As a boarder, how did you learn enough to bring your horses home?
I have been a boarder/horse owner for almost 4 years now. I read a lot, read this forum A LOT and tend to be very hands on with my horses.
My dream is to own a farmette and do it my way and not have to constantly wish the boarding conditions were better. I feel that I KNOW the ways to make it better.
For those of you who graduated from boarding to having them at home, did you feel confident enough to handle emergencies/illnesses/injuries without the presence of a BO or fellow boarders? Did this aspect of the transition make you nervous? If so, what did you do to improve your confidence?
I was fortunate that my foray into bringing horses home went easily simply due to the fact that I had 2 very easy keepers to start with. I'd actually had horses here for over 7 years before I ever had my first 'emergency' vet call.
We've had our place 11 years now, and so far, I've only made one really stupid, dangerous mistake. Dumb luck and a very sturdy, sensible horse kept it from being a total disaster. It was posted here on COTH, and the troops came through to make me feel better.
If you're very hands on, have good friends to talk to and reassure you, and read up on horse care, training, and also some good books on managing a small horse property, you'll be fine. Make sure you have suppliers for hay and bedding lined up, as well as a good vet, farrier, and dentist that you have confidence in and you'll be no worse than the rest of us who've jumped in with both feet!
They're fragile creatures, but they're no more fragile in your back yard than they are in the boarding facility.
I'd had horses for 20 years before I finally got horse property of my own. I saw my horses every day when I boarded them, always held them for the farrier, made my own vet appointments and was there when the vet came, always made sure I knew what my horses ate and how much.
I knew how to muck a stall, how to put on a twitch, how to wrap a leg and how to give oral meds and IM injections. At the barn where I boarded virtually no one did those things for their own horses. Sometime I'm sure my BO thought I was a pain, but I told her my goal was to have them home, so I needed to know these things.
Learning about hay was a challenge! What kind to feed, how much, how to tell the quality, how to talk to hay dealers, how to manage your hay. That was hard for me at first.
I had a great support system, too, from years of working with my vets and farrier. It made me a lot more confident knowing that they would bend over backward to help me if I was in trouble because I'd been a good client, for years.
I've had my three geldings home for three years with no problems, knock wood.
But the first few nights I got up in the middle of the night to go out and make sure everyone was okay. It was a little stressful, which surprised me because I felt pretty confident.
I have to fess up that I was a true backyard type and knew very little when I was young and had the horse at home. I did have friends and a membership in a local horseman's association and got the farrier and the vet through them. Bought feed at two local feed stores. Read the books that were available at the time. I too was very lucky and had no serious health problems in any of the horses under my care. The most serious issue was a friend whose horse bowed a tendon.
When I got back to reriding I intentionally hung around and volunteered to perform tasks. Worming was now hugely different than it had been, and some vaccines also. I still never actually administered an injection or wormed a horse but I held a lot. It can be difficult to get a pro to let you actually do the deed.
A Cother was trying to re-home a horse quickly and that got me to thinking about what I knew, or didn't know, and I checked out the adoption form from Saddlebred rescue. It's a pretty tough form BUT it might give you a checklist and frame of reference. I do think you need to develop a relationship with your vet and farrier and be able to recognize symptoms of some common problems.
I found that the vet I really really liked from the lesson barn did not serve the area of my farmette - so I plan to make a call to a vet recommended, just to establish a relationship. Same with the farrier.
If you are worried that something horrible could happen while you are at work, well it could. I'd have to say that it could also happen overnight or even while your back was turned. There are far better books available nowadays, and if you take a people first aid class and just think larger scale for horses you will be well served.
From my standpoint of having horses at home for the last 5+ years:
There are no dumb questions
I boarded for the 1st 15 years of owning horses.
Prior to that I worked as a barn rat when I was a kid, then "graduated" to working student as an adult re-rider.
I was never afraid to ask why someone was doing something, if there was another way & why one was "better" than the other.
Like someone on here says:
The Horse World: 1 question, 3 answers - that's the way it is
Gather all the information, even if it conflicts. Then decide for yourself what works for you.
There is no One Right Way to keep horses.
Once you have things setup to your satisfaction at home, sit back and see how they play out.
