Is Owning a Horse Right for You? Things to Consider
by Parelli Natural Horsemanship on May 31, 2023
Every horse-crazy child has dreamed of owning a horse. Now that you are an adult, you may consider buying a horse, but owning one is not for every horse lover. Horses are a significant financial, emotional, and time commitment you must be prepared for before shopping for potential horses.
Can you Afford to Own a Horse?
One of the first questions you should ask yourself is if you can afford to own a horse. Not can you afford to buy a horse, but you can also afford the daily care, boarding, feed, vet, and farrier bills that accompany horse ownership. The expenses of owning a horse are significantly more than the initial purchase price, especially if your horse has high medical costs.
You must pay board at a facility if your horse isn't living on your property. Boarding fees are one of the largest recurring fees in your horse budget. Most facilities offer various boarding options depending on budget and needed care, including full-care, pasture board, partial board, and self-care. All of these options will have pros and cons. You must balance your horse's needs with your budget to ensure the right fit.
Feed and Supplements
Feed is a variable cost from horse to horse and depends on your location and pasture availability as well. Some horses are easy keepers, and your monthly feed bill will be minimal. Other horses need high-calorie diets and additional supplements to stay healthy. Some boarding facilities include the cost of feed in their full-care boarding package.
Your horse will need several veterinarian visits annually for vaccines and dental work. These are routine, similar to your wellness checks when you go to the doctor. However, you should include other medical expenses in your horse budget. Accidents happen with horses more frequently than we would like. When you purchase a horse, make sure you can afford unexpected medical bills.
Your horse will need its hooves trimmed regularly with the industry standard being approximately every 6-8 weeks. Trimming keeps your horse's hooves balanced and at a healthy length. Regular trimming can also prevent more severe hoof issues that lead to lameness. Some horses require shoeing for additional support and stability. Shoes are set and reset at regular intervals as well and are more costly than basic trims.
Medical insurance is available for horses. Insurance can give you peace of mind if your horse colics, needs surgery, or has a severe injury. You have two basic options for horse insurance; mortality or major medical. Mortality coverage pays a specific amount if your horse has a fatal accident or must be put down for medical reasons. Major medical coverage helps with medical expenses incurred due to various injuries or colic. Each policy will have different coverage, so review it thoroughly.
Riding lessons or training for your horse can be critical for a first-time horse owner. A Parelli Instructor can help you grow and build a strong relationship with your new horse. Most instructors offer private lessons or group lessons. Once you are comfortable with your new horse, you can join clinics as well.
Parelli also has licensed Horse Development Specialists if your horse could benefit from a more experienced rider to help build safe habits and skills in your horse and to help you create the best partnership possible. Visit https://shopus.parelli.com/pages/licensed-parelli-instructors to find a complete list of Parelli Instructors.
Tack and Supplies
Purchasing your initial tack could cost upward of $3000, depending on your needs. However, you'll also need regular supplies such as fly spray, fly masks, halters, first aid items, blankets, buckets, etc. If you need help with the care supplies required or advice on saddle purchasing or saddle fit, we recommend consulting with a Licensed Parelli Instructor.
What Kind of Horse Should you Buy?
After reviewing the financial commitments and deciding that this is the right decision for you and your lifestyle, it's time to look for a horse. There are so many things to consider when purchasing a horse. If you have never purchased a horse, we highly recommend asking your instructor, an experienced equestrian friend, or even your veterinarian to accompany you. It can be hard to remember all the questions as a first-time buyer.
Don't be Distracted by Beauty
You've found a gorgeous dream horse online and can't wait to see it. The flowing mane, golden coat, and elegant head are beyond beautiful. While we all appreciate a beautiful horse, temperament rather than beauty is the most important factor for a first-time horse owner. It can be really easy to get distracted by a flowing mane and tail and ignore the pined-back ears, rolling eyes, and pawing. Instead, look for a calm, reliable, educated and even-tempered horse.
Height isn't super important
Many people believe height is critical when they purchase a horse. Size isn't too important if you can mount and dismount comfortably and don't have your feet hanging way below the horse's belly. Remember, many horse sellers estimate horses, so consider the height a rough guess if you look at advertisements.
What breed should you buy?
Your Parelli instructor can recommend ideal breeds for you and your chosen discipline. Some horses have quieter temperaments, whereas Arabians and Thoroughbreds are known to be more active and spirited, although this can also be a generalization. Your chosen discipline will also play a role in this. You likely won't shop for a draft horse if you want to compete in reining. Parelli’s Horsenality program can also be hugely beneficial when searching for your perfect partner.
What age horse should you buy?
In general, young horses need more guidance, and are not a good idea for an inexperienced rider. However, rather than focusing entirely on age, look at experience. Some 7-8-year-old horses will have lots of experience with different riders, areas, competitions, etc., while a 15-year-old might only have arena experience.
Geldings vs. Mares
Inexperienced riders should never own stallions. Geldings and mares are an excellent choice for first-time horse owners. Mares go into heat and can sometimes display moody behavior, but not all. Many people prefer geldings for their reliability and stable temperament.
Understanding the commitment of owning a horse
Owning a horse is a big commitment. You need time, money, and emotional bandwidth to own and care for a horse. Be sure to consider all aspects of horse ownership before purchasing a horse. Leasing a horse can be a great stepping stone to horse ownership as it gives you a view into what it is like to own and care for a horse daily.