At some point every little girl (and plenty of little boys) have wanted their own pony. As a child, it's hard to understand why mum and dad were so reluctant to buy you one. Owning a horse is a decision not to be taken lightly. It's a long-term commitment that requires a lot of time and money. But if you're a dedicated horse lover and you think you can handle it, here's our handy guide to make sure first-time owners get it right.
Too Young To Ride?
If you are a keen equestrian yourself then you will probably be hoping that your child will share your enthusiasm. Even if you have never ridden yourself you might have a little one who simply loves ponies. Your kids could be desperate to get in the saddle but at what age is it safe for them to start riding?
Pony Club Advice
The Pony Club say that the age of six is an appropriate time to start riding but some branches offer mini-camps for kids as young as four years of age. Meanwhile the British Horse Society says the ideal time to start will depend on the youngster concerned and they are almost certainly right.
Kids are Individuals
It is crucial that youngsters can ride safely and so they must have the required co-ordination, attention span and balance. Every child is different and their development may be affected by the other activities that they engage in. For instance, kids that have attended ballet school from an early age may have superior balance. Youngsters who play ball sports will often have improved their co-ordination.
The age that your children are able to start riding might also be dictated by your local riding school. They may have their own rules regarding kids and these could have been imposed upon them by their insurers.
If you have your own horses then there is nothing to stop you testing the water when you feel that youngster is ready. You can also pop them in the saddle at any age to get them accustomed to the feel of being on horseback. Even a small pony can seem intimidating to a toddler! If you do let your children sit on a horse then make sure that they wear a hat and that you stay with them at all times.
Attention Span and Stamina
When your child does start to ride, remember that their attention span is likely to be rather short and that they will tire quire easily. It is best to stick to short sessions at the outset and then build up your child's stamina and confidence gradually.
The Unwilling Equestrian
Whatever you do, try to avoid forcing the issue. If your youngster is reluctant to ride then insisting that they take to the saddle could put them off riding forever. Especially if they do have a fall early on. Children are far more likely to really engage with horses if they are willing participants.
You might have to accept that your child does not share your love of horses and that their interests lie elsewhere. Most kids love riding, even if they lack confidence to start with, but riding isn't for everyone and some youngsters simply won't take to it no matter how hard you try. If your child isn't keen to ride then wait a little longer because they could change their minds!
Common Obstacles Horse Owners Face
Horses are beautiful, strong creatures who have worked alongside humans for thousands of years. Although they are now often ridden for pleasure or sport over necessity, many people still take on the - almost full time - role of horse owner.
Unlike other hobbies, you can't just choose not to go to the stables to see your horse for a week or so, because a horse is a hobby, pet and friend all rolled into one. Below are some other common obstacles horse owners face.
Assuming all horses are the same
Becoming a horse owner isn't a decision to be taken lightly and it's important to do more than just read up on equine terms and management. Although studying horse care can be beneficial, in this case hands on experience is invaluable.
Spend time at a stable with other horses - and the horse you hope to purchase if possible. Every horse is different and just because yours doesn't react the same way somebody on the internet said it would doesn't mean it's stupid, you may just need to try a different method. This is where spending time with as many horses as you can comes in handy, seeing how different horses react to different things can be a great help when it comes to training your own.
Not riding Horse Enough
As we said above, all horses are different, and some take to riding quicker than others. It's important not to feel discouraged if yours seems untrainable, you just need to keep trying. Like a dog a horse 'is not just for Christmas' and if you think you are going to get bored when things don't go your way then a horse is the wrong companion for you.
The more you ride a horse the more comfortable both you and they will feel. If however you need a break from riding, then ensure your horse is able to graze or take them for walks along trails to allow them to exercise; a horse who is not able to exercise may become sick and unruly.
If you choose to walk alongside your horse on trails, it is important that you know your horse well. Are they prone to bursts of excitement if they see something unfamiliar? Will they bolt from you and are you prepared if they attempt to? You must be able to answer these questions to secure both yours and your horses' safety.
Your horse is always learning and therefore it is important not to re-enforce any bad behaviour they may exhibit. Spend time with a trainer to learn for yourself the best way to interact with your horse so that you can both get the most out of each other.
Don't forget that horses are prey animals and therefore they are likely to be jumpier and are less likely to trust you than other animals are. Just remain patient and persistent - if you put in the time and effort then your horse will learn to trust you and become a wonderful companion.
Health Fitness Benefits of Horse Riding
Is riding a horse good exercise? Anyone who has never ridden a horse would doubtless be shocked to discover the vigorous workout that a few hours in the saddle represents. Even if you have been riding for years you may not have given a great deal of consideration to how your activities are affecting your mind and body.
Horse riding is actually a fabulous way to keep yourself in shape and it is a lot more interesting than spending hour after hour in the gym!
