So you’re thinking about getting a horse. You would like pursue your passion and join the millions of horse lovers across the world. However, like any decision, this one comes with pros and cons. You must be confident that you can choose the right animal for you. As with any animal, you also must accept the expected and unexpected costs of ownership, and also the responsibility you have for the horse’s well-being. Finally, if you get through this article and perhaps second guess your decision to own a horse, maybe you might like to consider an alternative to ownership.
It is hard sometimes to convince ourselves that horses, these beautiful creatures, are not chosen purely based on looks. And although a particular breed or colour may currently be popular, you must always make sure that your ultimate decision is based on a few key factors: the horse’s temperament and personality, and the discipline you plan on using the horse for.
Horses in general tend to be a bit spooky, but there is a large range in the temperament of horses, from flighty to docile and from pushy to easy. You need to be comfortable with handling and reacting to the temperament of your horse. All horses also come with their very own personality. For example, you need to recognize that many retired racehorses have either a broken spirit or hatred towards people. Once again, different temperaments and personalities can be worked with, as long as you know what you are willing to deal with in your horse.
If you’ve been thinking about buying a horse, you probably already have been taking lessons and are familiar with the basic horse disciplines. Make sure you do not forget what discipline you would like to go into, because if you purchase a horse that is not suited for the demands of that discipline, you will have an unhappy horse and/or a poor-performing horse. You would, for example, need a different horse for endurance racing than for driving a carriage. Other disciplines include western games (timed obstacle course), dressage (specific movements in a pattern), and the backyard recreational horse.
Admittedly, one of the biggest responsibilities that come with owning a horse is the cost. This factor alone sometimes prohibits ownership. If you do not have the facilities to house the horse, the cost of boarding is comparable to renting an apartment. It ranges from about $300 to over $2000, depending on the amenities included, and will cover the basic maintenance of your horse. In addition, you have transportation costs to and from the barn, in addition to the need for a trailer to transport your horse in. Just like in cats and dogs, there is a yearly check needed by your veterinarian, which involves a physical exam (especially checking teeth) and vaccinations. You will need a farrier to come out about once every two months to properly maintain your horse’s feet (very important!).
There are also the unexpected costs. Due to their anatomy, and common carelessness with their legs, they are prone to leg fractures and punctures. They are also prone to laminitis, which is a type of swelling in the hoof that can cause a horse to become lame, and even be euthanized in severe cases. Laminitis can be caused by just about any stress, such as feed or environment changes, obesity, and colic. Colic, a very common condition in horses, has many different causes (including stress) and can be a life-threatening condition.
On top of the monetary responsibilities for your horse, you do have responsibilities for the well-being of the animal. Just as your dog needs attention every day, your horse will need attention on a regular basis, too. The amount of attention and training that your horse needs varies greatly between horses. You should keep in mind that in order to train and build a relationship with your horse, you should ride it at least 3-4 times a week. This is a large time commitment. A horse is not a shirt that you can just dispose of and find a new one. This is why choosing the horse that’s right for you is so important. If you need to get rid of your horse for any reason, you may be looking at losing some money that you invested. Even worse, you are no longer in control of that animal’s fate; it could end up in a discipline that doesn’t suit it, it could be neglected, or it could be sent to the meat market. You have a responsibility the moment you take any animal under your care.
Good news! There are alternatives to owning your own horse! If the horse was meant for a child, it is always recommended to first send them to horse camp. There they will be performing all the chores involved with taking care of a horse, and will get a better idea about how much enthusiasm they really have for horses. Part-boarding is when someone who owns the horse does not have enough time or funds to board and train it. So for a cost, you can ride the horse a certain number of days per week. This is a great option for someone who realizes they do not want to take on the heavy responsibilities of owning a horse. Leasing a horse is just like leasing a car; you have the horse for a specified amount of time. Leasing is often used for a show season, however keep in mind that on top of the lease fee, you must still pay for maintenance and boarding of the horse.
In a world where most people think of dogs and cats as pets, there is a large group of people who regard horses as valued companions. The benefits of owning a horse tend to be on a larger scale than other pets- horses are companions, therapy, recreation, and sport. The responsibilities of ownership also tend to be on the larger scale as well. As long as the owner is willing to choose the horse that’s right for them, and is aware of the obstacles they may face along the way, horse ownership can be a very rewarding.
By Ashley O’driscoll – Pets.ca writer