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"Are You Ready for Your First Horse?"

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    "Are You Ready for Your First Horse?"

    Okay. I'll try to keep it short.

    There's a really great equine rescue operation in my area, and I'm eager to do something to help. One problem I know they consistently have is horses returned to the rescue by beginning owners - often, it seems, because they really weren't as prepared as they thought.

    In order to address this problem, I thought I'd offer a workshop covering the absolute basics, as well as an email helpline for everyday problems.

    This is a very rural, very farm-y area, and people tend to think that a pony can be treated pretty much like a dairy cow. We don't have big show barns or splashy trainers. What we do have is plenty of good farmland and a strong sustainable ag community.

    So, anyway, I've asked around and wracked my brain, and these are the discussion topics and/or demonstrations I've decided on so far:

    ~ Choosing your first horse: mare, stallion (no!!!!) or gelding?
    ~ Safe fencing and housing; zoning and legal requirements
    ~ Safe leading and handling - non-Parelli (my farrier was adamant on this one)
    ~ Recognizing decent horse hay
    ~ Access to water: 24/7/365
    ~ What about grain?
    ~ Understanding body score
    ~ Understanding the special needs of youngsters and old timers
    ~ Recognizing colic and founder
    ~ Vital signs: pulse, respiration rate, temperature
    ~ Simple wound care and first aid
    ~ Basic equine anatomy and parts of the horse
    ~ The importance of vets, farriers, equine dentists and riding instructors
    ~ When should I call the vet?
    ~ Grooming and hoof care
    ~ Does my horse need a companion?
    ~ Horse clothing and tack

    ~ How much will all this cost?
    ~ How much time will it take every day?
    ~ Where can I find what I need?
    ~ Stall cleaning, bedding and manure management
    ~ Care of paddocks and pastures

    ~ What if something goes wrong?

    And what else?

    I feel like I must be missing a lot, and all suggestions will be much appreciated and added in pretty colors!
    Last edited by Red Barn; May. 12, 2016, 12:01 PM.

    Sounds good, I would say "recognizing good hay for horses". And how about, "when should I call the vet?" you could discuss vaccinations under that topic.

    You don't have anything about equipment -- how about "must have equipment for the first horse owner." -- halter and lead, saddle fit, bridle fit and type, brushes, hoof pick, blankets, fly masks, etc. Also you could discuss fly spray, shampoo, stuff like that.

    One other thing, "Does my horse need a companion?" answer, no, but you could talk about horse herd dynamics and how to handle a horse around other horses.

    You might find some good reference books on Amazon or maybe ask the local library to order a copy so they could read on their own. There are some pretty good beginner books out there now.


      Original Poster

      Excellent points!

      I'd planned to talk about companions - just forgot to list it above - but equipment had totally slipped my mind. Why, just think of all the "bad" horse behavior that can arise from terrible saddle fit alone!

      Thank you.

      Specific book/website suggestions would be great too. It's been a while since I had to shop for a beginners' book.


        You've got most of the things that challenged me when I got my horse last year. I would ditto the "when to call the vet" and "equipment lists." You don't have anything on your list about cost and budgeting. I would hope that anyone coming to this sort of class already has that figured out but it's worth talking about and maybe showing a sample spreadsheet of monthly costs and how they add up. I also benefited from basic first aid and knowing what injuries/scrapes/situations were okay to ride with and which were not.
        When I bestride him, I soar, I am a hawk: he trots the air; the earth sings when he touches it; the basest horn of his hoof is more musical than the pipe of Hermes.
        -William Shakespeare (Henry V)


          If you can provide them with a list of local tack and feed stores, farriers, vets, trainers, and pony club or similar local groups, this might be helpful as well. You should include some language about not endorsing any of them if you do this, though.

          This is a very concise guide to owning your first horse. Not too detailed to be useful for the newbie who could be easily overwhelmed.

          "So relax! Let's have some fun out here! This game's fun, OK? Fun goddamnit." Crash Davis; Bull Durham


            I think what would be helpful too, along the financial line is products for horse care that actually work. There are always threads about what fly spray, what do you use for thrush etc. I know of a few first time owners that will be constantly running through different products because they read something that says it's the best thing ever and ends up not working as well as they thought. For example I have not ever and probably will not ever get a special boot for when I need to pack my horse's feet. I rarely do it so I'm a duct tape and diapers person.


