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If you're thinking about buying or leasing your first horse, we'd like to help you learn all youNikki_heaven need to know so that your horse is healthy and happy. In fact, we think ALL horse owners, no matter how experienced, should have a commitment to a continuing equine education program! There's always something new to discover about these delicate, fascinating animals -- and there are a zillion ways that horses can be abused by people who don't know any better. We encourage folks to learn what you need to know BEFORE you buy the horse because, frankly, we know way too many sad stories of horses that suffered or died as a result of their owners' ignorance.

It all has to come together:

financial resources

dedicated time to devote to riding and horse care

 a lifestyle that allows you to be there when your horse needs you

enough horsekeeping knowledge to keep your expensive investment alive

So we've developed a set of guidelines for prospective owners that helps you determine if you're ready for the big commitment.

And if you know you're not ready yet -- but hope to own a horse someday -- why not start NOW to learn all you need to know? Here's how:


hoof cleaning lessonWe teach horsekeeping lessons that give you practical hands-on experience. Our self-paced Horsekeeping Levels cover basic knowledge (health and vet care, feeding and nutrition, hoof care, etc.) through pre-vet and equine business information. We encourage parents to learn along with their children so that everyone in the family knows what to do -- and what NOT to do! -- with their horse. Please note that we strongly recommend that you complete Blue Level Horsekeeping or above before buying your first horse.


working studentsOur unique Working Student Program is designed for both current and potential horse owners who want to learn more about horse care. We teach working students our own high standards of stable management, and provide opportunities for individual instruction in Horsekeeping Levels. It's available to children and adults aged 8+, it's free, and it works!

The Internship Program may be taken as an intensive summer experience or as an extension of the Working Student program.Internships are educational opportunities to learn equine business skills as you progress through the Horsekeeping Levels.


There's a lot of good information out there to help you learn about horsekeeping.  The books and magazines on our Cool Stuff page are references we consider essential for thinking horsey people.


Are You Ready?

Guidelines for Potential Horse Owners

-- or, How to Make Your Horse Happy by Avoiding Common Tragic Mistakes!


This is the most important test of your readiness, because if all else fails you can pay someone else to take care of the horse -- but you're not likely to find someone else to pay his expenses for you!

Like most things in life, horse care expenses should be carefully budgeted. Ask us for a sample horsekeeping budget that includes stabling, feed, hay, deworming, vaccinations and routine veterinary and farrier care.

Don't forget to include the cost of buying tack and equipment for your new horse. We also have a worksheet you can use to budget all your horsey stuff.

In addition to routine expenses, you should plan for the unexpected -- we recommend an additional savings fund of at least $500 per horse to cover emergency vet expenses. Alternatively, you can insure your horse for mortality and/or medical emergency expenses.

Make sure you plan for the costs involved in continuing your equine education: riding lessons, clinics, subscriptions, books, shows, and camps.

If you don't own a truck and horse trailer, you'll need to add these costs to your financial plan: you'll have to 1) buy a rig and add its routine maintenance to your budget; 2) hire a local hauler and pay per mile; or 3) borrow trailering from horsey friends -- in which case you'll need to share those transportation costs. Even if you don't plan to trail ride or show, you MUST plan for trailering in emergency situations.

Be prepared for fluctuations in the costs of feed and hay that depend upon local weather and gasoline prices. In 2008-2009 we watched grain and hay prices increase by 50% or more due to drought followed by monsoons.

Parents should involve their children in the budgeting process and in tracking horse expenses -- we want EVERYONE to understand the realities of horse ownership.


Do you have the time? Horse's can't take care of themselves, and they rely upon us to be there every single day. For most of us this means making sure that we're there at the same time every morning and evening for feeding -- or that we share the feeding chores with someone reliable and knowledgeable. Even if we share feeding and stall cleaning duties, horses need to be groomed and exercised AT LEAST three days per week. You need dedicated time to spend with your horse -- when it's cold, raining, snowing, or blistering hot; on holidays; when you're ill or just don't have the energy. The good news is that spending lots of time at the barn will pay dividends in your relationship with your horse.

It's also important that you can make the commitment to being there when your horse is ill or injured. Sometimes this can mean going to the barn at all hours for medical treatments. Make sure you have a backup plan for those situations where you absolutely cannot tend to your horse.

Also make sure that your nearest and dearest understand the amount of time you need to spend with your horse. It helps when the horsey lifestyle includes your family and friends.


Please, we beg of you, don't run out and buy the first horse you see -- or worse, take the first free horse you're offered! There's nothing more distressing than finding out that the horse you own is not the right horse for you.

Finding the right horse is a matter of determining what kind of riding you want to do. Different breeds of horses are bred to do different things: a dressage horse is different from a barrel horse or a jumper or a Western pleasure horse. Make sure you take the time (and enough lessons) to be certain of the riding discipline you intend to follow. You then need to look for a horse with the right age and conformation (a body suited for that activity), the right training and a temperament that is suited to that style of riding.

It's also important that you and the horse have complementary personalities and levels of training. If you are inexperienced, you should look for an older horse that is beginner-friendly, well-trained and easy to maintain. We like the Pony Club rule that states that the age of the horse plus the age of the rider should equal 20 or more -- the younger the rider, the older should be the appropriate horse.

It is customary to enlist local experts in your search for the perfect horse. Involving your trainer from the beginning can save you time and money as you narrow the options down to suitable horses. Not only does your trainer have valuable experience judging horses -- she also knows YOU, your personality and your abilities. Some trainers charge their clients a fee for this service, but it's money well spent!

When you find a suitable horse, it's time to get your vet's expert opinion. Paying for a pre-purchase exam can save you all kinds of money and heartache later.