Should I Buy a Horse? Complete Decision Guide

Having a horse to call their own is many little girls’ and boys’ ultimate dream. (and adults’ too!) Purchasing a horse is a big decision; you’ve probably heard that horses are one big financial hassle. That being said, your dream still lives on to own one of the most majestic creatures on Earth.

How do you determine whether you should buy a horse or not? I’ve come up with a few questions to ask yourself before making a final decision:

  • How much do you know about horses?
  • Can you afford a horse?
  • Do you have somewhere you can keep the horse?
  • Do you have time to take care of a horse?
  • Are you done growing?
  • What are your future plans and is a horse part of them?

 

These questions are straight to the point and will help you to determine if you’re ready to own a horse. The world of horses is vast, and there’s so much to learn. Taking time to see your options for all of these questions will help you see every possible way you can make owning a horse happen.

How Much Do You Know About Horses?

Horse safety reference guide

Before you own a horse, I highly recommend taking some time to learn about them first. I’ve seen people with either no or very little horse experience purchase a horse and get themselves into a mess. They don’t have the knowledge to adequately care for the animal.

If you want to buy a horse, you should be well-versed in the following:

  • horse behavior
  • basic horse care
  • training/riding

 

The more knowledge you have about horses, the more you can enjoy your horse! Knowledge opens up the door to building a better bond with your horse and challenging them with their training. Take time to learn all that you can before you decide to purchase a horse.

Horse Behavior

Before you buy a horse, you need to have an understanding of basic horse behavior. Knowing how a horse thinks and reacts to things is important when handling them.

All too often, I’ve seen inexperienced people buy a horse and things go to shambles. The person is scared of the horse because they don’t understand why the horse is reacting a certain way to something. The horse starts to develop bad habits because the person doesn’t know when the horse is being disrespectful.

Understanding horse behavior and being able to read what the horse is showing through body language is a big part of horse ownership. Not only will knowing these things help to keep you safe around horses but it will also make you a better horse owner.

If you want to get started on learning horse behavior, see Horse Affection: 10 Clear Ways Horses Show Affection.

Basic Horse Care

Knowing basic horse care is a must for any horse owner. Horses have daily needs that will need to be attended too in order for them to live a happy life. If you don’t have a grasp on these care tips, it’s better to learn them before you get a horse.

Basic daily horse care looks like feeding, watering, turning your horse out into the pasture, and mucking out their stall. It looks like picking out their feet and checking their bodies to make sure they don’t have any injuries. It looks like riding or exercising your horse to keep them in shape.

Basic horse care can change depending on the season. Each season brings its own challenges; to learn about some basic winter care tips, check out our article, 20 Best Winter Horse Care Tips. Understanding what horses need and when can make you and your horse’s life much easier.

Training/Riding

Horses should be regularly worked or ridden to help maintain their health and to keep their behavior in check. It’s easy for a horse to pick up a bad habit, and having the knowledge to recognize the bad habit and correct it is important to you and your horse’s relationship.

If you’ve just started riding, you’re still going to be focusing more on your position, how you give your cues, and how you should be communicating with the horse. If you can’t do these things effectively, then training a horse and correcting bad behavior shouldn’t even be in sight.

Our article, Horseback Riding Mistakes: 11 Common Mistakes to Avoid, can help you determine other things you need to work on before moving to the horse training aspect of riding.

Alternative Options

What I recommend for someone who doesn’t feel confident in their knowledge enough to purchase a horse is to take some lessons! Horseback riding lessons teach you the foundation of working and being around horses. You’ll work with an instructor and a lesson horse who can show you the ropes and help to build your confidence.

Can You Afford to Own a Horse?

Everyone, even non-horse people, seem to know one thing: horses can cost a lot of money. This is very true; if you’d like to see a complete expense guide to owning a horse, check out our article, What Does it Cost to Own a Horse: Complete Expense Guide.

Here is a list of expenses to be aware of before you decide whether or not you can afford a horse:

  • boarding
  • lessons
  • veterinary bills
  • farrier bills
  • supplies purchases
  • feed bills

 

Your annual expenses will greatly outweigh the initial purchasing price of your horse. Having an idea of what you’re getting yourself into financially will help you to know if a horse is something you can afford at the moment.

