Purchasing a new horse is exciting! But if one thing is certain, there is a ton to know about taking care of, riding, and training a new horse. As someone that has lived around horses my entire life, I’ve thankfully been able to pick up a lot on the way. That said, here are my 50 best tips for new horse owners.
Horse Care Tips
Find a Veterinarian & Farrier
One of the first things you have to do when you purchase a new horse is to find a veterinarian and a farrier that you can trust to work on your animal. Veterinarians and farriers are both professionals that provide services to your horse as well as give you advice on how to take care of them. There have been many times where I’ve simply called my vet or my farrier to ask a question, and they willingly answered!
Once you line up a veterinarian and a farrier for your horse, you won’t have to scramble to find one when the need arises. These professionals take time to get to know you, your horse, and your horse’s conditions. Be wise and do your due diligence when looking for these professionals. You will want to find one that you can trust will have your animal’s best interests in mind.
Develop a Chore Routine
Owning a horse is a lot of work, so take the time to develop your chore routine. Horses need consistency when it comes to feeding and watering, so set a time of day where you’re dedicated to doing this task. Include in your chore list turning out your horse, mucking out stalls, cleaning water buckets, and cleaning tack.
It’s shown that routines can make us much more efficient than not having one. Having a routine will ensure the proper care for your horse and your supplies. It will also give you a designated time to work and to have fun!
Make Sure Your Horse Is Getting Enough to Eat and Drink
It’s important to make sure your horse is getting enough to eat and drink. Horses can eat up to 2% of their body weight a day on hay and grass and they need at least 5 gallons of water a day to stay healthy. Horses are big creatures so they demand a larger amount of substance.
Horses were meant to spend the majority of their time grazing. That means you need to provide them with the food they need to adhere to this, whether it’s by turning them out in the pasture or by putting hay in their stall. If a horse isn’t getting enough to eat, you’ll be able to see their ribs. The ideal weight for a horse is when you can’t see their ribs but you can feel them when you run your hand over your horse’s side.
Always make sure that your horse has access to enough water, whether they’re in a field or in a stall. Your horse may be dehydrated if they’re suffering from fatigue, have dry gums, or if their skin is tight instead of loose. To encourage your horse to drink more, you can put salt blocks in their living area for them to lick. The salt will cause them to drink more water.
Clean Out Stalls Daily
Cleaning out your horse’s stall daily will keep the environment clean and free from bacteria. Standing in manure all day can cause your horse to develop thrush in their feet. Thrush is a fungal infection that attacks the horse’s hooves.
Stalls should be cleaned out daily, to keep your horse’s environment clean. When you practice cleanliness, you decrease the risk of fungal and bacterial infections.
Let Your Horse Out of the Stall Daily for Exercise
Horses were made to roam and be mobile all day as they traversed between grazing areas and water sources. Today, humans have somewhat forgotten that this is how the horse was created. Now, some horses are stalled for large amounts of the day.
Being immobile can affect a horse’s health tremendously; it will deter circulation in the body, can cause stiffness in the muscles, and can be a contributing factor to arthritis. Horses need some form of mobility throughout the day to keep them healthy.
Whether this looks like turning your horse out in a pasture or taking time to lunge your animal, getting your horse to exercise will increase not only their physical state but their mental state as well. Always be mindful of this when stabling a horse and watch to see if your horse will require more exercise.
Here’s my article that covers more things that can upset your horse’s mental state.
Learn to Tell When Your Horse is too Hot or Cold
Sometimes, it can be difficult to tell if an animal is too hot or too cold because they can’t complain about it as humans can. Knowing the signs of a horse suffering from the effects of the temperature will allow you to act fast to correct the situation.
If a horse is too hot, they will be fatigued, sweating, and probably dehydrated. Give them an adequate water supply and make sure they have an escape from the sun, like a run-in or a grove of trees. You can hose them off with water or even make a mud pit for them. Covering themselves in mud helps horses to stay cool and acts as a sun repellent.
If you stable your horse during hot days, you can hang a box fan up in their stall to create a breeze. Just make sure that the stable is open and airy, allowing for air to circulate properly. I dive into more depth in telling if your horse is too hot here.
When your horse is cold, they may shiver, become lame, or huddle together with the other horses. If your horse is shivering, the first thing you can do is put a winter blanket on them to help them warm up. Make sure they have adequate shelter from the elements and that there is enough food to keep everyone happy. Eating helps to keep the horse’s body warm.
It’s important that you make sure your horse is getting enough to drink on cold days. Water buckets tend to freeze up so the horses can’t drink. This can cause dehydration or even colic. If you want to know more about how to tell when your horse is cold, click here.