Riders must use specific muscles for balance and control. If you adopt the correct posture and ride regularly you will enhance your core strength. You will be continually squeezing your abductor muscles to stay put in the saddle and you will use your core to protect your spine and to remain upright.
Muscle Tone and Flexibility
Your quads, hamstrings and glutes all support the work of your abductors and power the leg movements that you use to control your horse. Your glutes flex and tighten when you roll your hips down and forward to cue the horse to stop. When your horse changes direction, you're forced to engage the obliques and transverse abdominals to stay upright. Your thighs and pelvic muscles receive an amazing workout which tones your muscles and enhances your flexibility.
Balance and Coordination
Whilst riding you are making constant adjustments to keep upright and to remain in the saddle. The faster your horse moves the harder you have to work. Your balance will naturally improve with so much practice and you will develop better co-ordination as you learn to move in unison with your horse and to maintain control.
Your hands and arms are also moving continually. The actions your make with your arms to control your horse are often performed subconsciously but you are still teaching your body to be better coordinated.
The effort you will expend riding varies according to the type of riding that you are engaged in and the speed at which you are travelling. But even at walking speed, you could burn over 200 calories per hour. When galloping, you will burn up to 650 calories per hour depending on your body weight and general fitness. You generally burn slightly more calories if you weigh more.
At the Stables
As an equestrian, the exercise you receive will not be restricted to the time that you spend in the saddle. Working at the yard and caring for your horse also tones your muscles and burns calories. But be careful to adopt the right posture when you are lifting, otherwise your time at the yard might do you more harm than good.
Learning to ride and improving your skills over time will enhance your confidence. This will influence all aspects of your life, not just your riding. In addition, the time you spend in the saddle can have a wonderfully calming effect and so provides a useful antidote to stress. You will be making mental adjustments continually as you ride and this will help to enhance your mental agility.
There are few aspects of your health and wellbeing that will not receive a boost when you ride. You burn calories, tone your muscles, improve your balance and sharpen your mind when you are riding. If you want to see just how much your hobby is helping you to be healthier, see what happens when you stop!
How to Learn to Ride on a Tight Budget
Horse riding is a wonderful sport that keeps you fit, helps you to make new friends and teaches you new skills. Unfortunately it can also be an expensive hobby! There is no escaping the fact that you will need riding lessons if you wish to get into the sport and that can be a major challenge if you are on a tight budget.
Once you get the horse riding bug you won't want to be restricted to the occasional outing so how do you minimise the costs of learning to ride?
Do You Wear a Sports Bra Whilst Riding?
Recent research has revealed that less than 35% of female riders wear a sports bra whilst in the saddle. This was in spite of the fact that 40% of riders reported having experienced breast pain! The research was conducted by Dr Jenny Burbage, a biomechanics specialist at the University of Portsmouth, and Lorna Cameron, of Sparsholt College. They also discovered that the incidence of breast pain was directly related to cup size. Blow me down with a feather! The fact that big boobs can be problematic won't come as a surprise to anyone. But the dangers of inadequate support are clearly being ignored.
The Anatomy of Breasts
Breasts are made up of fatty tissue and not muscle. As such, they cannot be toned or strengthened to cope with physical exertion. The fatty tissue is easily damaged when participating in sporting activities and that damage is irreparable. It is vital that breasts are adequately supported when you are enjoying any sporting activity and that includes riding. So why aren't more equestrians investing in a good sports bra?
Ignorance and Expense
It could be because most sports bras are marketed at runners and fitness enthusiasts and so it might appear to some that they only require these garments for running or workouts at the gym. Sports bras also represent yet another expense which most riders could do without. But riders should be wearing the bras and they do offer many benefits. Sports bras can reduce breast bounce by up to 78%. Less bounce means less structural damage, less back ache and a much more appealing look! nBut sports bras are about more than just the excellent support that they provide. They have special straps that stay in place when you are active. This is a major boon if you often find yourself fiddling to readjust your straps. Sports bras are fashioned from breathable, moisture wicking fabric and so keep you comfortable and dry for longer.
A sports bra is actually a very versatile piece of clothing and so represents excellent value for money. You can use your sports bra when engaging in any active pursuit and they are ideal for holidays. Perfect for hiking, sports bras are also a good substitute for a bikini top if you stumble across somewhere to take an impromptu swim.
A Matter of Style
Many women cherish their fancy lingerie and perhaps you are one of them. It would be true to say that sports bras are not as pretty and chic as a lovely lace number but you only have to wear them whilst you are riding. Nobody else must see your bra and sports bras are available in variety of cool styles and funky colours.
The Right Bra
It is important to choose a bra which provides sufficient support, which is right for your body and which fits correctly. The British Equestrian Trade Association (BETA) in conjunction with the British Equestrian Federation (BEF) has now produced The Horse Rider's Guide to Bras. This leaflet provides the guidance you need to make the right choice.