Boarding

In our article, Choosing a Boarding Stable Your Horse Will Love, I discuss how your budget will affect the boarding stable you choose. A boarding stable is where you can keep your horse if you don’t have land. These stables usually have all the facilities and amenities your horse will need.

Monthly boarding fees will likely be your biggest expense when it comes to owning a horse. There are different boarding options that can range in affordability: full-care board being the most expensive, pasture board being affordable, and self-care board being inexpensive.

All boarding options have their pros and cons, but make sure you choose the one that matches your budget and your horse’s lifestyle.

Lessons

Just because you’ll own a horse doesn’t mean you should stop taking lessons; in reality, when you get a new horse, that’s when you need lessons the most! An instructor can help you and your new partner grow and bond together.

The plus side about owning a horse is that you don’t have to rely on the availability of a lesson horse in order to ride. Because of this, you can cut down on taking lessons with a trainer. Instead of doing two lessons a week, you can cut down to two lessons a month.

When it comes to lessons, you can pay a larger fee to get a private lesson. That would mean you’re working one-on-one with your instructor. For a discounted fee, you can get a group lesson that will include a few more students.

Veterinary Bills

While the vet only needs to come out routinely once a year, accidents can happen where the veterinarian is needed for an emergency. Having money set aside for moments like this can be a lifesaver, not only to your horse but also for your mental state!

Sometimes, horses have to be put down because their owners can’t afford a simple treatment the horse needs in order to survive. This is a very sad fact where a good life can be wasted. If you plan on buying a horse, make sure you can afford the medical bills.

Being aware of the routine veterinary cost will help you to know how much to budget each year. Horses have to have certain vaccinations and procedures done regularly to help them stay healthy. To know more, be sure to read the Complete Expense Guide.

Farrier Bills

A farrier visit is another thing your horse will need regularly. Farriers are professionals who attend to the health of your horse’s hooves. Horses’ hooves are constantly growing, and need to be managed every 6 – 8 weeks.

Farriers provide trimming, where the hoof is simply trimmed back to a good length, and they provide shoeing, where a metal shoe is attached to the hoof to offer more stability and structure. Knowing which option will benefit your horse will determine the price you pay for the service.

Trimmings are usually cheaper than shoeings; however, not all horses can go barefoot, or without shoes. Horses with sensitive feet may need shoes in order to stay comfortable.

Be aware that the length of time between each farrier visit can differ depending on climate, terrain, and the horse. This can greatly affect how regular your farrier bills will be. Check out this article, Horse’s Feet Trim Frequency: Easy Guide, for more information.

Supplies Purchases

While horse tack should last you a while, horse owners are constantly having to buy other equipment and supplies. I personally always find myself buying fly spray or fly masks…my horses are masters at losing their fly masks.

Our Recommended Gear page can help give you an idea of items you will need and the price they range from. If you take care of your tack and equipment, they will last a lot longer.  Luckily, tack, clothes, and care items tend to have a wide range; I have personally managed to find many quality items for cheap.

Feed Bills

Paying for feed is another expense to consider before purchasing a horse. Depending on the horse you purchase, you could spend $0 in feed each month, or you could spend $200 on feed each month.

If you find a horse that can keep weight easily, they won’t necessarily need grain. However, if you have a horse that doesn’t keep weight and you want to feed supplements and special minerals, your feed bill could be expensive.

Alternative Options

There are many ways you can save money when owning a horse. Check out our article, 16 Tips for Owning a Horse on a Budget, to see methods I have personally tried in order to help me afford my horse.

Do You Have Somewhere You Can Keep a Horse?

Cold Horse How to Tell

Horses are big creatures that need a lot of room to roam. Before you purchase a horse, you need to figure out where you’re going to keep it. You really only have two options for places to keep your horse:

  • boarding stables
  • family property

Make sure that wherever you keep your horse, it has access to quality grass and water. Horses are herd animals, so keeping them on a property where there are other horses around will help their mental health. Read on to learn in-depth about your options:

Boarding Stables

Boarding your horse is probably your only option for keeping a horse if you don’t own land personally. A boarding stable will keep your horse in the stable and the pasture, see to the basic daily needs of your horse, and allow you access to stable facilities all for a monthly fee.

keeping your horse at a boarding stable will most likely be your biggest expense; however, you won’t have to deal with the upkeep and expense that actually owning the property would instigate. Boarding stables can free up your time since the barn staff is responsible for daily basic care.

