Deciding whether to get a horse is one of those life-changing decisions. There is a lot of expert advice out there covering the steps to take, the things to remember and the list of do’s and don’ts for how to buy a horse, but that is not what this article is about.
When I was contemplating getting my horse, I went through all the information and tips that I could find, but I still found the insights from my fellow equestrians who had owned horses for many years (I was leasing at the time) to be the most insightful and relatable.
So, I decided to ask horse owners from all over the world what they wish they had known before getting a horse. With over 300 responses received – this is what they said.
Having a Horse is Life-changing
You know how people say having a baby turns their lives upside down and nothing is ever the same? Well, horse owners all seem to agree that so does owning a horse.
Not only does getting a horse change your life in logistical terms, but it also changes you on an emotional level. The bond that develops between a horse and its owner is truly unique and it is difficult for any outsider to fully understand this feeling of connection.
Many of the horse owners we heard from said they were surprised by the strength of love and connection they experienced when becoming horse owners as well as the amount of joy the horse brought to their lives every day.
For many, having a horse is not just the ownership of an animal, but it becomes a lifestyle and part of one’s identity. One of the respondents even went as far as saying ‘there is no me without horses’. Well that’s just pure poetry!
The Incredible Bond and Love
The other day the horse I have been riding for the past two months lifted his head, looked in my direction, and nickered as I passed the field where he was grazing. The sound filled my heart, brought a tear to my eye, and put a smile on my face all at the same time. And this isn’t even my horse!
It is incredible how attached we can get to horses and the way it is possible to build a relationship with them based purely on signals, body language, and presence.
Many horse owners expressed this very sentiment and that they had no idea how much they would come to love their horse when they first got it.
They teach you just as much as you teach them
It’s Hard to Say Goodbye
Unfortunately, all good things come to an end and many horse owners expressed their grief over losing an equine partner to disease or old age and how difficult it can be to go through that those emotions.
When horses die our lives change. Just like it did when we first got them. The absence leaves a big void and unfortunately, not everyone understands that the loss of a horse can be equally difficult to process as the loss of a friend or family member because ultimately that’s what they can become to us.
This video from Versatile Horsemanship gives a raw and realistic insight into what the passing of a horse can look like.
Owning a Horse Will (likely) Put a Strain on Your Finances
Buying a horse is usually an expensive affair, but keep in mind that it is the cheapest part of the horse owner experience. Although the purchasing price may feel like a lot of money, this will fade in comparison to the costs you will incur over the years to come.
Depending on the age of the horse you buy, he may be with you for the next 30 years and unlike children, they don’t graduate and get a job. So, buckle up for some hefty bills from the veterinarian, the farrier and the dentist as well as ongoing expenses for feed, vaccinations, gear and equipment.
People told us stories about how they had to work multiple jobs to afford keeping their horse and we couldn’t agree more with the woman who pointed out that any horse owner should have an emergency fund for any unforeseen expenses and situations (like getting laid off).
Having one May Lead to Having Another…and Another..
‘They are like potato chips. You can’t have just one.’
This made me laugh, but it seems to be the case for many a horse owner.
While personally, I could not dream of having two horses at a time, I can see the appeal for people who have lots of space and perhaps keep horses on their own property.
The moral seems to be – be careful, horses can be addictive! 😊
High Medical Bills for the Horse and the Human
It can’t always be blue skies. Your horse will have injuries and get sick, and when he does, the veterinarian bill can get uncomfortably high. We would recommend anyone considering purchasing a horse to also look into getting an equine medical insurance that can alleviate some of the risk and expenses.
Additionally, it is an unfortunate fact that equestrians are likely to sustain injury at some point during their horse riding careers. Ending up in the hospital can also get expensive depending on where you live, so make sure your medical insurance covers equine sports (as some insurance companies consider certain riding disciplines as ‘extreme sports’ and won’t cover them).
They Require a Significant Time Investment
Feeding, riding, and caring for a horse is not done in the blink of an eye. All these activities take time and add up over the course of a day. The fact that feeding also needs to happen at different times of day means returning to the stable at least morning and night, unless your horse is boarded, or someone is taking care of one or several feedings for you.