Establish a Shot Schedule
Horses need certain vaccines annually in order to stay happy and healthy. One of the first things to do when you purchase a new horse is first, see when was the last time they received vaccines, and second, noting on your calendar when the horse will be due each year for the vaccinations.
The vaccines that horses need each year in the United States would be Rabies, Eastern Encephalitis, Western Encephalitis, Tetanus, West Nile, Influenza. Depending on where you are in the country or your horse’s conditions, there may be other vaccines that your horse should have. Ask your local vet to see what they recommend.
Have Your Horses’ Feet Done Regularly
Horses’ hooves are like fingernails; they’re always growing. Horses need their hooves trimmed regularly by a farrier in order to keep their weight properly distributed and balanced. Depending on the time of year usually depends on how often the horse will require it’s feet done.
During the Summer, you should schedule for the farrier to come out every 4-6 weeks. Horses stop at flies, are ridden much more, and experience more moisture, which makes their hooves not only grow faster but also wear more quickly.
In the Winter, you can usually schedule every 6-8 weeks because it’s dryer and your horse probably isn’t getting worked as much. Their hooves will wear more slowly this time of year. Here is my feet trim frequency guide if you would like further information.
Have Your Horses’ Teeth Floated Regularly
Horses grind their teeth side-to-side when they chew. This causes their teeth to wear and develop sharp points on the outside ridge of the teeth. These sharp ridges can create sores and ulcers in your horse’s mouth. In order to avoid this, the sharp edges will have to be filed down or “floated.”
Your vet should check your horse’s teeth on an annual basis to see if their teeth will need to be floated. Depending on your horse, the teeth may need to be floated twice a year or every few years.
Deworm Your Horse Regularly
Horses must be dewormed regularly as they are very susceptible to some internal parasites. There are many different beliefs and preferences to when and how many times a year you should deworm your horse; many horse owners say you should do it twice a year, in the Spring and in the Fall, while others argue that it only needs to be done once a year.
However, your vet can do a worm count test to determine how often you should be deworming your horse. Because I had my vet run these tests on my horse, I learned that he is a very low shedder, or in other words, he has built up an immunity to worms. That means he can go a long time without being dewormed.
Keep a Basic First Aid Kit
Just like any humans, every now and then your horse may need basic medical attention. Assembling a first aid kit to have on hand in these situations can be helpful. Some items to include would be a saline solution for cleaning and acting as an antiseptic, wound fly repellent, poultice to reduce swelling, a syringe, bandages, gauze, and leg wraps.
You can also include things like Bute, which is a powdery painkiller for horses, Vetericyn for eye problems (see the price here), and liniment for sore muscles.
Let Your Horse Have Time-Off
If you plan on putting your horse into a rigorous training session or even riding for a few hours a day, be aware that your horse will need days off to relax, recoup, and readjust. If your horse is going through strenuous training and not having any time off, this can increase the risk of soreness or serious injury.
The easiest way to guarantee your horse will have some days of rest is to make a riding schedule. Designate certain days for riding and certain days for more relaxing activities.
Horse Training Tips
Invest in Lessons
The pride of horse ownership may sometimes make you feel as if you don’t need lessons anymore. Now, you have your own horse and you can go ride when you want instead of being dependent on the availability of lesson ponies. This, however, should not mean that you give up lessons, especially if you have a new horse you’re working with.
Having an instructor that you can ask questions can help you tremendously when dealing with a new horse. Sometimes, it can be hard to get inside the head of an animal you’re unfamiliar with.
An instructor’s livelihood is built around dealing and understanding horses. They could give you some beneficial tips to help better you and your horse’s relationship. They can also help you address and correct any problems either you or your horse is having.
Make Horse Friends
Horse friends are great! Not only does a horse friend give you someone to share your passion with, but it also opens you up to new ways of learning how to do things. I’ve met many great horse people, and I love picking their brains about their training techniques.
Knowing a few different ways to approach a situation can be helpful when it comes to horses, as every horse responds differently to certain cues. Your horse friends can offer different outlooks and training methods that you can try. Let’s also not forget how much fun it is to have someone go on a ride with you rather than going by yourself!
Practice Groundwork Exercises
Groundwork is the foundation of horse training. It builds respect and strengthens your bond with your horse. It prepares your horse for what they may face in the saddle, and it allows you to introduce new training techniques. Groundwork is essential in learning how to control your horse.
If you’re interested in knowing some basic groundwork exercises, check out our article 5 Best Groundwork Exercises for Your Horse.
