Choosing the best horse for your family can be a very exciting time, but it comes with some caveats. For many families, horses are nothing new. You’ve either ridden a horse yourself as a child and want to create that same romantic experience for your child, or you’re new to horses altogether and want to start a new hobby for yourself or with your family.
In any case, it’s important to understand that horses are big, beautiful creatures that require a lot of time, care, and maintenance. When small children are involved in decision-making, it is important to realize that young, inexperienced horses do not mesh well with children. They can be wild, hard to tame, and it could become a dangerous situation if not handled properly.
Below is a useful list of tips and things to consider when selecting your family’s first horse and taking on the awesome responsibility of horse ownership.
Caring for Your Horse
Horses need care 365 days a year. This is a big commitment that must be considered before making such a purchase. If you’re planning a vacation or days away, you need to be sure that you have someone checking on your horse to ensure he has adequate food and water. Home visits are one great way to keep horses while enjoying occasional time away.
Besides, some horses can live 25-30 years or longer with proper care. That means, if you buy a horse today when your children are 10 years old, you could be caring for this horse until your children are grown and moved away with lives of their own. That shouldn’t sway your decision but should be mentioned because they are considered lifelong pets.
Equine Housing Options
Housing is also an important part of raising a horse. Horses need well-ventilated structures that provide enough shade and protection from the elements, without confining them. Corral shelters or run-in sheds are two types of shelters that are versatile, relatively easy to construct and provide enough shelter and protection from wind, rain, and sun. If having a shelter on your property is not an option, there are many stables that provide housing (known as long-term boarding) for your horse, but these come at a cost. Do your research first so you know upfront what type of costs will be associated with keeping your horse.
Best Horse Breed for Your Lifestyle
With over 350 breeds of ponies and horses out there, it is important to understand which type, along with which breed, will be best for your family. Horses are categorized as Light Horses, Heavy Horses, Ponies, and Feral Horses. Younger riders usually fall into the “Light Horses” category as they are smaller and can be handled more easily by new riders.
Heavy horses would be your Clydesdales, Belgians, Percherons, Shires, and Suffolks. They are wonderful horses for pulling but are not the best choice for young riders. Their maintenance can be costly as well with shoeing them, feeding them, and buying any special equipment that they may need.
Choose the Right Size Horse for Your Family
A horse is often measured in “hands.” One hand is equivalent to four inches. If you have small children that are eager to learn how to ride, it is important to select a horse small enough for them to learn. Typically, 14-14.5 hands is a good size for beginners. In speaking with an experienced horse trainer, his advice was simple: If you’re a new rider, a small Quarter Horse will be your best bet.
Understand Your Riding Goals
If you are looking to compete in high-level equine competitions, you should choose a horse that is younger with many years of strong riding ahead of it. Choose a horse that makes sense for the type of riding your family will do. If occasional trail riding and laps around the field are what you’re looking for, a versatile horse breed like a Morgan or quarter horse will be your best bet.
Select a horse that matches your needs now. If trail riding is what you’re looking for, find a horse that has tons of experience trail riding. If you’re looking for a fast horse for racing or competition, the same applies. This will ensure you don’t get frustrated and you match up your desires with a horse that makes sense.
Buying Your Horse
It is very important to go with an experienced rider when you make your first big purchase. Never rely upon finding a reputable seller online, an auction, or sight unseen. There are many reputable horse sellers out there, but you have to be “in the know” when purchasing your horse.
Oftentimes, buyers will work with other families that do not have the time to ride or are looking to purchase another horse. Age isn’t as important as experience. “This isn’t my first rodeo” couldn’t be more accurate. Just because a horse is older, doesn’t mean he is more experienced. He could be a “pasture puff” that has spent his days grazing in the field but has little to no riding experience.
Steer clear of horses that are “green” or need “finishing.” It will end up being a headache for both you and the horse. It is also prudent to go and see the horse that you’re interested in, try the horse out, and have the owner ride the horse in front of you so you can gauge its temperament.
Consider Horse Rescues
Another option is adopting an Off the Track Thoroughbred (OTTB). These horses have retired from racing and need loving families to adopt them and live out their glorious golden years with. Sometimes these horses have been abused or have extensive medical issues after years of racing, so it’s important to work closely with an OTTB rescue, such as Hidden Acres Rescue for Thoroughbreds (HART), when making your purchasing decision. HART is a 501c3 rescue located in Cocoa, Florida not far from Port St. John. It provides endless opportunities to volunteer and ensure rescuing one of these gentle giants is a great fit for you and your family.
Ask questions about the horses’ personality. Does the horse bite, get skittish, do well with other animals, or have any other quirks you should be aware of? It’s also very important to have a veterinarian check over your horse before you take him home. You want to be sure that there are no pre-existing health concerns that you should be aware of before you take on this new role as a horse owner.
As you can see, there are so many things to consider when buying a horse for your family. This is just a small list of things to think about. There is a ton of research online, but oftentimes speaking with horse trainers and horse owners might be your best option.
We can’t wait to meet you and your equine family members! Providing trusted care is our honor and we consider it a great privilege to the Space Coast pet community.
Melanie is the owner and founder of Brevard’s premier trusted in-home pet care company. With a Sociology & Criminal Justice degree from the University of Tennessee, she took her corporate security background and combined it with her lifelong passion for animals – that’s how Space Coast Pet Services was born in 2016! She is certified in Pet First Aid & CPR, insured, and proudly completed a full background check successfully. She is committed to ongoing training and education for herself and her team. To learn more, click here.
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