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10 Questions You Should Answer Before Getting That New Horse

By Dwain E. Zagrocki, D.V.M.
Updated: 2009-01-29 1:34 PM 2184 Views    Category: Care
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There are ten questions that all prospective horse owners should answer before ever contemplating owning a horse.

1. Do we have the facility and husbandry knowledge to own a horse?

2. What is the experience level of all the people who will be around the horse?

3. Do we have the financial capability to own a horse?

4. Should we have our new horse insured?

5. Are we going to have a veterinarian perform a pre-purchase exam on the

    horse we choose to buy?

6. Have we chosen a veterinarian for our new horse?

7. Has a Farrier been chosen?

8. Do we have a medical, and where applicable, a breeding history on the horse?

9. How long do we intend to own this horse?

10. Do we wish to have a horse that we can use for breeding?


Concerning the facility:   The “to be” owner must consider the pasture available (has it been improved); the type of fencing used (barbed wire is not a horse friendly fencing); the type of shelters on the property (will the horse be stabled in a barn?); the availability of fresh clean water (in northern areas protecting the water from freezing in the winter must be considered); and maybe a consideration of having the horse boarded.   Boarding may mean easier husbandry, but it also means an increase in costs.   Other boarding factors are, availability, quality and type of boarding (pasture, partial, or full).


A person thinking of horse ownership should have a basic understanding of equine husbandry.   This includes feeding and vaccination requirements such as parasite prevention, hoof care, and where applicable, G.I. (sand accumulation prevention).   A horse owner should also be aware of local ordinances that may influence where a horse can be stabled and the availability of riding and exercise areas.


Education and knowledge; a person considering a new horse must honestly evaluate not only their abilities, but also the equine experience of others who will be around this new member of the family.   We must not forget the horse's education and knowledge.   Is your new, one thousand pound friend educated and well mannered, or is he or she a “rebel without a cause”?


A prospective horse owner should review the costs associated with horse ownership.   These costs include, but are not limited to: feeding costs, housing (initial building costs, maintenance expenditures, and possible boarding costs), health expenses (veterinarian, Farrier, and possible equine dental and chiropractic expenses).   Training expenditures for both the horse and person(s) may also be applicable.


When considering insurance, a soon-to-be-owner may wish to consult his/her veterinarian and other horse owners.   Equine insurance comes in two basic forms, health insurance and mortality insurance.   Consideration to insure a horse is based on the value of the horse and the desire of an owner to pursue more advanced treatment if it is needed for an accident or illness.   Much can be learned about various policies and insurers by researching the topic on the Internet.  


Most horses that are undergoing transfer of ownership should have a veterinarian pre-purchase examination.   Note that some veterinarians may refuse to do them because of the potential liability.   The purpose of this exam should be discussed with your veterinarian before the purchase process is undertaken.   The specific exam itself can vary greatly from one veterinarian to another.   As for myself, I believe a pre-purchase exam is not a guarantee of health or performance.   It is a written opinion, based on a thorough examination, that the horse being sold is suitable for the intent of the buyer.


The choice of a veterinarian should be determined by their expertise, experience and their ability to communicate with you, his or her fees and the doctor's availability.


1. A horse intended for specific performance ability, i.e., hunter / jumper or dressage should have a doctor who has knowledge of how the demand for those skills affect the horse's health.  


2. Professional fees and how a veterinarian communicates with you can vary from one doctor to another.  


3. Availability is a very important factor that many people overlook in picking their family's pet physician.   A doctor who is too busy or unwilling to respond to medical needs in a timely fashion, regardless of what skills he or she possesses may be of little value to you and your horse especially in times of emergency.


A Farrier should be chosen based on the same criteria used to choose the veterinarian; expertise, experience, communication skills, fees and availability.


Medical, husbandry and when applicable, breeding histories are essential to obtain when purchasing a new horse.   The medical records should include names and possible addresses of past owners and more importantly the approximate lengths of ownership.   A horse that has been repetitively sold may have a medical condition that is not apparent.   Farrier and dental records should be obtainable.   Husbandry records should include feeding, parasite and sand control histories.  


The intended length of ownership is an important factor often overlooked by many soon-to-be-horse owners.   A horse can easily have a life span of twenty to thirty years.   A horse whose rider has gone off to college or is no longer able to be used for its intended purpose may become an expensive “lawn ornament.”   This is not bad in itself except that many times the animals placed in this position start to get treated more like the lawn chairs instead of loved members of the family.


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Reprinted with permission of Pet Planet Magazine at http://www.petplanetmagazine.com/
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