The wonderful thing I’ve learned about horses is the more I trust my horse, the more that they’re going to trust me. Building trust is essential to having a confident horse and rider. Groundwork is a great way to build that trust, along with introducing new opportunities and obstacles where your horse is going to look to you to be the leader.
Learn How your Horse Communicates
People always wish that horses could speak, but in a way, they can. They communicate with us through body language. Once you start to learn and recognize your horse’s mannerisms and how they react to certain things, you’ll be able to understand and “speak” with your horse more clearly.
You’ll be able to tell when your horse is nervous, scared, frustrated, excited, or having fun. When you can recognize these things, it will make training your horse easier and more natural.
Be Mindful of Your Mental State
We’ve all heard that horses reflect the emotions of the person working them. This is true; horses can not only tell your mental situation through your body language, but also through your voice, your heart rate, and your tension.
Learning to be mindful of your mental state will help you stay in control of not only your emotions but your horse’s emotions as well. There have been many times when I was getting frustrated with my horse, and I could tell he was getting frustrated with me. I would have to make a conscious decision to change my emotions and to calm down. When I would do this, my horse would calm down as well.
Horses can associate things with either a good or bad experience. If your mental state is always creating a stressful and nerve-wracking atmosphere for your horse, they are going to associate that feeling with you. That’s why it’s important to check your mental state and make sure your horse has a good time.
Be Confident and Assertive
Your horse is going to look to you as a leader; that means you have to be confident and assertive in what you ask of your horse. Horses can be intimidating creatures, and they’ll throw their weight around if they can get away with it.
By being confident in your knowledge and assertive in your direction, you will gain your horse’ respect. They’ll learn that they can’t get away with everything and they’ll start to respect you as the authority.
Bomb Proof Your Horse
Desensitizing your horse, also known as bomb-proofing, to scary objects, stressful situations, and inexperienced riders will make them a well-rounded ride. Bomb-proofing means to teach your horse to have a level head in the circumstances mentioned above.
Bomb-proofing your horse will improve you and your horse’s safety as well as make for a few exciting training sessions. Learning how to control your horse while they are spooking at something can be a great skill to master.
Keep Things Interesting for Your Horse
Horses can get bored when they follow the same routine every day. They’ll stop paying attention and start acting out. By changing up the training routine, you’ll offer something different for your horse to focus on. Your horse will also start looking to you for instruction and to see what’s going to happen next.
Review Basic Commands
Reviewing basic commands with your horse is always helpful. If you or your horse is getting frustrated trying to learn a new technique, try going back and reviewing the basics. Sometimes, remembering how simple commands should be carried out can help you understand much more complicated techniques.
If your horse is acting up or having a hard time focusing, go back to the basics. Getting them to focus on basic commands will help them focus when you try to do something a little more challenging.
Try Something New
Trying a new activity or discipline with your horse is always fun! Not only does it offer an escape from routine, but it also offers new skills to be developed and knowledge to be learned. Trying something new can also be part of your desensitizing method, adding new situations for your horse to respond in.
I grew up doing equitation and hunters, but when I became a teenager, I started foxhunting. The foxhunting environment was a completely different experience for my horses. My horses were used to steady paces around a riding ring and suddenly they had to gallop with fifty other horses across a field in near chaos.
Teaching the horses to be controllable and level-headed while foxhunting helped me to have more control in the show ring. It also helped to desensitize them to big crowds of horses, hounds, and a lot of activity.
Develop Your Training Technique
Take time to develop your training technique. What this means is establishing your method in how you are going to ask your horse how to do things. What do you want to see your horse do and what do you not want to see your horse do? What’s your future goal for you and your horse’s skills?
All these questions will help to shape your training technique. It’s important that you always strive to keep improving and never settle for the level of knowledge you’re at. Horses are incredible creatures and they can do extraordinary things; why not learn, study, and train as much as you can?
Horse Riding Tips
Wear the Right Clothes
Wearing the right clothing around horses isn’t just about looks; it’s also about safety and comfort. Having the right attire can make or break the time you spend with your horse.
The correct attire would include close-toed sturdy shoes to protect your feet, form-fitting pants to avoid chafing or getting caught in the saddle, a comfortable shirt, and an ASTM approved riding helmet to protect your skull. For some of my favorite riding clothes options, you can go here.
Maintain Your Tack
Make sure to maintain your horse’s tack to ensure both you and your horse’s safety. Some tack pieces can last a lifetime if maintained correctly, which can save you a lot of money in the long run.