              I might also add, "what to do when things aren't working out." There are so many posts here on COTH about just that topic.

              I would discuss finding a trainer/instructor, diagnosis of physical problems, and even how to sell a horse responsibly.

              It might be a bit much for the first time owner, but it sure comes up a lot. Maybe that's the advanced class!

              "I hate my horse, what now?"

              if you didn't want to bring up problems, "how to find a good instructor" would be a good topic.


                This is a terrific idea!


                  I'd start with safe fencing and housing, says the girl who brought her first horse home 40+ years ago to a clothesline stakeout and didn't think it was out of the ordinary. The horse sure went WTF???

                  Then a little bit about experience with riding, for the first pony types. Spreadsheet for sure, and EZ vs hardkeepers in the choosing part.

                  It's great idea, I hope that you have lots of interest.
                  Courageous Weenie Eventer Wannabe
                  Incredible Invisible


                    Original Poster

                    You guys are awesome!

                    Thanks so much.


                      Give them all a link to COTH forums.


                        Looks like you've got it all covered. Now you just need to close with a strong suggestion that they lease/sponsor the horse at the rescue for 6 months before finalizing purchase!


                          If they're really beginners and they're riding, tell them to take lessons. They're going to need more than just a list of suggestions, they need to be able to handle the horse and have someone to ask when there's problems.
                          In memory of Apache, who loved to play.


                            Good for you! Too often these topics aren't addressed until it's too late.

                            I would second emphasis on finances and costs. And taking lessons before actually commiting to purchasing a horse. I tell people this all the time and those that heed my advice are glad they did. One woman's little girl REEEAAALLLLY wanted a horse. They took lessons instead. Turned out little girl lost interest pretty quickly. Parents were glad they had saved a boatload of $$$$.

                            Good luck!!! Great idea!
                            "Cats aren't clean; they're covered with cat spit."
                            - John S Nichols (1745-1846,writer/printer)

                            Don't come for me - I didn't send for you.


                              All good suggestions. Agee with others about including finances and cost I'd also suggest including a realistic discussion of the work and daily responsibility required to care for horses in different living situations (out on pasture 24/7, in stalls with turnout, etc). How difficult it can be to get a reliable farm sitter if/when owners want/need to be away.


                                Original Poster

                                More great points.

                                I especially like the idea of discussing the time it takes to do daily chores and basic care. I actually think this comes as quite a surprise to many a newb.

                                Thank you!


                                  I'd also do something on basic equine behavior.

                                  -mares, stallions, and geldings
                                  -what does a young horse need vs what does a senior horse need
                                  -breed characteristics and temperaments
                                  -how to deal with equine fear
                                  -basic anatomy (especially concerning preventing pain while riding in legs, back, and mouth)


                                    You might consider including what legal requirements are in your area [county, state]for horse keeping, ie is shelter required and how is 'shelter' defined....

                                    Yes for each section may be include a range of costs... ie hay can cost between $X and $Y depending on ______

                                    I often wonder if rescues should require a certain number of hours of volunteering onsite [or at a foster who is approved to educate and evaluate the prospective adopter] before the adoption application is considered 'approved'.
                                    So many don't know what they don't know....

                                    Yo/Yousolong April 23rd, 1985- April 15th, 2014



                                      Original Poster

                                      More good stuff. (Excellent point on the stallion thing, Rodeo.)

                                      I believe this rescue does encourage volunteering, Angela Freda, but somehow that doesn't seem to be enough . . . and judging by this growing list, I can kinda see why! When you've been doing it all your life, it's easy to forget how daunting it must seem to somebody who's new to pretty much all of it.


                                        My apologies if this was already posted, just skimmed because I'm at work. Not sure what category these would fit under but two things that came to mind:

                                        How-to (and the importance of) proper grooming. Not saying you HAVE to groom the horse every day. But for example, explaining how important it is to pick feet frequently (can also lead into recognizing hoof problems, thrush, etc).

                                        Basic first aid. Might have to be careful (don't want to give medical advice) but if there is a minor accident that doesn't warrant a vet, what are some basic things to have on hand and what you should/shouldn't do.

                                        Importance of 24/7 access to clean water. I would hope this is common sense, but I'm always shocked at the number of people who think that one flat-back bucket is enough for a day or two.

                                        This is a FANTASTIC idea. Thank you for putting the time into it.