Anyone who decides to get a horse should love spending time at the barn. As one insightful respondent said
‘Your sense of time is warped at the barn. One hour ends up being two or three—never one.’
Owning a Horse Limits Your Personal Freedom and Spontaneity
Horses don’t pack up neatly in your carry-on and they can’t be left in the care of someone who has no idea how to handle them either. Being absent from your horse over a longer period of time can be complicated and expensive. Long vacations will need to be planned well ahead of time and spontaneous trips, however short, may not be possible.
Balancing Horse Ownership and Family/Personal Life Can Be Challenging
A logical consequence of the time investment we talked about in the last point is that getting a horse is likely to have an impact on your personal life and the time you have available for the people in your life.
It is important to ask yourself if you are ok with having less time for those you love and to be honest in your response. Also, are the people who will be affected by your absence ok with it? What consequences will it have for them, practical and emotional?
Make sure you talk to your partner, children or others in your life that you are likely to see less of and have an open conversation about what having a horse will mean for you, and by extension, them.
You want the barn to be a happy place and not somewhere you go to escape your problems at home. So be proactive and see how your new life as a horse owner can fit with your personal life and responsibilities and be clear about what you will no longer have time for.
Always Get a Vet Check Before Buying a Horse
A horse purchase is not impulse buying, and unfortunately, there are many dishonest horse traders out there who will lie about the health of their horse.
Inadvertently buying a horse with a pre-existing condition can be costly and also prevent you from using the horse in the way you intended and getting your money back will often be almost impossible without taking legal action.
Hire a veterinarian you trust to do a vet check and take your time doing your due diligence before signing any paperwork.
It is no secret that horse care involves getting your hands dirty and being exposed to odors that can make your eyes water, but believe it or not, there is another level of grossness.
‘I wish I had known that I have to clean his ding-dong’ and that his farts smell bl%&* awful.
You are hereby officially warned and if you had no idea this is also a part of horse ownership, the video below explains how to clean a horse’s sheath.
The Equine Community is Opinionated
Every sport or activity include practitioners, amateurs, professionals and all those in between, and the equestrian community is no different. However, conflicts within the equestrian space is not uncommon as there are so many different ways to keep, ride and care for horses.
With so many variables combined with the strong affinity people feel for these beautiful animals, if can sometimes cause heated discussions, disagreements and sometimes outright malicious verbal attacks. This is an unfortunate fact, but it is our choice how we respond to this.
‘We cannot control other people’s actions. You can only control your reactions to them.’
We are all part of this community and we are all constantly learning (#horselearners). Let’s support and help each other and create a positive space where we all feel safe and welcome and are encouraged to keep building our knowledge.
By the way – we’d love to have you join us!
Basic Knowledge of Horse Behavior and Care
Some chose to dive headfirst into horse ownership before knowing how to ride or even handle a horse. And although we don’t recommend this approach, sometimes life happens, and we just have to follow what our gut is telling us and make the best out of the situation we are in.
Some of the respondents that fell into this category expressed how they wish they had acquired the skills they needed to become confident horse owners before taking that big leap of getting one as they often has to learn lessons the hard way.
Being able to read body language and having basic knowledge about horses makes horse ownership a million times easier and helps to keep you safe around them. Knowing basic training techniques and philosophies will also guide your work with them and esure the horse develops good habits and behavior.
Owning a horse should not be taken lightly and if you do end up getting a horse before knowing your basics, make sure you dedicate yourself to learning and ask for help and guidance from experienced equestrians.
Don’t Wait Too Long
For many, owning a horse is a life-long dream and some horse owners regretted not getting one sooner. Life is a series of events and happenings and a big life decision such as getting a horse is often put off to take a job, to move houses, to get married or have children. And while all these milestones may be important, so are your dreams!
Buying a horse should not be a rash decision, but on the other hand, one day you may wake up and realize it is too late. Perhaps your health is not what it used to be, perhaps you now live in a place where it’s impossible to keep a horse or maybe you wonder if so much time has gone by that you wonder if you can forget how to ride a horse.
Life is short. If you think horse ownership is for you – don’t postpone your dreams or your happiness.