Maintaining your tack looks like cleaning and oiling leather pieces, soaking and scrubbing metal pieces, and wiping down synthetic pieces. This will keep the tack free of dirt and mildew, which can cause tack to wear and weaken. This should be done on a regular basis to ensure top quality care.
Review Your Form Regularly
Your form can affect your cues, your balance, and how your horse responds. In order to give the correct cues and get the correct responses, your form must be correct.
The correct form for horseback riding is eyes up, heels down, and shoulders back. Your lower leg should be beneath your body, your shoulder and your heel creating a vertical line between both. Your hands should hold the reins with your thumb pointed upwards to give you better contact with the reins.
There are many more aspects that go into having a proper riding form. Having a riding instructor around to help you review and critique your form can help you to keep improving.
Get Plenty of Exercise
As much as horseback riding just looks like you’re sitting on top of an animal, anyone who’s ever done it knows that there’s much more to it. Horseback riding is hard work, and keeping control of a one-thousand-pound animal is even harder. You have to make sure you are in good shape in order to be involved with these animals.
Getting plenty of exercise outside of horseback riding can help you tremendously when it is time to get on your horse. Toning your muscles and increasing your strength will help your balance and allow you to have more control.
Never Stop Learning
The great thing about working with horses is that there is an infinite amount of what you can improve and what you can teach your horse. If you’ve worked with the same horse for a while and you’re starting to get bored, don’t blame the horse.
Your boredom is a result of you not willing to continue learning and improving. The horse just asks what you want them to do; if you’re not learning anything new, then you can’t ask them to do anything different. Keep growing, keep striving, keep your passion alive! Invest yourself in learning as much as you can about horses.
Watching professional riders is a great way to pick up how they do things. Professionals will often talk through the reasoning and the technicality of what they’re asking of the horse. This is a great way for you to gain more understanding of why horses are asked to do things certain ways.
Compete in a Competition
Competing is a great way to learn more about you and your horse’s relationship as well as to test your skills against the judges. Don’t use showtime to be hard on yourself or ashamed, rather look at it as a learning opportunity.
Each show will offer new and scary things for your horse to get acquainted with. It will produce good riders that you can watch and see how they do things. It will also give you time to see what you need to work on. At some shows, like a dressage competition, you get scores and comments from the judges. This is a way for you to recognize your strengths and weaknesses.
Set Clear Goals
Before each ride, understand what you want to accomplish in that time. This will help you to be intentional with your riding and what you ask of your horse. It will also help to better you and your horse’s skills just in the short amount of time you allot.
Having long-term goals is beneficial too. Your long-term goal will affect your entire training technique and what you should be focusing on with your horse. This will give you something to work towards and measure improvement with.
Improve Your Balance While Riding
Balance is a basic foundation of horseback riding, in both your and your horse. You will want to achieve balance in yourself, allowing you to feel confident and secure in the saddle. You will also want to achieve balance in your horse, allowing them to stay straight and supple.
Usually, when a rider is off-balance, they tend to be concentrated more on trying to keep their balance instead of where their horse is going or what the horse is doing. Not having to worry about your balance will help you to stay concentrated more on your ride and your cues.
Keep Your Eyes on Where You’re Going
Keep your eyes on where you’re going; even experienced riders forget about this sometimes. Keeping your eyes up will help you see where you’re going and any obstacles that may be in you and your horse’s way. It will also give your riding cues confidence as you push your horse forward and take a jump or ask your horse to slow and rock back as you head down a hill.
Improve Your Rhythm While Riding
Once you master balance, you’re going to want to master rhythm. Rhythm is feeling your horse’s gaits and anticipating the next beat. It’s about learning to control the rhythm of your horse and their movements, almost like dancing.
Top-level dressage riders have mastered the art of rhythm; you can see it in the way their horses. move. Improving your rhythm is a great goal to set for yourself as it allows you to have optimal control over your horse.
Learn How to Properly Use All Your Aids
Learning how to properly use all your aids is one of the steps to becoming a more experienced rider. Your aids should be given through the reins, your legs, and your seat, or the movement of your hips. When you learn to use all of these aids in conjunction with one another, you will find communicating with your horse to be much easier.
It can be easy to become self-critical and too focused on your riding. it’s important to remember why your ride horses in the first place. It gives you a sense of enjoyment and freedom that you can’t find anywhere else, so don’t let your own mentality restrict you! Take time to have fun with your horse and remind yourself that this is for your own enjoyment.
Horse Safety Tips
Be Mindful Whenever You’re in a Danger Zone
Horse are big and unpredictable creatures; that’s why it’s important to be aware of all safety tips that come with being around them. The first thing to be aware of is the more potentially dangerous areas that come with being around a horse.