You will need to ensure that you find the best possible deal for your lessons. Take some time to compare the charges offered by your local stables. Don't be tempted to travel too far in order to get a better price as your travel costs will soon start to outweigh any cost benefits that you have achieved. It is usually cheaper to buy lessons in bundles but don't commit yourself until you have taken your first lesson. It is important that you establish that the sport really is for you and that you are happy with your chosen stables.
You may also find that riding off-peak will save you money. There may be deals for weekday riding and it could be worth rearranging your life a little to take advantage of these. You should also search online for special deals. These could be featured on site such as Groupon, Vouchercloud and MoneySavingExpert.
Working For Your Lessons
Ask the stables if they have any work that needs doing like feeding the horses or mucking out. You might not want to spend your time carrying horse feed and cleaning but it could be possible to trade your efforts for time in the saddle. In any case, if you work at the stable you will learn about caring for the animals. This will stand you in good stead if you are ever able to own your own horse or to gain a full time position at a stable. The more that you learn about equine care, horse feed and life at the stables the better the rider you will ultimately become.
The Gift of Riding
Choosing Christmas and Birthday gifts can be hard and perhaps your family and friends struggle to find the perfect presents for you. If that is the case then tell everyone that you want riding lessons and you will help yourself whilst solving their dilemma at the same time.
If you are lucky enough to be able to take a holiday then why not go riding? Combining your holiday with your hobby is the cost effective way to go. You can take riding holidays all over the world and there are some excellent low cost options in Europe.
You can start out on your riding adventure wearing jeans and trainers or hiking boots. All you need at the outset is a riding hat. It is important to buy your own riding hat as you need to know that its safety has not been compromised in a fall. You will eventually need the correct clothing and equipment but you can buy this in stages when you find the right deals. Second hand items are great value and can be found on auction sites. You should also keep an eye out for equestrian sales. If you bide your time you can make impressive savings.
Horse riding is never going to be the cheapest hobby but you can mitigate the costs if you are prepared to compromise. By choosing the right times to ride, doing some work at the stables and searching for the best deals you can afford to take the lessons you need to improve.
First Things First before buying a horse
Before you buy, there's a few things you need to consider. Such as, do you have the time and energy to take care of a horse? Owning a horse can be extremely rewarding, but equally as exhausting, as horses need taking care of 365 days a year (yes, even Christmas Day!)
Do you have a home ready for your new steed? Will they live with on your land or at a livery? Will they be a solitary horse, and if not, have their previous living conditions allow them to cope in a stable with other animals? Most importantly, do you have the funds? From insurance, to vet bills, and shoeing, horses are more than just the purchase cost. You need to think of the price of their ongoing care, such as bedding and food.
Now you've got the basics down, it's time to consider what kind of horse you want. The more research you do now, the shorter your search will be.
So, What Questions Should You Be Asking?
Will this horse be ridden by just you, or other members of your family? If so, it needs to suitable for everyone.
Do you need an older, more experienced horse? Or would you like a horse with the potential to learn and flourish alongside you? If it's the latter, you'll need the patience and skill to train it, as œGreen horses are not necessarily the best for novice owners. If they're still growing, the horse you think you're buying may not be what you get further down the line. And if you're still not the best rider yourself, an older horse will be better for developing your abilities.
Are you interested in competing? And if you're planning on doing it soon after buying, you'll need a horse that knows the ropes. Ask the owner about the horse's history, from how it shows, to its reaction to traffic, and how it acts around people and other animals.
What Else is There to Consider?
Other elements to seriously think about include size, breed, and the health of the animal. Whether you're going for a cute little pony or a majestic Thoroughbred, make sure you get it checked out by a veterinarian, as a proper examination may find issues you've yet to pick up on, or at the very least highlight the strengths and weaknesses of your potential buy.
Write down what you're willing to comprise on and what you consider absolute deal-breakers, then make sure you stick to them! As we said before, a horse is a long-term commitment, you don't want to regret it later on. Take your lists to viewings so you don't budge, after all, it's easy to get carried away. Do the groundwork now, and you and your new friend will have years of happiness ahead of you!
Horse Eye Colour & Temperament
Is there a correlation between eye colour and temperament in horses? Most horses have brown eyes but other eye colours are seen. These include blue, green, yellow, amber, or hazel. Whilst it is mostly horses with light coats which have blue eyes, you will see horses with dark coats with wonderful azure eyes.
There are few old wive's tales about blue-eyed horses. These suggest that the animals can be a little crazy and may have issues working in bright sunlight. It has also been suggested that blue-eyed horses are more prone to skin cancer and that they may go blind prematurely. So, is there any truth to these warnings?
