So you got a horse for Christmas… now what? Part 2


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Yesterday, we talked about what to do immediately if you found yourself suddenly and unexpectedly bestowed with the title of Horse Owner this holiday season.

At this point, your horse should be safe and secure and you can begin worrying about his future.

If there is one thing more daunting than being plunged suddenly into a big, new venture, it must be being plunged into a big, new venture alone.

Fear not!

We’re going to put an end to that right now.

As a new horse owner, there are three main people that you are going to want on your side. A riding instructor, a veterinarian, and a farrier (You may have heard farriers referred to as blacksmiths. This is the person who trims your horse’s hooves).

These folks will have the health and safety of your and, in the case of your instructor, yourself or your family in their hands, so choose carefully.

Also: Please be honest! Please. I beg you.

These are professionals. They will not look down on you for a lack of knowledge. Don’t pretend to know more than you do. Ask every question that pops into your head.

Your Veterinarian

A veterinarian will be needed for obvious reason. Routine care will include vaccinations, worming (which you can learn to do yourself, but you’ll want to rely on a vet for until you’re more experienced), dental exams, etc.

If you plan to keep your horse at a boarding stable or transport him to lessons, plan on getting a Coggins test performed as well. It’s a legal requirement.

The easiest place to find an equine veterinarian is through the American Association of Equine Practitioners. Don’t wait until an emergency to find your vet. You’ll need her advice to make sure that an emergency doesn’t happen. You also want to be certain that the vet you pick out is even interested in taking on new clients.

Do not be afraid to go to your vet and say. “Hey, I know nothing. What do I need to do to keep my horse healthy and safe?”

Your Riding Instructor

Even if you are very experienced with horses, you’ll probably want to consider taking lessons from time to time.

If you are beginner, regular instruction is pretty much mandatory.

Finding an instructor will be a little trickier. While there are certification programs for instructors, they have not yet become a requirement and there are still more uncertified instructors out there than certified ones and lack of certification doesn’t inherently imply a lack of knowledge or skill.

Your best bet here will be to check local advertising and ask around. If you have horsey friends, ask who they recommend. Stop by local horse facilities that allow visitors and see if they have an instructor on staff or know where you can find one. Canvas the local newspaper classifieds and bulletin boards at feed and tack stores. (Tack refers to the equipment we use on horses such as saddles, bridles, etc.)

Most instructors will happily allow you to come out and watch them teach. Do you like their teaching style? Do the students seem happy and relaxed? Do the horses look healthy and well cared for? Is the equipment well maintained?

A responsible instructor will require that all riders wear proper attire and safety gear such as helmets and boots. If you see students riding without helmets, especially if the riders are under 18, run for your life.

Personally, I make riders of all ages wear ASTM approved helmets.

Riding is dangerous and there’s no sense pretending that it isn’t. Also, expect to sign a waiver.

A great number of riding instructors are horse trainers as well, so your instructor should be able to evaluate your horse for you and make sure that his temperament and level of training are suitable for you or your child.

Just be wary if she says “This horse is totally unsuitable, but I’ll be happy to sell you one that is.”

Maybe true, maybe not.

Get a second opinion from someone who isn’t selling a horse that they think would be just perfect for you.

Your Farrier

Your horse will need his hooves trimmed and/or his shoes reset every six to eight weeks. A good farrier is hard to find and many aren’t willing to take on a client with only one horse, so start searching sooner rather than later.

If there is a flakier bunch of people out there than farriers, I don’t know who they are… and I used to hang out with theatre majors in college!

Consider yourself warned. Now, moving on…

The best way to find a farrier is definitely word of mouth. Ask other local horse people who they use.

You may be able to find one advertised locally, and you might find one through the American Farrier’s Association but, like riding instructors, farriers don’t have a governing body with mandatory membership.

This stinks, but I have to say it. Many horse people looooove rumors. I hate that about the horse world. I wish I could lie to you about it, but it’s not in my character. Just always take word of mouth recommendations and criticisms with a grain of salt and do your own research.

“I heard that so and so farrier did a bad shoeing job on my friend Tom’s cousin’s, husband’s, best friend from high school’s, brother’s horse” is not reliable information. Ok?

Happy Hunting!

Be sure to catch Part 3 of this series.

If you know of a newbie horse lover who could use these tips, please feel free to share this article with them!