Tis the season, and Christmas ponies are on the top of every kids Christmas list. Everyone is trying to find a deal, and craigslist sure has great prices on some horses. I've made up a quick list for things every horse owner (or potential owner) should know and ask before buying a horse or pony.
1. HORSES ARE EXPENSIVE, yes, even miniature horses. Horses require water, which requires buckets ($10-$30) and hay ($7-$13 per bale) every day. Larger horses, and horses in work, may require grain ($15 per bag) or additional supplements as well. Every 4-6 weeks, horses need their feet trimmed ($30), and twice a year horses need their shots($30-$75). They also get their teeth filed once a year ($75-$125), wormed every 6-8 weeks($7-$20), and have a coggins test pulled ($35).
2. JUST BECAUSE THE AD SAYS "KID SAFE" or there is a small child sitting on a horse in a field, does NOT mean the horse is, in fact safe, or even broke for that matter. It is your best bet to hire a trainer or other qualified, experienced horse person to join you when looking for a horse. Some qualities a true kids horse will possess are good ground manners (ties to anything, no dancing around, absolutely no kick or bite), a quiet personality (no spooking, snorting, or bug eyes about anything). A good kids horse is usually older, sometimes into their 20's, and has been there, done that. Yes, that two year old is sooooo cute. NO, it is not the right choice for your child. Always ALWAYS see the horse being ridden before you even think of purchasing it for your child.
3. PROPER ATTIRE SHOULD ALWAYS BE WORN WHEN DEALING WITH HORSES. This includes boots with a 1 - 1 1/2" heel, long pants, and an approved riding helmet. Bicycle helmets are not proper headgear for horseback riding. You can find approved helmets for under $50.00 at your local tack shop. I also highly recommend that you purchase your helmet at a tack store, not the internet, so you can be sure the helmet fits. An ill fitting helmet can be just as dangerous, if not more so, than no helmet.
4. HORSES ARE HERD ANIMALS. If you plan to keep your new horse at home, among other things such as proper fencing, and shelter, horses don't like being alone. If you can not afford or maintain two horses, some horses get along just fine with goats.
5. THIS IS A BIG COMMITMENT. Horses aren't goldfish. You should involve yourself (or your child) in riding or horsemanship lessons before even thinking of buying a horse to determine if it really is the right thing for you. There
are over a hundred lesson barns in the Austin area, and surrounding townships, as well as many that advertise on Craigslist. A quick Google search will start you off in the right direction. Some things to consider when looking for a
1. Just because someone says they have experience, or are a professional, does not mean they are. A professional is over the age of 18, and makes a living training horses and/or teaching lessons. Unfortunately, just because someone is technically a Pro, doesn't mean they know anything at all about horses, so use some common sense, and research some things on your own first.
2. Is this person insured? Insurance policies are not outrageously expensive, and in the even of an accident, you know you or your child will be covered.
3. What are the facilities like? The riding area/arena should be fenced in with wood, or pipe fencing. Wire fencing of any type is not suitable arena fencing. Is the riding area free of clutter an rubble? Is the area rocky? These are all signs of not-so-good riding (or falling!) conditions.
4. How do the horses look? Are they all in good weight, with happy expressions on their faces? Are their feet well shaped, or are they cracked and chipping?
5. What are the trainers goals for you, and how do they compare to your goals?
6. Is tack provided, or will you need your own? Tack is not cheap, and you do get what you pay for.
7. Are there other students you can talk to?
8. In most cases, you get what you pay for. Sure the $20.00 lessons might sound appealing to your wallet, but there are reasons other trainers charge $50.00 or even $100 per lesson. The main reason being experience. You are paying for a service, would you rather learn $20.00 worth of knowledge in an hour, or $60.00 worth of knowledge in an hour? The higher cost trainers also typically have insurance, which is reflected in the cost of the lesson.
Just some food for thought.
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