Top tips for the First time horse owner

So you have decided to bring a horse into your life, this is likely to be the best decision you have ever made! Horses bring joy and happiness beyond compare, but they are high maintenance animals.

 

Congratulations on the most amazing, time consuming and expensive purchase you will ever make! But they truly are the best investment in terms of time and emotion you will ever make. My horses are my reason for getting up in the morning, and the reason I go to work, so I can afford to provide everything my four legged best friends could ever wish for. However it’s not just the initial cost of buying your new forever friend that you need to budget for, there are lots of additional on-going costs that you need to factor in before bringing your new best friend home. Let’s consider the main economic factors:

 

Livery costs – we are not all lucky enough to be able to keep our horses at home with us, so most of us will have to consider keeping our horse at a livery yard, which of course costs. You need to consider what you need to keep your new horse, is he a hardy type who will live out all year round, or will he need a stable so he can come in at night? Do you want facilities at this yard so that you can school your horse in an arena, over show jumps or over a cross country course?

The more a yard has to offer, the higher the livery cost will be. Livery can be offered from DIY (do it yourself) where all you pay for is your stable and grazing, and you are responsible for looking after all aspects of your horses care; Part livery includes some aspects of care, for example the yard staff may feed and turn your horse out of a morning; to Full livery which includes all care of your horse, and often exercising too. Some livery packages will include hay, feed and straw costs, others will not, it is unique to the yard you wish to go to. Prices can range from £25 per week for DIY to £200+ for Full livery.

Once you have found the yard you think you would like to keep your horse at, go have a look around, talk to the staff and the other owners and make sure you are happy with the company and set up. You will be spending a large amount of time here so you need to feel happy and comfortable.

Bedding – In addition to some livery packages you may have to provide your own bedding materials. A wide range of bedding materials are available, from the traditional straw, to wood shavings, wood pellets, paper shredding and cardboard. Straw is the cheapest available bedding material, at approximately £3-£5 a bale; straw is a drainage bedding and takes longer to muck out, so although cheaper in the first instance, you may end up buying more in the long term. Shavings, wood pellets and paper are a newer bedding type, and more expensive with prices ranging from £7-£11 a bale; however they significantly reduce mucking out time and absorb higher amounts of liquid, so the amount you throw away each muck out is reduced making them potentially cheaper in the long run. Some horses have specific bedding requirements, i.e., they may cough on straw so need shavings, or they may be prone to eating their bedding so would be better suited to a wood pellet.

 

Feed – Before you bring your new horse home with you, ask the current owner to write down exactly what they are currently being fed, including weights of hard feed and hay nets. Changing your new horse’s diet or increasing it quickly can cause Colic so be aware. It takes approximately 2 weeks for a horse to adjust it’s gut flora to a new diet, and therefore any changes should be introduced gradually over this time scale whilst being mixed into the previous diet. Most horses in light work will do well on good quality hay, and a small amount of concentrate feed. The amount of concentrate feed needed will depend on your horse’s size, temperament and work load. Most of the large feed companies have excellent nutrition advice lines though which you can talk to a specialist equine advisor who will be able to advise you of the correct diet for your horse. Hay is the most important component in the horse’s diet and prices range from £3.50 to £6.50+ across the country, the amount needed by your horse will depend on the individual, but the average hay cost per month could be approximately £50+. Concentrate feed prices varying depending on the food type, but a 20kg bag of Horse and Pony nuts will be approximately £8, a 500kg horse will likely go through a bag of these every week to ten days.

 

Saddlery – When purchasing your first horse, you may find that their tack and ‘wardrobe’ of rugs and bandages are included with the sale. If they are this is super as it saves you some initial pennies. If your new horse is coming with his tack, it is advisable to get a saddler out to check the fit of the saddle and make any alterations required prior to riding to ensure a comfortable fit and prevent future problems. However if your new horse is coming with just the fur on his back, you will need to think about kitting him out with a whole wardrobe. This will include saddle and bridle if you plan to ride, turnout and stable rugs, saddle cloths, bandages, exercise boots, buckets, hay nets, feed bowls, there is lots to consider! You can spend as much or as little as you like on these items, but remember that a slightly more expensive item is likely to be of higher quality and last you longer before needing replacing.

 

Hoof Care – Horses should have their feet checked by a qualified farrier every 6-8 weeks depending on the rate of hoof growth, some may need their feet seeing to more often than this, it all depends on the individual. Some hardier type horses and ponies with strong feet may be able to go bare foot, and will only need their feet trimming by the farrier. This is likely to cost anything between £20 and £40. Most horses in work will need a full set of shoes, some may be able to do with a front set only and bare foot behind. A full set of shoes is likely to set you back anything between £50 and £80. Remember the old saying though, ‘no foot, no horse’ and it couldn’t be more true. Your horse’s feet are one of the most important factors in his or her overall health, poor attention to your horse’s foot health will result in lameness and pain for your new horse.

 

Veterinary Treatment – It is likely that one day your new pride and joy will require a visit from a vet. The basics you need to consider are keeping your horse’s yearly vaccinations and dental treatments up to date in order to protect them from potential illness. Vaccinations are essential for the up keep of your horses health. Horses are routinely vaccinated against Equine Influenza (Flu) and Tetanus, Equine Influenza requires a booster vaccination at yearly intervals, and Tetanus is boosted every two years. Your vet will sign your horse’s passport when they administer the vaccinations and make a record of what your horse was given, most vets will offer a yearly dental check up which can be done at the same time as the vaccinations and will keep an eye on your horse’s dental health. Your horse will also need to be routinely wormed (or egg counted) in order to prevent against intestinal problems. If you contact your new vet when you have brought your new horse home, they will be able to provide you with a worming program to follow.

 

In addition to the routine and preventative veterinary treatment your horse will need, you need to be prepared for your horse needing more complex veterinary treatment, i.e for a colic or a lameness investigations. It is advisable to take out insurance to protect yourself against these unforeseeable circumstances. Equine insurance policies are available for all aspects of your new horse, from veterinary fees, tack and saddlery cover, personal accident cover for yourself, and potentially trailer cover if you have one.

 

So there it is, there is a lot more to it than just purchasing your new horse, but believe you me it will be best decision you have ever made, and will be worth every penny!!