You will need to tweak some things, others will be perfect from the get-go.
Yes, you will worry when you are the sole caretaker....at first.
Then you will figure out things and be able to have a Life away from the farm.
Horses do not require micro-management most of the time.
Yes, there will be emergencies, but mostly sufficient food, fresh water and a place to stretch their legs keeps most horses healthy & happy.
To answer your last question about emergencies:;
Your vet should be a great source of information (see Rule #1) along with books like Cherry Hill's Horsekeeping on Small Acreage & (author?) First Aid for Horseowners.
And, of course, COTH has to be the World's Greatest Resource & source of support
*friend of bar.ka*RIP all my lovely boys, gone too soon: Steppin' Out 1988-2004 Hey Vern! 1982-2009 Cash's Bay Threat 1994-2009
The worst horse experience I had personally with one of my own horses was at a big name show barn - where I paid a lot of money to board and they failed to give meds to my sick horse over one weekend when I was out of town. Lucky for everyone, it did not turn into a total disaster, as it easily could have.
If you have been a "hands on" owner as I have for most of my horse owning years, you just learn the ropes. Need a good vet, farrier, good hay supplier, and "help" to fill in when you can't do your own horses.
Ask lots of questions. Learn by what others do and don't do.
I had horses at home from the time I was 7-21 years old. Then I boarded for eight years while establishing a career, relationship and buying a house.
The horses came home almost a year ago after we built our own barn on our little farm.
I almost had a heart attck the first few weeks they were home. I felt like I had forgotten half of what I knew when the horses lived at home growing up. And I had remained hands on when they were boarded! Late night wake up checks, micro-managing, and little panic attacks (my poor vet) eventually stopped. There have been no major snags and I can handle most emergency situations until the vet can get there. I can also give IM injections, wrap legs, treat wounds, and handle scared horses. We built a barn that is very conducive to 24/7 turnout with stall access due to my shift work schedule and we invested in good fencing.
I agree... finding hay was a bigger PITA than knowing what or how to feed it out. Years ago, the local farmer used to bring us a hay wagon for $2 a bale. Now, you either have to find a supplier or use a feed store and hay is at least $5 a bale around here. I did find a good supplier.... thank god. I also have two great feed stores, a vet I have used since I was a kid, and a FANTASTIC farrier. These little things make all the difference!
There are some things I wish I could change. For instance, I would love another acre or two. I would like a companion donkey so I don't have to worry about the two boys having to be alone when we take one out to ride, etc. Other than that... best decision I ever made to bring them home and for the most part everyone is happy, healthy and unaware of my nuerosis!
I worked off some lesson time working around the barn. That put me in the barn when stuff happened and I could watch, ask questions and learn. At another barn, I did like another poster, the BO knew eventually I wanted to have them home, so she put up with my questions. Regardless, its a learning curve when they are home and you realize there is nobody walking down the aisle for a second opinion. Go in to it willing to cut yourself some breaks - there will be mistakes (some people are even brave enough to post about them as a PSA for others)
All of the above. Working student? Offer to help out at current barn for free, just to learn? Ride along with vet?
Daughter played polo in high school. Learned all about injuries and treatment, farm sat for coach and husband (equine vet) on their breeding farm. She pretty much knew her stuff by the time we bought a farm. Always learning, though.
Just keep asking questions, subscribe to some magazines and keep reading on the internet.
Some really good books out there too...How to deal with horse injuries and illness, etc. Biggest thing to learn is when to call the vet. Better too often than not often enough.
If you are happy with the knowledge of your current barn owner or trainer, and you have a good relationship with them they can be great resources when you go out on your own. In addition to this you want a great vet and farrier.
Horsemanship was part of my early lessons...so things like basic hoof care, listening for gut sounds, signs of colic, grooming, basic blanketing...things like that I felt fairly confident about. If you haven't had much horsemanship maybe the Pony Club manual is a good start. If you are feeling confident about the basics, move to the next paragraph.
I started to collect books like "The Home Veterinary Manual for Horses" and such. I took a weekend course on Hoof Trimming and Hoof Care. I asked my vet for her recommendations on worming, vaccinations, etc. I looked at what my horses ate at the boarding stable and figured out how to replicate it at home (finding Hay suppliers, looking at available feeds...sometimes what barns buy in bulk, you can't buy in smaller quantities...substitutes were available.) I asked some friends and family what they thought were the top ten things to do in preparation.
