Caring for a horse takes a lot of work but can be very rewarding. If you are interested in owning one of these beautiful animals, first be sure that you are ready for the responsibility.
It is important to first choose where you will keep your horse, whether on your own property or at a boarding facility. If you are going to keep your horse on your property, you must have proper fencing to ensure the safety of the horse and others. An average guideline is about one acre of pasture for each horse. Always check your pasture for trash, holes, or other hazards. Barbed wire is not recommended for fencing, as it could pose an injury to the animal. Plain wire fencing securely attached to wooden posts works well. White rail fences look nice but can be costly to keep up. If you choose to board your horse be sure to check local facilities. Boarding can be very expensive, and be sure to ask what the quoted price includes. Some places charge extra for grain, hay, or vitamin supplements.
Shelter is also very important to protect the horse from wind, rain, and sun. This can be provided by a group of trees in the pasture, or a three-sided shelter with the back wall facing the wind.
Horses also need a constant supply of fresh and clean water. If you are going to use a water bucket, plan on refilling it at least twice a day and whenever it is empty. To keep the bucket from being turned over it can be placed in the center of a tire. A watering trough with a pipe works best, but must be checked on in the winter to be sure the line hasn't frozen.
When in the stable horses need adequate bedding such as straw to sleep on. Straw is one of the most popular choices because it is cheaper and comfortable. Dust free wood shavings can also be used. Some people choose rubbing matting, but you should still put hay or wood shavings on top of it for warmth.
The actual stable expense can vary depending on your budget and what you want. There are companies that offer prebuilt stalls ranging from basic to very fancy. If you have the ability and help to build your own barn it is much cheaper than purchasing prefabricated buildings and stalls.
Your horse will also need to be groomed to keep a healthy coat. If the horse spends most of the day in the stall, you will need to groom daily. A horse that spends most of its time out to pasture will not need to be groomed as often because the natural oils in its coat help keep the horse warm and dry. For basic grooming you will need a currycomb, dandy brush, body brush, grooming towel, mane brush, and a hoof pick.
Next, it is important to have a first aid kit handy for minor injuries. First, be sure your horse is up to date on tetanus shots, which should be given twice a year. For cuts, tears, or scratches clean with a sterile saline solution. If you don't have any, at least flush the wound with water to help wash away any bacteria. For puncture wounds, clean and bandage the area. Depending on the size of the wound, you may need to have a local veterinarian look at it. For scratches or abrasions, flush with saline or water to remove bacteria. Apply a solution such as Betadine solution. Be gentle and don't scrub. Your horse will be sore and may have bruised muscles. If needed you can get anti inflammatory medication from your veterinarian. Vitamin E may be applied to help the scratch heal and to keep dirt away.
A good first aid kit will include the following items:
Bath and hand towels
Rolls of gauze bandage and gauze squares for dressings
Surgical tape and duct tape
Large syringe for wound flushing
Sterile saline solution
Betadine or other disinfectant
Owning a horse can be expensive. Planting pastures may be expensive in the beginning, but are a long term investment. Bermuda grass is a popular favorite. People also plant rye grass, fescue, orchard grass, and Lespedeza.
It is also much cheaper to buy feed in bulk instead of purchasing 50 lb bags. Anything purchased in bulk will have to be properly stored so that it doesn't ruin. One horse will eat between 1.5% to 3.5% of its body weight per day. For a 1000 lb horse, that breaks down to 15 to 35 lbs of food per day. Concentrates should be fed sparingly, typically to only pregnant or lactating mares, breeding stallions, young horses, horses that are heavily competed, or senior horses. Concentrates include sweet feed, pellet feed, whole grains, and textured feed. Feeds high in starch or sticky with molasses can be harmful to a horse's health in the long run. It can also cause bad behaviors.
It is also not recommended to overlook medical care to save money. You can learn to do some things yourself, such as vaccinations and hoof trimming. An easy affordable method of keeping flies and other insects off of your horse is by bathing in half vinegar, half water solution.
Horses need plenty of exercise and won't get it being cooped up in a stall daily. They also love the attention of humans, so be sure you have time to set aside to spend with your horse. Owning a horse is a life long commitment and a great experience.