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February 29, 2012

New Rider Advise

by Melissa

Are you interested in learning to ride? Great! You’re about to embark on a wonderful new adventure. However, I want to issue one word of wisdom. Do not even think about buying a horse right away. All too often, people think they need to own a horse to learn to ride, but you’re much better off putting your money into the learning process and spending it on the horse when you are good and ready. Also note that the cost of horse ownership is considerably more then one will ever expect. You need to factor the cost of a farrier, vet bills, board, feed, emergency expenses and potentially a trailer if you want to be mobile.


All too often, people buy a horse without knowing anything about horses. They buy a saddle (which may or may not fit), hop on and think that they will be able to ride off into the sunset. When they fall off, they begin to believe that they got a lemon of a horse, and take little responsibility for their own actions.


My advice is to take at least 1 year of lessons. Before buying a horse, your minimum skill set should include Walk, trot, canter, back, riding alone, and catching a horse alone. You need to be comfortable picking up the feet of a resistant horse, as well as bridling. I would try out several disciplines because different personality types and body types excel at different disciplines. Lease several different horses for a few months at a time. Ride alone. Learn what you like and dislike about each horse. You may even be able to lease/purchase a horse, but if not make sure you take a more experienced person with you when you look at the horse. If you find something you like, be sure to have a vet look him over. Sick horses can be very expensive. The vet will not “pass” or “fail” a horse. That decision is still up to you, but he will tell you if the horse has any type of debilitating disease or problem that you as an inexperienced person would not know to look for.


I suggest boarding at a public boarding facility as you transition into horse ownership. This means that you will have help along the way and people to ask if you have any kind of trouble. If you plan on taking your horse home, only do so once you are comfortable with the horses’ basic needs and make sue you keep a knowledgable horse person’s number on speed dial.


When it comes to calling the vet, always err on the side of caution. If my horse stops eating, I will always call the vet right away. Horses can’t throw up and when they experience intense abdominal pain will begin to kick at themselves. They can kick hard enough to break open their GI track and spill out the contents, leading rapidly to sepsis and death. They call this colic… and it’s nothing to mess with. The other thing I always watch are eye problems. Be sure you treat any problem asap, because prey animals can become very skittish if eyesight is lost.


Good luck on your new equestrian endeavor. Be smart about your decisions, learn everything you can, and have fun!

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