I made friends with my new "emergency vet" as my horses' regular vet was now far away. Got him to start a file on my horses so he'd be ready in an emergency.
Really, keeping horses isn't rocket science if you have pretty average horses and have some basic horsemanship skills. If you've always just been handed the reins, your horse has 'issues' or you are planning to keep them in a competition program, you need to collect signficantly more knowledge.
For me, as a fairly recreational rider with pretty easy horses...I've had no problems whatsoever. I ask my trainer for advice on conditioning and my training program, which I do between lessons, and ask either a trusted friend or my vet on questions.
One thing I will say...and I will yell...DON'T LISTEN TO EVERYBODY. Horsepeople have way more opinions and penchant to share them than most. Some people will sound confident as all heck and suggest things that are flat-out dangerous/wrong (I've done that, with the best of intentions)...or even things that might work, but that won't work FOR YOU. I can't tell you the number of suggestions I get...and about 10% are things I use. I usually just smile and nod and say "sure, that's something I should think about." I can tell you that trusted friends' and vets' advice gets followed nearly 100% of the time
Lifestyle coordinator for Zora, Spooky, Wolfgang and Warrior
Even as a boarder I was pretty "hands on", and took an interest in things from way back with the intention, always, of having my own place someday. Caring for horses isn't rocket science, although it can be made to seem like it if you listen to the worry-worts and the micro-managers. Most of what I needed to know I learned by taking care of my own horses, working on the track, picking the brains of vets and trainers I respected and trusted, even 4H when I was a kid. And yes, BOOKS. Piles of them. But there are certain things (like body clipping) that one simply learns by DOING, and I've learned a lot that way, too.
But there are certain things (like body clipping) that one simply learns by DOING
Firmly believe that you have to do two or three body clips before you get good first-try results
Also to be learned by doing:
-deworming the crafty Arabian
-which of your horses need a flymask and which ones prefer to suffer
-how to best shovel manure so that you get a balanced workout
-just how deeply into the ground the "prefer to suffer" types can grind a fly mask
-de-porcupine-quilling the curious/stupid Arabian's nose and mouth
-applying disinfectent to sensitive areas
Lifestyle coordinator for Zora, Spooky, Wolfgang and Warrior
I had owned horses, and boarded them at a superb competition barn, for 15 years before buying the first farm about 20 years ago.
I worked for an equine vet for a number of years and assisted with many surgical procedures, emergencies as well as the mundane stuff. When I bought my farm, this equine vet sent his horses to board at my farm when he travelled overseas numerous times a year.
I managed a stud farm for some time so that was where I learned stud duties and mare/foal care.
I was a serious competition rider for many years, both prior to and during owning the first, and subsequent farms. I only gave that up fairly recently after my mega-move to the farm we have now.
I don't think that injuries and illnesses will necessarily be your biggest obstacle because you will call the vet to help in those instances. You can even ask your vet what to do before she or he arrives.
Your #1 hurdle is the physical layout and setup of your horsekeeping facility at home. Get an experienced horseperson to do a walk through of your facility before you bring the horses home. If you have safe, well designed stalls, fence and paddocks that will make your life so much easier.
Other day to day practical things may also be a challenge. Can you judge what is good hay & identify bad or moldy hay? Can you tell when a horse is just a little bit off or having a mild colic? If something happens to a horse, who will take the day off work to be there to take care of it? Who is going to take care of all the non-fun aspects of horse keeping--get up in the middle of the night to break ice in the water tanks in the middle of winter, do early morning fence repairs...? And as an aside, is the rest of your family ready for the limitations, inconveniences and expense of having horses at home?
Once you have the horses at home, periodically invite a more experienced horseperson over to look things over. They might notice things that you wouldn't, or make suggestions that you wouldn't have thought of.
Don't be proud. Ask lots of questions. Make your vet and farrier explain things. Stay involved in the horse community--i.e. keep taking lessons, going to other barns, talking to different people. FYI, I've lived on different horse farms since I was born and I am STILL learning new things all the time.