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Horse Ownership and Care
Horse Ownership Costs
Taking Care of Horses
The most important function of horse ownership is taking proper care of your horse or horses. While each equestrian wants to improve their own horsemanship, the proper care of the horses is job one. Horses are entirely dependent on their owners and can only perform well while being kept in a favorable environment and receiving the appropriate diet, vaccinations, and hoof care.
Changing environmental conditions such as increasing temperatures, draught, flooding, fires, rising coastal waters, extreme hurricanes and tornados, will present unique challenges to horse owners.
Securing Your Horse
Horse theft is always a danger, especially when horses are in unlocked pastures. Keeping your horses secure might involve locks on gates and frequent visits to assure all is well. Many owners of expensive horses lock the barns and even the stalls but then fire presents another danger when horses cannot escape. Barn fires are another form of danger to horses and thousands of horses perish every year in barn infernos.
We are seeing more frequent and more severe natural disasters such as wild fires, draught, flooding, hurricanes, and tornados, all of which threaten our own well being and that of our horses. While not every natural disaster is foreseeable, there is planning that can be done to protect ourselves and our animals. For example, having an evacuation plan to move our animals out of harms way. This may include access to a horse trailer and determining a safe place to temporarily house your animals.
It also means planning on feed, hay, and water for humans and animals whether staying at home or traveling. The more you plan ahead the more likely you will be able to care for your animals during and after a disaster.
Fire, structural damage, and even rodent infestation can pose obvious threats to horse owners and their horses. Structures have to be maintained in sound condition to assure the safety of the horses and their caretakers.
Barn fires strike an unseemly amount of horse barns every year and many times horses die a painful death because few precautions were taken. Basic to any barn should be fire alarms and fire extinguishers. It would also seem wise to have sprinkler systems in barns housing expensive horses. Smoking should never be permitted and electrical work examined on a yearly basis.
Emergency Horse Care Funds
One of the most important issues during any emergency is access to money. The best practice is to have some cash on hand and credit cards to use for gas, boarding, horse feed, food, and lodging. Funds should be set aside for this purpose and at least one credit card should be kept without a balance.
Horses are more likely to be injured during emergencies since they may be subject to harsh conditions plus the risks involved in transporting them on crowded roads.
Having enough funds to deal with emergencies and injuries is part of the cost of horse ownership. If you can't provide for your horses' well being during an emergency then it is time to rethink horse ownership.
Horse Periodic Maintenance
Horse ownership brings with it many responsibilities and not a small amount of expense. Horses need to be fed, watered, mucked, and sheltered which entails at least twice a day chores.
Horses hooves must be attended to every six weeks or so and this chore is usually performed by a farrier, but alternatively can be done by a trained person.
Horses must get shots four times a year as prevention against equine diseases and rabies. To ignore these vaccinations is to place your horses at risk. While some horse owners prefer to give these shots themselves, many arrange with an equine veterinarian for a regular schedule of shots.
Horses also require grooming in the form of brushing, washing, clipping, and trimming manes and tails.
Challenges of Horse Ownership
Horse ownership presents two challenges to the owner. First is the performance of tasks associated with keeping a healthy horse, and second is the expense involved. The chores take time and physical stamina or someone else must be paid to perform the chores. Not performing the chores of horse ownership is not an option. Thus, horse owners must be constantly evaluating their financial and physical ability required to own a horse.
The Horse Owner's Well Being
Horse ownership usually involves some sacrifices in terms of time and money. However, the horse owner's obligation is to themselves in terms of maintaining their own health and reasonable financial stability. Using all resources to support horses is not a lasting life style or in the best interest of the horse or owner.
When its Time to Give up Your Horses
When a horse owner can no longer take care of a horse for whatever reason, it is the obligation of the horse owner to seek other arrangements for the good of the horse. Personal emotions must be put aside and the horse's well being put first.
Since rehoming a horse takes time in terms of a sale or otherwise, the decision should be made as soon as the horse owner sees problems with continued horse ownership. We see too many horses end up in poor condition from lack of proper care and become rescues or put downs that didn't need to be.
Legal Considerations to Horse Ownership
When you purchase or lease a horse, you should always have a bill of sale or a written lease agreement spelling out the terms of the horse lease. There are many problems that can arise without written documentaton.
Purchase of a Horse
When you buy a horse always get a bill of sale from the seller that indicates the purchase price, a copy of any claimed registrations, and any warrantee period that you might have negotiated. Prior to the actual purchase you will want a veterinarian to give the horse a pre purchase exam to assure the horse is sound.
Terms of a horse lease will include the monthly lease payment, the term of the lease, and expenses are covered by you, the lessee, and what is covered by the owner. Those would include farrier, routine vet visits, and grooming. Also, who is going to pay if extra veterinarian care is required due to illness or injury. Leased horses may be confined to the owner's property or allowed to be housed elsewhere, depending on the terms of the lease.
Providing for Your Horse in Your Will
Since most horse owners cherish their horses, it makes sense to have a plan in the event of the owner's serious illness or death. What do you want done with your horses if you are not around to care for them anymore? Making a special provision in your will that describes how you want your horses treated after you're gone makes a lot of sense. It is not fair to your horses to leave them without survivors knowing your wishes.
Horse Trust Fund
Some horse owners take their will a step further and establish a trust fund to provide for care and feeding of their horses when they are gone. The trust establishes the rules for disbursements of funds and the type of care to be given to the relevant horses.
Many people like to keep their horses on their own property, and thus have all the chores everyday. While most horse owners perform these chores themselves, many also have help in some form. Its also a good idea to have someone who can back you up in times of emergencies or vacation.
Along with backyard horse comes the cost of hay, feed, and pest control, not to mention the tools of the trade such as water buckets, feed storage containers, and muck forks.
A popular alternative to keeping horses on your property, is boarding the horses at a boarding barn. This entails finding a suitable barn and budgeting for the boarding expense. Horse stables offer different levels of service that can help the busy horse owner such as full and partial board. You will want to check the reputation of any barn before making a decision. Some barns specialize in certain horse disciplines like dressage or horse jumping.
Testing Horse Ownership
One way to get started as a horse person is to lease a horse. Depending on the terms of the lease, you will have a fixed cost every month and not have the stress of dealing with unforeseen emergencies regarding the horses health. You also do not have to come up with the purchase price. If you don't like the horse or want to move on, you can terminate the lease without having to deal with finding a new home for the horse.
Alternatives to Horse Ownership
If you love horses, but feel you can't afford the time and money involved, there are several ways you can be around horses, including riding horses for someone else. Many of the top competitive riders ride horses owned by someone else.
There are plenty of volunteer opportunities at horse rescue and horse therapy organizations that will help you learn what you need to know about horses. And you can commit only the amount of time you can afford.
Working with Horses
Many horse lovers choose careers that will keep them in contact with horses even if they don't own a horse. Since the skill levels of equestrian jobs vary from unskilled workers up to Equine Veterinarians, there are horse jobs for everyone. Many people work as grooms and exercise riders in the horse racing business. Others become specialists such as farriers, veterinarian assistants, or barn managers. Some are professional riders who compete on the show circuit or race track riding other people's horses.