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Information About Horses For Potential Horse And Pony Owners

If you are a keen rider and enjoy every aspect of both riding and stable management, it may have crossed your mind that you would like to own a horse or pony of your own. Being lucky enough to own your own horse or pony is a significant privilege for the equine enthusiast, and something that many horse lovers and riders are never be able to achieve, no matter how experienced or competent they are as riders or how much they love horses and riding as a whole. Horses and ponies are, of course expensive; both to buy and to keep, and they also require a significant amount of time and attention to be dedicated to their care and wellbeing, as well as the time spent riding and enjoying the perks of ownership! If you have been taking riding lessons for some time, are reasonably competent and have plenty of on-the-ground experience of stable management, you may be ready to look into finding out if you are able to make both the time and monetary commitment required to be able to own your own horse or pony. This guide should be considered as an introduction to the basics of horse and pony buying. It will not offer up the kind of answers that the in-depth research you will also need to undertake will provide, nor will it give you a definitive yes or no answer to the question of whether or not you are ready and able to take on ownership of your own horse or pony. However, if you are simply looking to find out the basics of what is involved in buying and providing for a horse or pony and if the idea is worthy of further consideration, it is a good start! Read on to find out more about buying and providing for a horse or pony, plus the various elements that you will need to consider as part of the decision making process.

Are you ready to consider owning a horse or pony?

There is a lot to consider even at the initial stages of trying to ascertain if owning a horse or pony is the right decision for you, and this list is by no means exhaustive! However, you must consider all of the following factors before you begin to look into the individual elements of ownership in more detail, and be clear about how things would or would not work out for you.

  • Are you a competent rider, and capable of riding out alone and unsupervised safely, including riding on the roads?
  • Do you know enough about stable management and the day-to-day care that horses and ponies require to be able to make informed decisions about their care, and can you be sure that you have fully taken into account what is involved?
  • Do you have a support network of other knowledgeable riders, a riding instructor and other professionals able to help and advise you both before and after you buy?
  • Are you clear on your abilities and limitations, and able to reach a sensible decision on what type of horse or pony would suit you and how to narrow down the selection process?
  • Have you looked into where you would be able to keep your horse and pony, and ensured that you will be able to get to and from it easily on a regular basis?
  • Have you established what style of livery or stable management would suit you, and does this fit in with the types of horses and ponies that would suit your riding style?
  • Do you have a significant amount of time to dedicate to caring for and riding your horse or pony, both now and in the long term?
  • Are you potentially prepared to give up some of the other things that you enjoy doing, and prioritise the needs of your horse or pony ahead of other hobbies, holidays or other pursuits?
  • Are you ready to get out there and work in all weathers to take care of your horse or pony’s needs, regardless of rain, snow, ice or cold?
  • Do you have a significant amount of money available to be able to commit to buying and caring for your horse or pony, both now and in the future? Owning and caring for a horse or pony of any type costs several thousand pounds per year, and often significantly more. Can you afford this in the long term?
  • Have you assessed the impact that any future life changes may have on your ability to care for and provide for your horse or pony? What if you lost your job or changed jobs? Needed to move to another area? Expanded your family, met a new partner, or split up from your current partner?

All of this is just for starters... Buying a horse or pony is not an endeavour to be undertaken lightly! More help and advice on deciding if horse or pony ownership is right for you can be found here.

How much does it cost to buy and keep a horse or pony?

This question is right up there with “how long is a piece of string!” The purchase price of a riding horse or pony can go from under £1,000 at the very bottom of the scale, up to tens of thousands of pounds and even more. The best way to get a feel for the market in your area and an approximate guide to the amounts of money that horses and ponies of the type that you are considering can change hands for is to check out classifieds advertisements, and horses and ponies for sale, such as those offered by private sellers here on Pets4Homes. The cost of caring for and maintaining a horse or pony on a day-to-day basis can vary enormously depending on the needs of your particular animal, the area that you live in, and where and how they are kept. Because the variations are so significant, it would be disingenuous to try and give a guide price for the annual costs of horse or pony ownership, taking into account all of the different things you will need to provide and pay for. As a basic guide, you will need to price up and take into account the cost of providing for or buying all of the following factors:

