Horse Care Hints & Tips
Thinking of getting a horse or pony?
In this Section:
+ Purchasing a horse or pony
Buying a horse or pony is a big decision and there are many factors that need to be considered before making your purchase. Horses need looking after 365 days of the year so it's crucial to make sure that you dedicate sufficient time to caring for the horse.
Basic activities such as feeding, mucking out and grooming will need to be done on a daily basis, as well as the more enjoyable part of riding and exercising your horse. It is advisable to have a good look at your existing commitments realistically and set aside enough hours in the day to look after a horse.
Research how much it will cost you to keep the horse, look at costs of food and bedding. As a rough guide basic monthly maintenance costs are likely to be around £300 for an average horse.
Also worth considering what you will be using the horse for, the facilities that you have available, your experience with horses and also any unforeseen costs such as veterinary bills, tack and saddlery.
Before purchasing your horse it's crucial to consider if you have enough time, money and experience to dedicate to looking after it.
+ Pre purchase veterinary examination
It is advisable to have a veterinary examination carried out on the horse you are planning to purchase to highlight any health issues the horse may have. The results of veterinary examination will be documented on an official document called a Veterinary Certificate and the purchaser can elect to have either a 2 Stage or a 5 Stage Veterinary Examination carried out. The Examination is carried out by a qualified Equine Veterinary Surgeon following guidelines laid down by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) and the British Veterinary Association (BVA).
The pre-purchase examination provides an assessment of the horse at the time of examination to help the potential purchaser make an informed decision whether or not to continue with their purchase. It is, however, not a guarantee of a horse's suitability for the intended purpose.
The stages of the 5 Stage Vetting are as follows*:
Stage 1 - Preliminary Examination
This is a thorough external examination of the animal at rest using visual observation, palpation and manipulation to detect clinically apparent signs of injury, disease or physical abnormality.
Stage 2 - Trot Up
The animal is walked and then trotted in hand to detect abnormalities of gait and action. Ideally this is carried out on firm, level ground. The horse is turned sharply each way and is backed for a few paces. Flexion tests of all four limbs and trotting in a circle on a firm surface may be carried out if the examining veterinary surgeon considers it safe and appropriate to do so.
Stage 3 - Strenuous Exercise
The horse is usually ridden and given sufficient exercise to:
- Allow assessment of the horse when it has an increased breathing effort and an increased heart rate.
- Allow assessment of the horse's gait at walk, trot, canter and, if appropriate, gallop.
- Allow assessment of the horse for the purpose of stage five.
If ridden exercise is not possible for any reason then this stage may be conducted by exercising the horse on a lunge, but this fact should be made clear to the purchaser and on the certificate.
Stage 4 - Period of Rest and Re-Examination
The horse is allowed to stand quietly for a period. During this time the respiratory and cardiovascular systems may be monitored as they return to their resting levels.
Stage 5 - Second Trot Up
The animal is trotted in hand again to look for any signs of strains or injuries made evident by the exercise and rest stages.
Identification of the horse
The horse should be identified by recording the horse's markings in the form of a diagram and written description as well as searching for a microchip and inspecting any available documentation. The diagram may be omitted if the presence of a microchip can be confirmed by scanner and the diagram of an accompanying passport matches the horse. In this instance, both microchip and passport numbers should be recorded on the certificate.
Variations from the standard examination
Whilst there is a recognised format for the examination, the examining veterinary surgeon may vary it where there are good practical or clinical reasons. In circumstances where it is not possible or appropriate to complete all the stages, or where the standard five-stage examination is limited to stages one and two at the specific request of the purchaser, the variations from the standard procedure should be made clear to the purchaser and on the certificate.
This examination can uncover any existing health problems and may also identify any potential problems that may occur in the future. The vetting is carried out by an equine vet who will provide a professional opinion on the horse and advise whether it is worthwhile to continue with the purchase.
This examination is a valuable tool to help you in the purchase of your horse; it is not cheap but could save you money in the future. This examination may also have to be conducted for insurance purposes; some insurance companies will not insure a horse unless this examination has been completed.
*Source: BEVA/RCVS Guidance Notes on the Examination of a Horse on Behalf of a Prospective Purchaser (amended 2011)
+ Own, Loan or Share?
Purchasing a horse is a big decision and there are other options if you are unsure whether you can cope with the money obligations that go with the initial purchase.
If the initial cost of purchasing a horse is too much strain on your finances, you can opt for loaning a horse instead, this way you can still enjoy caring for the animal and riding but at a lesser expense. Loaning requires the same time commitment for mucking out, grooming and exercising the horse and you will also need to budget for equine care in your monthly/weekly spend. Many owners put their horse out on a loan to a potential buyer, which is an easy way for both the horse and the new owner to adjust to the situation and should the partnership not work out, there are no ties.
With regards to the purchase, The British Horse Society suggests that both parties should consider the responsibilities and give strong thought to the arrangement prior to signing the agreement. It should not be entered into lightly.
There is also the option of sharing a horse with its owner; this would involve the sharing of all daily responsibilities and costs. This will give you an indication of the commitment involved in looking after the horse and a chance to gain valuable experience. The daily tasks involved in looking after the horse are shared out equally and an agreement can be drawn up to decide who will look after and ride the horse and when.
+ Type and ability
Choosing the right horse for you will depend on the requirements that you are looking for; no two horses are the same and finding the perfect horse means finding the one that is best suited to your own personal requirements.
The rider should consider their own ability when choosing a horse, it is essential that you choose a suitable horse for your riding level. If a horse is chosen which is beyond the owners capabilities than this can lead to the owner losing confidence and being unable to ride the horse.
Depending on what you will be using the horse for, such as riding or competition, then it will depend upon the type of horse that you are looking for. If you will mainly be leisure riding and hacking out at weekends then a different type and temperament of horse will be required to one that will compete in competitions which will need to be more disciplined and suited to that activity.
New riders or riders that are looking to improve their riding skills should consider purchasing an older and more experienced horse. The horse is likely to be a safer and more reliable option for the novice rider, as long as it has been properly schooled, and will be more suitable to help a learner rider to improve in all equestrian activities.
+ Viewing and trying a horse?
Before you go and view any horse prepare a list of questions that you would like to ask the seller regarding the horse, this can help you determine how suitable the horse is and whether it will meet your needs.
When going to view the horse it is advisable to take along an experienced person with you, they can provide a second opinion and may also spot any problems overlooked by yourself.
Initially view the horse within the stable, this will allow you to assess the horse's aptitude, temperament and attitude. If you like the look of the horse then observe the handling of the horse firstly by the owner and then ask to handle the horse yourself. It is important for you to handle the horse and to carry out some routine tasks such as grooming and feeding, before undertaking a ridden trial. During the ridden trial don't be too confident, just get a feel for what the horse is like and ensure that they understand all the basics. If you are feeling comfortable then do a bit more but do not go too far!
Discuss the horse with the seller and determine the history, experience, health issues and any bad habits the horse may have. If you think the horse is suitable then ask to visit again and ride a few more times before making the final decision.