Areas known as the “danger zone” relating to horses would be directly in front of them and directly behind them. Horses can’t see anything directly in front of them due to where their eyes are on their head. For this reason, it is considered dangerous to stand directly in front of them. Standing directly behind the horse will put you in a position to get kicked. It’s always better to stand beside the horse’s shoulder where you can easily control them and they know that you’re there.
Approach Your Horse Correctly
It’s important to know how to correctly approach a horse. Once again, if you approach them from behind or from directly in front of them, they could kick you or be startled and run into you. It’s best to always approach from the side, where they could clearly see you coming.
Try to Keep Surprises to a Minimum (But Be Ready to Handle Them)
Horses are flight creatures, which means that they’re ready to take off at a moment’s notice if they sense danger. Horses associate surprises with danger, so it’s important to avoid sudden surprises in order to keep everyone safe.
It’s inevitable that at some point you’ll deal with a spooked horse. Just remember to remain calm and get their mind thinking on something other than whatever is causing them to get worked up.
Keep Your Eyes Open for Warning Signs
Learning to read horses’ body language and understand what they’re trying to communicate will help to keep you safe. When you can recognize warning signs, like a horse pinning its ears back or a horse pawing the ground, then you will know that the horse is mad or annoyed. From here, you can determine the actions to either remove yourself from the situation or correct the horse’s attitude.
Don’t Wrap Anything Around Yourself That is Attached to the Horse
Horses are strong animals and can pull twice their weight, which means dragging you will not be a problem. to avoid this, do not wrap lead ropes or anything attached to your horse around any part of your body. In the event that the horse was to spook or take off, you wouldn’t be able to free yourself in time and you would get dragged. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, so always hold ropes or supplies instead of wrapping them.
Keep Your Clothing/Gear Updated and In Good Condition
In order to have a safe ride, be sure that your equipment is updated and in good condition. Inspect your tack for wears and frays, and always replace if necessary. If not, you could risk stirrup leathers snapping or girth buckles coming undone, all of which would probably end with you on the ground and your horse freaking out.
Ride With Friends Around
It’s important to always have someone around when you’re riding. If there’s an accident, they’ll be able to act quickly to get you help. This also means that you should never ride out alone on the trail. If you were to fall off, it may take someone hours to find you or even to realize that something had happened.
Likewise, even if you’re just going to brush your horse and relax, always have your phone on you. That way, if something happens, you’ll be able to notify the proper party.
Tie Off Your Horse Correctly
Tying your horse correctly will ensure both you and your horse’s safety. First, never tie your horse to a moveable object. If the horse were to pull back and the object was to drag, it can cause your horse to get spooked. Always tie to an immovable object that could deal with the stress of your horse pulling back.
Second, always tie your horse with a quick release knot. This is a type of knot that will allow you to pull the loose end to immediately free your horse if need be. To learn how to tie this knot, check out our youtube video here.
Avoid Placing to Much Weight on Your Horse
Horses can comfortably carry 20% of their body weight. That means your weight plus your tack’s weight should not exceed this limit. If your horse has to carry more weight than they can handle, the horse will become fatigued, develop sore muscles, and potentially develop joint problems.
Don’t Follow Too Closely
You may have noticed that some horses like to follow right behind others when you’re riding in a group. This can be potentially dangerous to you and the horse you’re on. The horse in front of you could kick out and get either you or your horse.
In order to stay a safe distance away, increase your following distance to two horse-lengths behind. That means two horses should be able to fit between you and the horse in front of you.
Don’t Sit Down Beside Your Horse
While it may be tempting to lay in the lush grass while your horse grazes beside you, this is considered dangerous. Your horse could spook and easily step on you. Instead, to be close to your horse, you can stand at their shoulder.
Ride An Experienced Horse if You’re a Green Rider
It’s important to evaluate your riding skills and the experience of a horse. If you sense that a horse may require a bit more of an experienced ride than you can offer, it’s best to not get on the horse. If you put a green horse with a green rider, the horse can easily take advantage of the rider. These circumstances do not usually end well.
Don’t Encourage Bad Habits
Horses learn by repetition. If you allow your horse to do something over and over again, whether good or bad, it will eventually turn into a habit. That means it’s important to recognize what could become a bad habit even before the habit has developed.
This would include your horse stopping to eat grass while you’re leading them, your horse running their shoulder or other parts of their body into you, and your horse continuing to walk after you’ve stopped while leading. These are just a few, but be sure to evaluate all the habits your horse is picking up and whether or not they’re good or bad.
Thank you for reading! Check out our article on 16 tips for owning a horse on a budget.