  • Livery, stabling and grazing if you do not own your own land
  • Feeding, hay and supplements
  • Worming treatments
  • Vaccinations and standard health care, and routine veterinary checks and treatments
  • Shoeing and hoof care
  • Ad-hoc veterinary care for unexpected injuries and illnesses
  • Insurance
  • Tack and riding equipment and their repairs and maintenance
  • Stable yard essentials such as buckets, feed bins, head collars, security and other equipment
  • Providing and maintaining rugs during the winter, if needed
  • Bedding such as straw or wood shavings
  • The cost of getting to and from your horse or pony’s yard or stabling
  • The cost of your own riding clothes, gear and equipment
  • Out of pocket expenses for help and assistance if you are ill or unable to care for your horse or pony yourself
  • Riding lessons and expert assistance and advice if needed

What kind of time commitment is required to care for a horse or pony?

How much or how little time you will need to spend taking care of your horse or pony every day can vary greatly depending on whether you take care of all of your horse’s needs from start to finish yourself, or pay for part or full livery assistance to do the main bulk of the work for you. Part or full livery may be the best option for you if you work long hours or are not able to attend to your horse or pony yourself every day, but it can soon prove expensive! If you pay for assistance in feeding and mucking out your horse and pony on a full or part livery basis, nevertheless, in order to keep your mount well schooled and fit enough to ride, you will need to ensure that you have enough time to ride several times a week. You will also need to ensure that you can spend enough time bonding with your horse or pony. Even if you just plan to have a short ride a few times a week when it suits you, each ride normally takes a couple of hours to prepare for and execute at a bare minimum. This is quite different from turning up for riding lessons at a riding school or other professional establishment and finding that your mount has been caught, stabled, groomed, saddled and ready to go, and that any last minute help that you can offer is a bonus! If you also do all of the additional stable management work for your horse or pony yourself, this can easily take up several hours of your time every day, and often requires two or more trips to the yard, every single day, come rain or come shine. Mucking out, feeding, turning up in the morning to change rugs, turn out and sort out the stable, as well as returning in the evening to bring your mount in, feed them and bed them down can soon prove very time consuming. One of the most common pitfalls that first time horse and pony owners fall into is underestimating the time involved in just caring for their horse or pony on a daily basis, regardless of how ordered or efficient things may seem in theory!

What do horses and ponies eat?

The diet that any horse or pony requires will depend on their breed, how they are cared for, what you do with them, and their activity levels. During the summer months, grass grazing may form a significant part of the diet of many horses and ponies, although this rarely provides sufficient nutrition for a riding animal on its own, other than for occasionally ridden and very hardy native breeds. In the winter, you will almost certainly need to feed hay supplementally, and the winter hay bill can often cost several hundred pounds alone! Also, the vast majority of horses and ponies require regular meals of higher energy foods such as sugar beet, oats, bran, coarse mix, pony nuts, mollichaff and much more, all of which is fed in varying combinations that are uniquely tailored to the needs of the horse or pony in question.


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Health and wellness

Despite their large size, horses and ponies are rather delicate creatures, and require a significant amount of attention to be paid to their health and wellness. Vaccinations, regular health checks, worming treatments, dental check ups and treatment, and attention to the hooves is required on a regular basis, and it is important to spend a significant amount of time developing a thorough understanding of the normal health and conformation of the healthy horse or pony and how to spot any problems. A more in-depth examination of common conditions that can affect horses and ponies can be found here, and information specific to the hooves and legs can be found here and here. Veterinary treatment for horses and ponies is expensive, not least because vets change a significant callout fee to visit large animals away from the facilities of their surgery. You can often help to cut the cost of routine treatments by clubbing together with other horse owners to arrange group visits for vaccinations, dental procedures and regular essentials, but you must also make provision for any unexpected injuries or illnesses, and be able to provide financially for suddenly required visits from the vet. For the vast majority of horse and pony owners, insurance is a vital part of ownership and protecting their investment, and can help to meet the costs of potentially expensive treatments. More information on horse insurance and its benefits and limitations can be found here and here.

