How Do You Know If You're Ready to Own a Horse?

7 easy questions every potential owner should ask themselves

laughing horse

Just as a kid from long ago would press their face up against the pet shop window you frequent the shows, watch the programs, take the lessons and do everything else imaginable to get that "horse" fix. You've decided now is the time to take the plunge and own a horse of your own. Before you do take just a minute and ponder some of the questions and suggestions listed below to assess how ready you are to take on such a responsibility.

1. Look at your finances! Talk about a "buzz" kill. Let me be frank. Horses are a "high maintenance" pet. They require a small fortune to keep properly and even if you've brokered some kind of a "deal" with a friend or with someone who owns property you cannot be guaranteed you will always have such an option. Be realistic about what it will cost you not only for now but further down the road in a number of years. Also keep in mind; there's no such thing as a "free" horse. Many times people are given horses (that should be a clue as to their expense) but even a free horse has to eat and be cared for and before you know it that "free" horse is costing you a cool grand per month not counting the unexpected such as those late night visits from your vet. How's that for free?

2. What are your goals? Asking yourself what your plans are for your horse will also determine what his expenses will amount to. If you plan on competing then of course you will need training for both you and your horse and there's also the question of to what level you plan on taking this competition? Will you compete in the ranks at the community level where fun and positive interaction should always be a top priority (remember at this level if your trainer isn't fun as well as informative than find a trainer that is), or are you planning on going into the big leagues which is another mindset, one that should not be taken lightly because this industry can be serious business. What's the difference you ask? Well being conservative it amounts to about an extra 3 grand per month per horse. Are you into that?

3. How stable are you? This could be a play on words couldn't it? Owning a horse is a life changing commitment. A horse doesn't live quite as long as a parrot but far longer than a dog or many other pets you may own. I had a pony live in excellent health until a stroke hit her at the ripe old age of 37! Do you have the resources and desire to accommodate that? And don't think you can always sell a horse or even give it away because that idea presents a whole other set of circumstances to worry about and cause you to loose sleep at night.

4. Where will you keep him? Here we go into the money again. There are some places in this country that are more suitable to horses in that they provide the space a horse needs to be a horse. I had a prominent vet from New Mexico tell me one time that he thought it criminal to keep a horse in a space any smaller than 5,000 acres! I understand not all of us have that luxury, "Da", but you do have a responsibility to provide as much room for a horse as possible always with a shelter of some sort. If you must keep your horse within a stall , (preferably the biggest one possible) than you want to be sure that your horse has access daily to some kind of safe, bigger space to stretch and kick up his heels for as much time as possible. Remember; horses are herd animals and to be healthy they need to move as their body dictates!

5. How much time do you have? Time equates to money so if you don't have the time and expertise you better have the money to pay someone who has! Again I will state, (because it cannot be said too many times), horses are a "high maintenance" pet! They require countless hours often each and EVERY day! If you choose to own a horse you are responsible to that living, breathing creature one who values moving as much as it does air to breathe or water to drink and that often takes time!

6. Can you love unconditionally? I assure you there's nothing better than a great experience with your horse but can you handle those times when things aren't working so well? When a bad day with your horse could result in an injury can you remain kind, loving and caring seeking the best in yourself as well as in your mount? Can you be firm and focused as well as rewarding with compassion and gentleness? Granted these virtues are worth developing but not at the expense of an innocent animal that only reacts to those things put upon him. Please dig deep into your psyche and examine the true reasons why you yearn for such a responsibility. If it is because you crave the opportunity to control something then look to some other vehicle because you can never truly control a horse. You can only influence him and gain his trust and respect. What you think is control for the moment can result in a disaster in the future.

7. How much do you know about horses? Be very honest with yourself. Those rides you went on thirty years ago when you were a kid away at summer camp does not qualify as experience! I understand the desire for horse ownership but you must be realistic about how much you know and if you're anything less than a professional then seek out someone you can trust to teach you correctly and keep you safe. Learn as much as you can before you buy a horse; even seek out opportunities to lease a horse for as long as necessary to learn enough to be a responsible horse owner/expert because such a magnificent and noble animal deserves nothing less!