Many have dreamed of keeping a horse when they were younger, and some of the lucky ones actually got to fulfill that dream.
Well, you’re all grown up now, and you still want a horse — but you have no idea how to take care of one.
The truth is horses require a tremendous amount of care and knowledge so they can survive and thrive. So here are 5 factors to consider if you want a horse.
The first thing to consider? Your finances. A horse is not financially self-sustaining — you’ll be providing most, if not all, of the feed and care.
And it’s not just about the initial cost of buying your horse. We’re talking long term here.
A horse needs:
- Boarding for when you’re away
Then there are the vet bills, and with a horse, you’ll see your veterinarian regularly.
Every horse is an individual. Age, activity level, health condition and external factors such as weather and space are all going to alter the type and amount of feed you buy for your horse.
Some people are surprised to learn that horses probably won’t consume enough grass to support themselves entirely. This applies even if those people have a field roughly the size of Iowa.
Horses are master grazers — your field eventually will get chopped down by those teeth and need time to recover. So yes, you’ll have to provide other sources of food. Grains, hay, protein, salt — all are required to create a well-balanced diet and a happy horse.
Please don’t buy a horse and keep them in your backyard, unless you happen to have a huge lot. The general consensus is that you should have around 1 acre of space for your horse to move around and get some exercise.
Horses need exercise and playtime. Also, give yours plenty of shelter so they’ll have somewhere to go on hot or windy days.
Horse brushes are absolutely essentially for helping maintain your horse’s coat. And brushing your horse can make for great bonding time.
Another thing to keep on hand? Hoof picks. Horses’ hooves are great hiding places for bacteria-laden mud or manure and sharp rocks, so you’ll need to keep their feet clean and free from infection by using a hoof pick.
Your horse will also need usually a few blankets. Make sure to get ones that are waterproof and well fitting. Your horse has a coat, and it even gets thicker in the winter, just as a dog’s coat does. But it’s not sufficient to keep out the elements entirely.
Just like people, horses get lonely. Make sure your horse has a companion animal to spend their time with.
This can be a goat or other barn animal, but another horse is best. So really, you’re looking at double those costs mentioned above so you can provide the best environment for your horse.
Make sure you’re really ready to make that commitment to these animals before bringing your horses home.
This video includes several useful tips on how to keep your horse happy:
Adopting an Abused Horse
Rescuing any animal is a wonderful and humane thing to do, but only if you can provide the life that they need to thrive. Horses are a lot of work — high-maintenance, you might say — and an abused horse is even more so.
Beyond asking your chosen adoption facility pertinent questions about the horse’s background, consider the extra care your abused horse will need to fully recover.
Many abused horses will suffer from various deficiencies in their overall health and may need medication for some time to restore well-being. Talk with your veterinarian when determining what your horse will need.
For example, if a horse needs deworming, you’ll need to get medication. Depending on the infestation’s severity, you may need to take it in stages — and your veterinarian can tell you exactly what to do (or even do it for you).
Or perhaps your horse is physically weak from starvation. They may need to take exercise slowly and build back up to full strength.
The nature of the abuse will help you determine the level to which a horse may “bounce back.” Passive abuse, such as neglect, teaches a horse hardship and misery, but it may be a faster return to trusting humans simply because the horse hasn’t learned to fear their handler.
In aggressive abuse, though, where the animal was physically harmed, a horse will have learned that people are untrustworthy, and it will take a good deal of time, patience and care to teach your horse that not all people are jerks.
In time, your patience will be rewarded and your horse will come to know, trust and love you for rescuing them.
General Advice for Bringing a Horse Home
Here are some ways to prepare yourself for what the future holds before you bring a horse home:
- Spend some time in a stable to spend sometime around horses and get to know these creatures safely.
- Meet with your chosen large animal vet so they can give you an outline of some of the medical expenses and overall care your horse will need.
- Read everything you can about horses.
- Talk with local horse caretakers to find out how they deal with the climate and some of the challenges they face.
Ready to make the commitment to care for one or more of these amazing animals? Great! Then go shop for all the things your new friend — or friends — will need.
And don’t forget the shovel.