If you plan on keeping your horse at a boarding stable, click here to see my tips for choosing the right stable for you and your horse.

Family Property

Many people dream of being able to keep their horses on their own land. I grew up with my horses living on our family property, and it was always nice being able to walk out the door and see your horses.

If you plan on keeping your horse on your own land, you’ll be able to save a lot of money compared to keeping your horse at a boarding stable. However, you will have to cover all the expenses for the upkeep of the land as well as maintain the facilities.

Another thing to consider is that horses are herd animals; it isn’t good for any horse to be by themselves. If you want to keep your horse at home, at least provide them with a buddy to keep them company.

Lastly, you’ll want to make sure you have all the amenities in place so your horse can live comfortably. Having good fencing, adequate shelter, good grazing, and plenty of water access is a must for horses. If you don’t have these, you’ll need to get to work!

Do You Have Time to Take Care of a Horse?

Owning a horse is like owning any other animal; they need devoted time and attention from you. Before you take an animal’s life into your hands, it’s important to realize the care and time they will need from you.

Here is a list of some of the ways you will need to devote your time to your horse:

  • Daily needs
  • Riding/exercise
  • Vet & farrier scheduling
  • competitions & activities

 

I’ll be honest; when you work a full-time job or go to school, devoting time to go visit and care for your horse each day can be hard to do. I’ve been there and I’ve done it. You have to make sure that you are willing to give up some of your time in order to take care of the needs of your horse.

Daily Needs

The most a horse will demand of your time will be in their daily care. Horses need to be fed, watered, and turned in and out. Their stalls need to be cleaned, their water buckets need to be scrubbed, and they need to be checked over for good health.

If you pay for full-care or pasture board, the barn staff can take care of your horse’s daily needs; however, if you pay for self-care board, these needs will solely be your responsibility.

Riding/Exercising

Keeping your horse fit will take time dedicated to the horse’s training and health. A good workout for your horse can look like a 15-minute warm-up, about 30 minutes of focused training or exercise, and a 15-minute cool-down.

riding your horse can be good for your horse’s mental state: it gets them out of their pasture and gives them some new scenery to look at. It can also provide that regularly needed contact with your horse in order to keep your horse focused and respectful.

If you don’t have enough time to ride, groundwork can serve the same purpose. Here are 5 easy groundwork exercises to try with your horse.

Schedule Vet & Farrier Visits

When it comes to scheduling anything in life, scheduling for veterinarian and farrier visits can seem like a hassle. When you work 9-5, it always seems like you always have to pay for the after-business-hour visit!

Farrier and vet visits can range in length depending on the case. Luckily, farrier visits only happen every few weeks, and hopefully the vet less than that.

Competitions & Activities

One of the fun things about owning a horse is the competitions and activities you can now attend! These events usually happen over the weekends, so you may have to sacrifice your me-time in order to enjoy some horse-time.

Something I learned very quickly about horse events is even if you only plan on showing in one class, you’re going to end up being there all day. If competitions and other horse activities are something you look forward to, make sure you have your whole day blocked off, even if you only plan on going for one specific thing.

Alternative Options

If you’re short on extra time to dedicate to a horse, some options you can look into is full-care board and/or leasing your horse out to someone a few days a week. With the full-care boarding option, the barn staff will be responsible for your horse’s daily needs and may possibly even arrange vet and farrier visits for you.

Leasing your horse out a few days a week to another rider will give your horse the opportunity to be worked even if you’re not around. Not only that, but you’ll also get to bless someone with the chance to ride your horse!

Are You Done Growing?

If you’re a horse-crazy kid or a parent of a horse-crazy kid, something to take into consideration before purchasing a horse is whether or not the kid will fit on the horse is a few years. All too often, trustworthy ponies are sold only after a year of being purchased because their rider has outgrown them.

To help you understand how your size compares to a horse’s size, here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • What size horse do you need?
  • Will you be able to fit on the same horse 1 year from now?
  • Does your size match your riding level?

 

Take a moment to answer these questions; horses are meant to be partners for the long haul, so ensuring that you won’t outgrow one is important.

What Size Horse Do You Need?

When you’re still growing, it can be hard to determine what size horse will fit you best. Believe it or not, being “too big for a horse” is a real thing. A big factor that plays into getting the right-sized horse for you is the amount of weight the horse can carry and how your weight compares.

To learn more about how much weight horses can carry, click here.

