NEW YORK — Children often dream of waking up one morning and finding their own horse or pony in their yards. Some people are able to make this dream a reality and own these beautiful animals.
Whether raising a horse for pleasure or profession, it is important to know that caring for horses can be labor-intensive. The reward for properly taking care of a horse is a healthy and well-trained animal. But horse ownership is a significant and expensive responsibility, so it is important that prospective owners understand what they are getting into before they make any final decisions.
The first to consider when mulling horse ownership is the breed. If you are unfamiliar with horses, it is best to research different breeds online and visit horse breeders and owners. Perhaps workers at a stable or farm nearby can guide your choice. There also are forums devoted to horses and care. Some recommended breeds for first-time owners include quarter horses, paints, and morgans. However, all horses are individuals and may have their own unique personality traits.
Acreage and housing
Horses are large animals and will need room to exercise and roam. They require a corral or pasture to stretch their legs, so a potential horse owner will need a relatively large property to give a horse the space it needs. In addition to the corral, the horse will require a shelter from the elements. A shed or stable should be at least 10 to 12 feet in both width and length. The height of the stable should be a minimum of 8 feet. This stable will provide shelter in both the cold and heat. When establishing a pasture, be sure it is fenced in with a highly visible fence that is tall enough so that the horse cannot easily jump it. The fence should be clearly visible so the horse does not mistakenly try to go through it, risking entanglement or injury.
The average saddle horse weighs roughly 1,000 pounds if not more. The animal can eat anywhere from 17 to 26 pounds of feed per day. Feed is a combination of grain, hay and pasture, but salt also should be made available to the horse. If the weather prevents grazing, supplemental hay will be needed. Keep in mind hay bails can weigh up to 85 pounds. They also will take up considerable space. This is something that needs to be factored into the space requirement for a horse. Feed and water troughs can be purchased at livestock supply stores or be made from repurposed buckets and barrels. Horses need plenty of fresh water to drink and the water trough should be checked and cleaned regularly to maintain a sanitary environment.
Tack and saddles
Depending on how you use the horse, you will need saddles, reins, bits, stirrups, cinches, spurs, ropes, and collars. Saddle bags and cushions may be needed if you will be on the horse for long periods of time. If a horse tack retailer is not nearby, many items can be ordered online and shipped to your home. In addition, pitchforks, shovels, brushes and grooming supplies will be needed to keep the stable and horse clean and comfortable.
A large animal who eats several pounds of food per day will produce a lot of waste. It’s key to have a plan in place to manage manure. You may want to convert manure into organic fertilizer. Check to see if there is a way to dispose of manure in your area or donate it to be used for gardening or vegetable cooperatives. Some people will purchase manure to use in their private landscapes. Establish a strategy for manure usage or disposal before buying a horse, as manure can accumulate rapidly and attract flies and other insects.
Research and develop a relationship with a veterinarian prior to purchasing a horse. Horses require routine vaccinations and examinations, and deworming is necessary to control internal parasites. Hooves will need to be trimmed regularly, so it behooves owners to establish a relationship with a qualified farrier. The vet may recommend farriers in your area. Horses are magnificent animals that can bring joy and companionship. But those interested in owning a horse must recognize that such ownership is a significant responsibility unlike more traditional pet ownership.
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