Questions About Horse Ownership
The following information is taken from “What You Should Know About Buying a Horse”, a brochure created by the American Veterinary Medicine Association (AVMA), revised April 2009. To view the complete brochure, visit the AVMA website
What’s special about horses and ponies?
Horses and ponies can be wonderful, loving, long–time companions. They have an average lifespan of 25–30 years—some even live to be forty years old or older!
There are more than 200 breeds of horses and ponies in the world. Each breed has unique qualities and not all breeds are suitable for all riders and activities. There are also many breed combinations that produce an almost endless variety of mixed breed horses.
What are the special needs of horses and ponies?
Owning a horse is a big responsibility. It requires a commitment of both time and money. A new owner should be prepared to spend time grooming, exercising, and caring for the animal—or assume the responsibility to see that the basic care will be performed daily. Dental, veterinary, and hoof care are also vital to maintaining a healthy horse or pony.
Who will care for your horse or pony?
Boarding stables offer levels of care ranging from complete board (where the stable provides feed, turnout, and basic care) to self–care (where the owner performs all duties, including cleaning the stall). Owners may choose to have their horses in stalls, turned out on pasture, or a combination of both.
Does a horse or pony fit your lifestyle?
Decide if your lifestyle affords you the time to devote to a horse or pony. Determine where you will house the animal and how much it will cost. While a boarding stable may provide for your horse or pony’s basic needs, these animals deserve more attention from you than just weekend riding. Consider the time involved in getting to and from a stable.
If you live on property that can support a horse—legally and physically—be sure you have adequate stabling to protect the horse from inclement weather. Think about the time commitment necessary to meet the daily feeding, grooming, and other maintenance involved in owning a horse. If you live in a cold climate, consider boarding the animal at a stable with an indoor arena if you plan to ride during the colder months. Riding in freezing weather can be unpleasant and dangerous for both horse and rider.
Can you afford a horse or pony?
The costs of owning a horse can add up quickly and include expenses such as shelter (if boarded), feed, veterinary medical care, hoof care, and riding equipment. Other potential expenses include equipment costs (saddle, saddle blankets, bridle, halter, and other accessories), training fees, riding apparel (including a helmet), show registration fees, and transportation. In many instances, the purchase price is less than the annual boarding fee and maintenance costs.
Where can you get a horse or pony?
Possible sources for horses and ponies include the stable where you ride or plan to keep the horse, riding instructors or trainers, breeders, fellow horse enthusiasts, classified ads, tack shop bulletin boards, and the Internet. Horse rescues often have suitable horses for adoption. Each resource has advantages and risks. Whatever the source, novice horse buyers seek help from a trusted, experienced horse person.
What should you look for in a healthy horse or pony?
An animal’s temperament should be the most important characteristic to you. Observe its general demeanor and how it reacts to people and its environment. Be sure you observe the animal in a well–lit place, preferably outdoors in the sunlight. Watch the owner groom and saddle the horse and never buy a horse with bad stable manners. Ask the owner to ride the animal and take the horse through its gaits. Do not rush to a decision; arrange for a second visit to once again observe the horse’s behavior. You may make important observations on a second visit that you missed the first time.
Finally, do not buy a horse or pony before the animal has been thoroughly examined by a veterinarian with experience in performing pre–purchase examinations. Such an exam can reveal health problems that could negatively affect the horse’s performance and quality of life. The exam consists of a thorough physical examination and evaluation of the horse’s eyes, ears, heart, lungs, legs and hooves, digestive system, and skin. In addition, the horse is evaluated in motion for any evidence of lameness.
A Note on Your Horse’s General Good Health
Your horse’s daily well being requires regular care and close attention to any hint of ill health. The American Veterinary Medical Association suggests that you consult your veterinarian if your horse shows any of the following:
- abnormal discharges from the nose, eyes, or other body openings
- sudden changes in behavior
- abnormal lumps, loss of hair, open sores, or a ragged or dull coat
- lameness or reluctance to move or perform normally when ridden
- loss of appetite or marked changes in weight
- signs of abdominal pain (rolling, kicking or biting at belly, pawing), decreased manure passage, or diarrhea
Remember that after you have purchased your horse, your veterinarian is your best source of information about vaccinations, parasite control, dental care, and other routine health matters, as well as emergency medical care.