Have you made the decision to look for a new addition to your horse herd? Or perhaps you are a first-timer with a life-long love of horses but no experience in horse care or purchasing a horse. Whatever level of horse experience you bring to the table, it is important to have a checklist of what you need to know and to look for before you buy a horse! Here are some tips to help ensure that that this critical decision ends in a long-term positive partnership.
Horse Handling Skills
It is my personal opinion that making sure you have basic horse handling skills is one of the most important things next to understanding what the basic health care needs of a horse are. And this is simply due to the fact that your safety depends on it! You could literally die by unknowingly putting yourself into a dangerous situation. Your actions and reactions matter when it comes to dealing with a 1000+ pound animal that can trample you, kick you in the head or throw you and/or drag you to your death. If you are new to horses, I cannot stress enough the importance of taking some basic horse handling clinics with a reputable equine professional.
I speak from first-hand experience on this and acquiring a couple of horses that were WAY beyond my family's skill levels at the time, we were completely unprepared for the problems that we encountered. Granted, it forced me to find my now mentor Christi Rains, of which I am eternally grateful, but it was not the ideal way of going about getting the horsemanship skills needed.
My personal favorite is the program offered by Parelli Natural Horsemanship which begins by teaching its students basic safety skills and horse communication and behavioral studies. Parelli has numerous licensed instructors throughout the country that hold regular clinics for people of all horsemanship skill levels.
Basic Horse Care Knowledge
Understanding and being able to meet your horse's basic dietary and health care needs are critical to your horse's health. Different horses will have different dietary needs depending on age, current health status and pre-existing health issues, environment, sex and level of exercise. Once you've narrowed down your search, talk to your veterinarian about recommendations for your equine candidates based on their individual situation.
Some things you need to ask about:
- Dietary recommendations
- Dental care
- Vaccination recommendations
- Sex-specific care (i.e. sheath cleaning for geldings, broodmare care, etc.)
- Special enclosures, fencing, shelter
- Access to water
- Hoof care
- Pre-existing health concerns
Critically Evaluating Physical Attributes On The Horse
Understand how to critically evaluate a horse by looking for physical attributes that may indicate current or potential problems for the horse. By taking this extra step, you can rule some horses out as candidates before you go to the expense of having a lameness exam done. There are also a lot of things that are currently problematic and will not show on a lameness exam as a problem, but may predispose a horse for a problem. Making note of these and making sure to cover them with your veterinarian can save you a lot of heartache down the road. I can't even count the times someone has told me that the horse the purchased passed the lameness exam and then a few months or a year later came up with problems that might have been brewing at the time of purchase.
Make sure you grab my free report "3 Steps To Evaluating Your Horse For Potential Problems" which gives you information on what kinds of things to be on the lookout for.
Goals And Expectations vs. Physical And Emotional Abilities
Have a clear picture in your mind of what you are looking for in a potential equine partner. What kinds of activities do you want to participate in? Do you have competitive or professional aspirations, or are you just looking for a horse to have go on relaxing trail rides with? Are you a novice or experienced rider? If you are interested in doing competitive trail riding with your new horse, you don't want to choose a 20-year-old schooling horse that has never been out of the arena and may have physical limitations. Make sure that your performance expectations meet the horse's physical and emotional ability to perform at that level.
The mental and emotional maturity or innate personality of the horse should also be taken into account. If you are the kind of person that likes to take it really easy, don't have a lot of energy, then you will want to make sure and choose a horse that compliments that. A very high-energy, explosive type horse would probably not be a good choice for you even if it met the physical requirements of the job you have in mind. Some horses are ill-equipped to handle the emotional stresses of competition, while others may need more stimulating activities to keep them out of trouble.
Proper Vetting And Lameness Exam
When you've decided on a serious potential candidate always, without exception, have a lameness exam and thorough lookover done by a qualified veterinarian. Even though the horse may look at a glance to be fine, your vet can usually identify areas of concern that are not obvious to the untrained eye. Make sure to take the checklist created from the previous steps with you to cover with the veterinarian. Also, make sure that the veterinarian is someone that you choose to eliminate any possible conflict of interest.
Now that you are armed with some important things to be on the lookout for, you will be in a better position to make a more definitive and informed decision. Having horses in your life can be one of the more rewarding things in life…or your worst nightmare when things don't work out. Going into the process with your eyes wide open can help ensure you and your new horse ride off into many beautiful sunsets together! Happy hunting!
Lisa Carter is a Certified Equine Massage Therapist (CEMT), with multiple certifications from several different equine bodywork schools. She incorporates her knowledge and experience with Parelli Natural Horsemanship, equine bodywork, using essential oils for animals and as a veterinary technician to provide her clients with the resources they need to make informed decisions for their horses. She encourages and facilitates network building between equine health care professionals, working together to find the best combination of therapies to meet the needs of the "whole horse".
Are you ready to get better results with your horse? Put your equine health care team to work so you and your horse can be doing what you were meant to. Click here to get started!
The information in this article is not meant to diagnose, treat or cure any disease or illness, nor is it meant to replace proper veterinary care. It is intended for information purposes only. Always consult your chosen veterinary professional before starting your horse on any therapy.