Nine Questions to Ask Yourself Before Buying a New Horse or Pony
Horses are one of the pets many girls, and some boys, grow up wanting most. Few will get their dream pet, and some will forget about wanting one altogether, but for those who still want a horse, or pony, of their own, here are some points to ponder and questions to ask yourself first. Be aware that owning a horse is not as easy as you may think.
1. Are you over 18? It is pretty impossible, in most areas, for a child under the age of 18 to purchase any pet, and a horse is no exception. Most sellers won't take you seriously. A parent who makes the purchase will legally be considered the owner, not you. So make sure you and your parent are in agreement as to your ownership situation.
2. Do you have a place to keep a horse? Some people are lucky enough they can keep a horse on their own property. Even if you have the space, do not assume you can put a horse there. If you are living in a subdivision or in city limits you may have by-laws prohibiting the keeping of a horse. The other possibility is a boarding stable. This is where you pay somebody to keep your horse. They usually do all the stalling and feeding. Some offer pasture board, where the horse is out all the time, others offer indoor boarding. Read all contracts and find out what is included, what isn't, and talk to other boarders to get references. Secure a space before purchasing a horse. If you are boarding elsewhere, or at your own place, there must be good fencing, access to water, and shelter.
3. Do you have the money? The purchase price is only a small part of horse ownership. Horses have ongoing costs, such as farrier (feet trimming and maybe horseshoes), feed (board), and veterinarian expenses. Money should not be an issue. Plan on having a good bank account and a steady income before investing in an equine. Remember you will also need supplies such as a halter and grooming gear in addition to tack.
Miniature Horse Stallion, photo by Author
4. How knowledgeable are you, and are you a good rider? Be honest. Some people should really take their time and have more riding lessons and horse care lessons before getting a horse of their own.
5. Where will you buy your horse? This can affect quality. Horses purchased from reputable sellers have larger price tags, as do well trained horses, but come with health and soundness guarantees. Reputable sellers are generally the ones who own, breed, and show, many horses. Horses purchased at the low grade auctions where you do not even know who is selling come with several unknown factors but will usually be cheaper. They may be unregistered which means they are not suitable for breeding or showing at recognized breed shows. The other option is buying directly from the public, somebody who owns one or two horses. Make sure to spend time researching the horse and have a vet check if the seller is not offering a guarantee of soundness. In some areas wild horses are put up for adoption but these are not suitable for novice riders.
Pinto horse at auction, photo by author
6. Are there horse people available? You will need a farrier, to trim the horses feet every 8 weeks or so, and to shoe if necessary. You will need a veterinarian in case of emergencies. You may also need a trainer for the horse or a riding instructor for yourself. Are these people available in your area. Do not assume that just because there are farriers (for example) around that they are good or have the time for more horses.
7. What kind of horse do you want? Some people just focus on color and forget all the other important choices, such as breed, and temperament. You need to know exactly what you want your horse to do and why. There are English style horses (hunters, jumpers, dressage, saddleseat), and Western type (pleasure riding, roping, barrel racing), as well as horses that do both.
8. If you are keeping the horse at your place, do you have a good supply of hay and feed? In the summer a horse may be kept on pasture, but in most places they need hay throughout the winter. A hard working horse will also need oats (ponies usually do not need oats). Make sure you have a supply of hay for the winter. Grain, and oats, can usually be purchased through a feed store.
9. How long do you plan on keeping the horse for? More than any other pet, horses are often viewed as disposable. Often purchased for a few years and then resold. If you only want a horse for the show season, you might want to consider leasing one instead of buying.
Miniature Mare, photo by Author
Overall consider that horses are large, costly animals, but they have feelings too. Rushing into the purchase of a horse may lead to regret and force a urgent sale in which the seller may lose a good portion of their investment dollars, and may cause some stress on the horse itself.
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