Where to buy a horse or pony

Ridden horses and ponies are generally offered for sale by private sellers, and unlike most other pets and companion animals, it is relatively common to buy and own a horse or pony for a few years before selling them on as the rider’s interests and standard of riding expertise change and develop. This is especially true in the case with children’s riding ponies, as of course they will outgrow their mounts over time, both in terms of size and ability. Nevertheless, many riders will seek to buy and own their horse or pony for life, retiring it or loaning it out to another rider as it ages or is outgrown in terms of size and ability. There are a great many potential places to look for advertisements for horses and ponies for sale, and these are just a few of them:

  • Local livery yards and riding schools
  • Tack shops and other equestrian related businesses that may take advertisements
  • Classified adverts in magazines such as Your Horse or Horse and Hound
  • Competitions, shows and country events
  • Pony Club and local riding club newsletters
  • Word of mouth advertising
  • Online adverts such as the equestrian section here on Pets4Homes

How to buy a horse or pony

The process of choosing and buying a horse or pony is one that can take a significant amount of time, and is certainly not something that you should rush into. Read more about why finding the perfect horse or pony takes time, and some mistakes to avoid when buying a horse or pony. Once you have viewed and ridden some horses and ponies for sale, and are certain that you have found the perfect mount, how you then come to negotiate the sale is a personal matter between you and the seller. Do not rush into anything, and always consider making an offer on the advertised price, as horses and ponies offered for sale are almost always priced with some room for negotiation built in. Before committing to buy and making the sale, you will almost certainly want to have the horse or pony vetted prior to purchase, and a lot of guidance on what this procedure entails and how to navigate the buying process after you have decided you wish to buy any particular horse or pony can be found here. Buying a horse or pony is not a minor undertaking, and vetting can help you to avoid making a costly mistake. It is also important to ensure that you are covered formally in law, and you may wish to have a contract of sale drawn up by a solicitor, with the negotiation and agreement of both the seller and yourself, to ensure that both of you are protected during the process of the sale and after the event. As well as a formal contract of sale, ensure that you receive receipts for all payments made to the seller, and that the receipts clearly outline what any given payment covers.

How to transport your new horse or pony home and settle them in

Once you are in the process of making your purchase, you will need to establish how you will transport your new horse or pony home and get them settled in.

  • If you are buying a horse or pony locally, you may find that you can ride them home, but otherwise you will need to find a lorry or trailer to transport them, plus someone to drive it.
  • You may be able to borrow or hire a trailer from another horse owner you know, or find that the seller is able to transport your new horse or pony for you. If you do go down this road, make sure that the journey is insured, and find out what will happen if something goes wrong en route.
  • If the seller does offer to transport your horse or pony to you, try to be there to see the animal loaded if possible, so that you can establish if there are any problems with loading or transporting the horse or pony that may affect your decision to buy, or how you can transport them in future.
  • For the first time buyer, it is wise to have an experienced driver manning the lorry or the vehicle towing the trailer, even if you are technically legally able to do so and own a suitable vehicle. Driving while towing a trailer or managing a lorry with livestock on board is not for the faint hearted, and you will probably find it preferable to avoid doing so for the first time with your new purchase on board!
  • Ensure that you have all of the equipment you will need to transport your horse or pony safely and comfortably, including boots or bandages, a poll protector and ample padding. You may find that the seller can provide this, and that you can negotiate an additional sale of their tack, travelling equipment and other gear as part of your purchase.
  • Ensure that you have your stable and equipment ready and set up for your new horse or pony once they arrive at your yard. Even if your new horse or pony will spend most of their time out at grass, stabling them for their first couple of days is recommended in order to settle them in and check them over.
  • After unloading your new horse or pony, secure them in their new stable, remove their travelling gear and check them over thoroughly to ensure that they have not acquired any bumps or injuries while in transit.
  • When your new horse or pony is calm and cool and has settled down, offer hay and water.
  • Ensure that you keep to the animal’s usual feeding routine, feeding them at the times that they are used to and not making any changes to their feed during their first few days with you.
  • Do not ride your new horse or pony during their first couple of days with you; allow them time to settle in gradually before commencing ridden exercise.
  • Remember that if your horse or pony will be turned out to grass with other animals, there will probably be a few spats and disagreements between the new addition and the established herd while they all get used to each other. Try to ensure that your horse or pony is the first one turned out into the grazing area the first time they go out, and that they get used to the terrain before the established herd is introduced, and watch carefully for any signs of bullying or serious fighting.

Alternatives to ownership

If you find that the cost and commitment involved in horse or pony ownership is just outside of your reach at the present time, there are a couple of alternatives that you might wish to consider. Horses and ponies are sometimes offered on temporary or permanent loan to competent riders, or you may find that a ride share agreement or shared ownership deal offers a good interim stage between riding and ownership, or as an alternative to committing to a purchase.


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