to get a health certificate from your veterinarian so you can legally cross state lines with the horse. If you plan to ride on public lands you will need to get a Coggins test, for equine infectious anemia, done by a veterinarian. This is usually done annually at the same time as the vaccinations. If you plan to enter your horse in horse shows they too will require proof of negative results from a Coggins test. You should be aware that some shows and public use riding areas require Coggins results to be no more than 6 months old.
If you plan to board your horse at a boarding facility then you can eliminate some of the time that goes into caring for your horse...provided you have the money to pay someone else to spend their time to do it. Pasture board can run from $50.00 to over $100.00 a month. Full care can range from $150.00 to over $400.00 a month. The facilities available and location of the farm should help determine what you can expect to pay. You will still be responsible for the costs involved for farrier and veterinary care.
If you still want to buy a horse you have been bitten by the horse bug and will probably do what it takes to get your horse. There are a lot of great and free resources out there for you. Look on the internet, your local library, farmers co-op, agriculture extension service, horse clubs and veterinary practices.. You will find just about everything you need to know about horse ownership. It will take you years to read it all, but what a great way to pass time, learning about horses. Make sure that as you go on your search for the perfect horse you take someone with you to give an educated objective opinion. Don't be afraid to go back for second and third looks. Have a veterinarian check out the horse and have your farrier look at the hoofs priorto purchase. No foot, no horse. Remember, there is a reason this horse is for sale.