It has been fourteen whole years that I was in horse ownership, sadly those days for me are over after losing my beloved Zeb earlier this year. I look back on those years with love and affection for him but my goodness I really didn’t know what I was doing when I took on a huge 17.2hh Belgium Warmblood. I think I had “NAÏVE” stamped clearly on my forehead…but I didn’t see it. I was blinded by horse love!
Owning your own horse is a major responsibility. From riding a horse at a riding school for 45 minutes with the occasional brush or use of a hoof pick, really doesn’t prepare you for the daily commitment physically and financially owning a horse brings. Please don’t think my article is being written to put people off horse ownership, far from it! I’m just giving you friendly and realistic advice about what living with horses can bring. If you are thinking of owning a horse for the first time you must go into the decision with your eyes (and wallet) wide open.
Buying a suitable horse for your ability and bank account is the first hurdle. There are many decisions to make in buying a horse for yourself. Be honest and open about your ability and time you are able to give this expensive purchase. We all like to think we are the new Mary King in the making, but the reality is somewhat different. Think about the monthly cost too and work out how much this furry equine is going to cost you. When you get to that figure, add another half and more to that amount because you will always come up with some added costs that you have forgotten to factor in. Horse tack, riding equipment, stable repairs, unexpected vet bills, transport, competing fees, lessons are all hidden costs that we seem to conveniently forget about. When I worked out how much my horse was going to cost me all those years ago, I simply added up livery, feed, hay, shoes and a couple of tubes of wormer…. See I told you I was being naive!
What the biggest shock to me was the time it took to look after him. Twice a day in all weathers turning out, mucking out, grooming, riding, haynets – the list goes on. God forbid if I stopped to have a natter with the other liveries as the morning trip would add up to three hours or more….. then you had the evening visit. With most of us committed to work and families, these horses take a huge chunk of your daily time, especially through the winter months. Us horse owners then become fantastic at juggling our home and work life when factoring in dealing with daily horse chores! If you think that this is going to become a problem in owning a horse, then finding a reliable sharer may be the answer. Alternatively, what has worked for me over the years is helping with other liveries horses in return for them helping with mine. Without this vital support system, I really couldn’t have managed in looking after him.
Putting all these hurdles aside, horse ownership is incredibly rewarding with all the ups and downs it can bring. I am a great believer that it takes a good year to get to know your horse and for him to trust you. So be patient. Being with your own horse is great fun making you also fitter in the process. This together with the knowledge you gain in horse ownership makes this an incredibly fulfilling hobby. I use the word “hobby” lightly as it does become a lifestyle. Can I imagine life without horses now? The answer is probably no. I may not be in horse ownership anymore, but they will always be part of my life. Will I miss trudging through mud in the wind and rain in winter trying to get my horse in from the field? I think the answer has to be an honest yes and no! But that is part of the lifestyle and you always get through a winter, however close you are to writing the “For Sale” advert by the end of February…
So what did fourteen years of horse ownership teach me? It has taught me a huge amount. From worrying about picking my horses feet out the first day I owned him, I can now administer injections and medicines, clean out open wounds, bandage and treat pretty much any horse ailment going. I know what products work and what are a complete waste of time. I know where to spend my money now and where to save it. I also know not to listen to the “kind” words of advice when someone gives you their opinions on how to look after your horse. Listen to your gut instinct, you are pretty much always right. Look after your horse the way you want to and take others opinions with a pinch of salt.
So if you are on the first tentative steps of horse ownership, I wish you well on this equine journey! It will be great fun and so rewarding. When your new horse whinnies at you when he sees you from the stable door or from the field fence, you know it is all worth it.
Written by Samantha Hobden Editor at Haynet
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