10 Things You Need to Know About Horses

10. Horses are people too

You head off to the barn after a hard day at work, excited to lose your troubles with a good ride… and your horse is TERRIBLE. He won’t come to the gate, he gives you faces when you mount, he fusses during the movement he performed perfectly yesterday, and almost tosses you off at the end. You leave the barn, frustrated and tense. As you replay all the things that go wrong, and beat yourself up over what you could have done differently… guess what! Horses have bad days too. A slip in the pasture which causes a sore muscle, a change in routine (however small, like getting turned out last instead of first) or even just a “mood” where he’d rather be hanging out with his buddies instead of working. Whenever possible, end on a good note and call it a day. Go home, have a hot shower and try again tomorrow!

9. Avoid breeding your horse

Unless your horse has exceptional bloodlines, an impeccable show record and a reasonable attitude, don’t breed your own. Too many horses are bred with good intentions (“she’s always been my favorite mare”) that result in the overpopulation crisis, which spills out to slaughterhouses around the world. When in doubt, DON’T BREED. Adopting a rescue horse is thousands of dollars less than paying a stud fee, paying for the extra veterinary care and of course stabling for your broodmare, which will eventually become “plus one”. It costs roughly $20,000 to breed, birth and maintain that baby until they are 3-years-old.

8. Your new horse should see a vet

While some people use pre-purchase exams as standard protocol while horse shopping, many do not. Even if you don’t care about certain blemishes, lumps or anything that appears out of the ordinary, they could be something that could not only be dangerous to you as a rider/handler, but could infect/hurt your existing horses. Your vet will not only perform tests and ask questions (that you will need to know the answers to about the horse), but confirm the horse’s age and advise you on any health checkpoints that you will need to address (i.e., teeth, worming, etc). Even if the horse will be nothing more than a pasture ornament, having this “once over” done could save you heartbreak and money down the road.

7. Soft brushes are soft

Remember in your early days of horse care, when you were taught the basics of brushes? Sure, there are many fancy new brushes and grooming contraptions that have the ability to do a variety of things. While grabbing whatever brush in your box you get your hands on first is okay, don’t forget to use the soft brush on sensitive spots like the face, ears, hip areas, lower legs and stomach. If a horse can feel something as tiny as a fly land on him, he does not appreciate metal scrapers or things with hard protrusions on his tendons or under his eye.

6. It’s okay to just “love” your horse

There is nothing wrong with owning horses just for the sake of companionship! As long as the horses are being properly cared for, keeping your horses at a boarding stable or your own backyard just to enjoy their company is just fine. Some riders are told how much “potential” their horse has, and how they should really be competing. Horses don’t have the same instincts as people, and their idea of luxury is a big grassy field with a bunch of her best buddies. They don’t know or care about ribbons or medals. If you would like to see your talented horse do more work with a competitive rider, then do it because you want to, not because someone made you feel guilty.

5. Using tranquilizers to ride your horse is wrong

When horses are recovering from injuries, veterinarians may recommend tranq’s to keep them calm in their stalls, for hand-walking or beginning back under saddle (in extreme cases). No matter what your trainer tells you, the misuse/abuse of veterinary medicines that are being used “off label” causes a risk to you as a rider/handler and your horse as well. Trust your instincts and when you’re not sure, get a second opinion from a veterinarian.

4. Horses smell wonderful

When you’re too tired to ride, too stressed out by family or work… don’t ride. Just go to the barn and spend time with your horse. Grooming and fussing over your horse is a great alternative to struggling to ride. Sometimes a great ride will make a terrible day better, but if you just can’t find the willpower to do it, don’t beat yourself up for it.

3. Your clothes don’t make you a better rider

Just because someone at your barn has the newest snazzy riding apparel or tack doesn’t make them a better rider. The conscientious horseperson who always tries to learn something new with the intent of improving their horse’s life or health, as well as their riding is the true horseperson. They don’t offer training advice (unless solicited) and they don’t need to push their equine opinions/thoughts. They also know when to admit they are wrong!

2. Supplements are only for horses that need them

If your horse’s daily supplement routine has more than two items or the names of things you can’t pronounce, he probably shouldn’t be getting them. While a limited amount (that means 1 scoop, not 5) of a natural ingredient or something your vet strongly recommends might be okay, many people don’t cross-check their supplement against their feed. This results in overlapping ingredients which can have ill-effects. If you’re not sure whether your horse actually needs the supplements they are getting, first gather information. Get a hay analysis done (select feed mills offer this service) on your horse’s hay, collect the nutritional labels from his feed bags, and make a list of the supplements he received (as well as the nutritional info), and then consult an equine nutritionalist. You can Google one in your area, ask your vet/local feedmill or ask around your barn for a recommended person. Don’t give your horse more things in his diet than he needs!

1. Your saddle doesn’t fit, even if it was fitted.

Horses change shape as you ride them more often/less. This means if you ride your horse primarily in the summer, chances are as he loses fitness over the fall and winter, the saddle will not fit in the following spring. Too many people buy a saddle for their horse, have it fitted and assume the same saddle will work for the duration of the horse’s life. Sport horses should have their saddles checked quarterly or twice a year, recreational riders can probably get away with once a year or twice a year.