Will You Be Able to Fit on the Same Horse 1 Year From Now?

If you’re a younger rider or the parent of a younger rider, one question to ask yourself is will I be able to fit on the same horse 1 year from now? Sadly, I’ve seen many children get a great pony only to outgrow the pony in the next year. The pony has to be sold since the young rider can no longer fit on it.

When you purchase a horse, you should purchase a horse with the intent to own it for a long time. Waiting until after you’re full-grown before you decide to buy a horse can save you a lot of heartbreak in the long run.

Does Your Size Match Your Riding Level?

Does your size match your riding level? What I mean by this is that many inexperienced riders are put on smaller horses because the smaller horse is easier to control for the new rider. If you go out and purchase a much bigger horse than you’re used to, the stride and strength of the new horse may be more than you can handle.

Likewise, when you are young and smaller, it may be more difficult to ride a bigger horse. Some bigger horses take more muscle and grit to ride; sometimes more than a smaller person can handle. As you grow in ability and in size, bigger horses won’t seem as daunting.

Alternative Options

One alternative option I recommend is to lease a horse until you are full-grown. That way, you don’t own the horse and won’t have to deal with the heartbreak and stress of trying to sell it when you outgrow it, yet the horse will very much be your responsibility.

What Are Your Future Plans and Is a Horse Part of Them?

I would hope that before anyone gets any animal or pet, they plan on keeping the animal for its lifetime. I know it doesn’t always work out that way, but at least that means the motive is right. Going from home to home, never being able to trust anyone, is no way any animal should live.

Taking time to regard your future plans and determining if a horse will be in the picture is important when trying to decide whether or not to buy a horse. Here are some questions to ask yourself in order to determine whether you should buy a horse or not.

  • How soon before you go to college?
  • Are you planning on moving any time soon?
  • Are you planning on competing in school sports? 

 

Life can change gradually and suddenly; what happens to your horse if your life switches lanes? Remember, once you own a horse, you have another life involved.

How Soon Before You Go to College?

If you’re a teenager, one question to ask yourself before you decide to purchase a horse is what will I do after I graduate high school? Unfortunately, I’ve seen graduation mark the end of many rider’s careers. They go off to college, get busy, and no longer have the time or the money for their horse.

However, I’ve also seen riders graduate, go to compete on college riding teams, become working students, or even start their own horse business. No matter what ends up happening, it’s important to look at your plan for once you graduate high school. If you only have a year left and then you plan on moving across the country for school, purchasing a horse is probably not the best idea.

If you’re passionate about horses and want to continue to increase in knowledge even after you graduate, having a horse will be a great start!

Planning On Moving Any Time Soon?

When I turned eighteen, I moved across the country. Saying goodbye to my horses was one of the hardest things I had to do, but fortunately, my mother is a horseperson and adopted them as her own. Not everyone has this luxury.

If you plan on moving within the next year, buying a horse may not be the best idea. You’ll either have to sell your horse when it’s time to move or you’ll have to arrange for it to be transported to the next place you’ll live.

As someone who has personally had to deal with this, I’ll tell you that having to organize transport for your horse on top of trying to get everything else situated for your move can be very stressful.

What I recommend doing is just waiting until you move to your new home and then get a horse. You won’t have to deal with heartbreak or transportation, and you won’t have all the underlying stresses of moving to deal with while looking for a horse.

Are You Going to Compete in School Sports?

If you’re a youngster who wants a horse but also wants to compete in school sports, I’ll just warn you that it’s hard to do both. Don’t get me wrong; it can be done, but what I usually see happen is that the horse ends up getting abandoned for the duration of the sports season.

If you plan on doing school sports but still want a horse, just make sure that your schedule can account for your horse responsibilities as well. Even if you have to give up more of your riding time, at least make sure that you are spending time with your horse and building your bond.

Here are some simple tips to help you bond with your horse during the sports season.

Alternative Options

When your current situation wouldn’t be ideal for owning a horse, I believe that taking riding lessons or leasing a horse can help fill the void of needing horses in your life. These avenues allow you to learn, ride, and become a better horse-person no matter what the future looks like.

If you’ve decided to buy a horse, congrats! Owning horses has been one of the most rewarding and fun experiences of my life. To help you with this giant step, I wrote this article: 50 Tips for New Horse Owners: Everything You Need to Know.



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