Responsibilities of horse ownership
Owning a horse is a huge responsibility and a long-term commitment. And it’s not a cheap one. Be prepared to devote time each day to feeding, grooming and cleaning. And while purchasing your horse is expensive, there are also a lot of ongoing costs you must budget for.
Just the basic necessities for your horse will include a bridle, saddle,saddle blanket, grooming equipment, feed bin, water container, rugs, quality riding boots, safety helmets, gloves and a first aid kit.
Horses should be cared for in accordance with Code of Practice for the Welfare of Horses (Revision 1).
And feeding your horse is not just a matter of putting them into a paddock and letting them graze for themselves. You must ensure your horse has ready access to food and fresh water. As herbivores, horses require a steady intake of food (plant materials) across the day. They normally consume 1.5-2% of their body weight in dry feed each day and graze for 12-22 hours. You have to work out how much feed they need (body score condition and weight), and how much they have access to – and make sure they have the right balance to maintain a healthy weight.
Horses are sociable animals by nature, so keep this in mind when deciding where they will be housed. You must provide them with accommodation that neither harms nor causes undue strain, and provides adequate protection. And, they must have room to move – to stand, stretch and lie down.
Will your horse will be kept in a paddock or stabled? Paddock horses may need some supplementary feed when grass becomes eaten down, and stable horses will be fed continuously on procured feed.
The paddock should be a minimum of 1 acre, have some natural shelter, good grass cover and adequate drainage. It should also be:
- Properly fenced (not barbed wire) and free from all rubbish and debris, especially old wire and iron.
- Close enough to home to permit daily visits.
- Kept free of droppings to discourage flies and aid worm control.
- Suitable for catching and working the horse.
We recommend you provide your horse with a safe area to retreat from the elements, which could include trees, a paddock shelter or stables. Old horses in particular need special care and in winter should have a warm waterproof rug in addition to other protection from the elements.
Your horse must have regular exercise and grooming. Whilst grooming your horse keep an eye out for any signs of injury, disease or lice. You’ll need to ensure your horse is regularly visited by a farrier (every 6-8 weeks), has dental checkups, regular worming treatments and vaccinations against diseases such as strangles and tetanus. Check the cost of these professional visits and make sure you can afford them as they can get costly.
Choosing a horse
Buy your horse from a reputable source. Beware of purchasing a horse from anyone who cannot provide a satisfactory history of the animal. And, ensure you’re a good match! Make it clear to the seller exactly what you intend to use the horse for.
Find out all about their age, background and vices (e.g. buck, kick, bite, and bolt). If it’s your first horse, make sure it has a quiet temperament. Examine the horse and have an experienced friend ride it for you and then ride it yourself. If it feels right ask for a one-week trial, then ride and handle the horse daily. Have your own veterinary surgeon check the horse for fitness and suitability prior to purchase.
Have a good understanding of the requirements and problems associated with owning a horse. It may be helpful to discuss all these issues with friends and acquaintances who have owned horses for some time. We strongly recommend for first time horse buyers to join the local Pony Club where you can receive expert tuition on riding and advice on horse care.
If your horse needs to be thethered for health or safety reasons, it needs to be done in accordance with the Code of Practice for the Tethering of Animals available from Agriculture Victoria.
Keep in mind that a microchip could help reunite you with your beloved horse should there be an emergency. A specialist equine vet can administer the microchipping procedure on your horse.