A Study of Blue Eyes
A study conducted by the University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital set out to discover the truth about blue eyes. The researchers looked at the medical records of hundreds of horses. 164 of these had been diagnosed with ocular disease and 212 were without any known eye ailments. By comparing the two groups it was possible to establish whether or not the horses with blue eyes were more prone to issues.
Debunking the Myths
The team discovered that blue eyes were just as common as brown eyes in both groups of horses. They found no significant difference between the proportion of blue and brown-eyed horses with problems such as corneal disease or disease in the eye or eye socket (including equine recurrent uveitis, glaucoma, cataract, intraocular neoplasia, orbital cellulitis, and orbital neoplasia).
Squamous cell carcinoma
Blue-eyed horses were no more likely than brown-eyed horses to suffer from any issues with their vision. However, the study did reveal that blue-eyed horses appear to be more susceptible to squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). This is due to the skin pigmentation around the eye and eyelid rather than the eye-colour itself. This fact also explains why some breeds are more prone to developing the cancer than others.
SCC is a non-melanoma skin cancer which is caused by exposure to UV rays. It is important to protect any horse from the harmful effects of UV rays. Fly-masks can help shield the face, and sunscreen obviously also helps to protect a horse. Shade should always be available in turn-out areas.
Blue Eyes and Behaviour
There is no scientific evidence that blue-eyed horses have suspect temperaments. If your blue-eyed horse is a little feisty, this has nothing to do with their eye colour. It is hard to imagine how this myth developed. Perhaps people have found that the striking blue eyes simply look a little crazy!
Horse Much Does a Horse Cost?
Are you thinking about buying a horse? Before you make such a huge commitment you should know about the costs involved. There are quite a few hidden costs when it comes to owning a horse, and it can all start to add up before you realise how much you are spending. If you want to care for and look after your horse properly you will need the funds to be able to give them everything they need. Here are some of the key things you will have to spend money on if you own a horse.
Don't forget about the initial cost of buying a horse in the first place. Horses vary hugely in cost depending on the breed, quality and type of horse you are looking for. You can get a horse for anything from just under a grand up to hundreds of thousands of pounds. You need to look at your budget and decide what type of horse you can realistically afford.
If you aren't lucky enough to own your own land then you will need to pay to rent land or to have your horse based at a livery. The costs vary for this depending on whether you just rent a field, or pay to have your horse fully looked after at a livery. You can also have them based somewhere and do most of the work yourself which significantly reduces the costs, but it takes a lot of time and hard work.
You will need to spend money on adequate feed for your horse, this varies slightly throughout the year. Costs vary depending on which brand you choose and the size of your horse.
Tack includes things like a saddle, Reins and a Bridle. These are things you will need to have to be able to ride your horse.
You need to remember that it's not just the horse you will need to spend money on. You will need to buy yourself all the necessary riding gear and equipment such as a Riding Hats, Jodhpurs and good quality Riding Boots.
If you want to get your horse a pet passport or have them microchipped then this is an extra cost you will have to fork out for.
Bedding is an essential for horses, you will need to get shavings or straw which needs replacing regularly.
Hay & Straw
Horses kept in fields will need to have hay in the winter to compensate for the lack of grass and horses kept in stables will also need hay throughout the year.
Horses hooves need to be looked after and will require regular attention from a farrier. They need to be trimmed regularly and have shoes fitted and fixed.
On top of these core costs there are also many other additional costs that you may need to pay for such as:
- Vet Fees
- Grooming Equipment
- Stable & Cleaning Equipment
How to Make Horse Ownership More Affordable
There's no escaping the fact that horses are expensive. But if your finances are challenged then there are ways to mitigate your costs. Even if you have no problem covering the bills, why spend more than you need to? Here's our top tips for saving your hard earned cash.
If you are currently funding the cost of full livery then consider whether or not you can do more of the work yourself. Choosing a reduced level of service or going DIY is the easiest way to save the pennies. But you must be sure that you have the time to properly care for your horse. If time could be a stumbling block then think about whether there is anyone who can help you out.
If your time challenges are restricted to certain days of the week then it might be possible to do a reciprocal deal with another owner. You probably aren't the only one with other commitments so you should be able to find someone who could use some backup.
Both feed and bedding are going to be cheaper if you order in bulk. It is worth talking to other owners at your yard to see if they would be interested in clubbing together. You will be able to purchase what you need at lower prices and there should be savings on your deliveries too. It might also help to investigate the seasonal nature of some pricing. Is it cheaper to make your purchases early or at certain times of year?
The Vet and Farrier
It may be possible to reduce your costs if you speak to others at the yard and arrange for your farrier and vet to attend to several horses on the same day. There is no point in you all paying for call-out charges.
Working at the Yard
Does your yard need a helping hand? If you do have some spare time then you could offer to help out at your yard in exchange for a reduction in fees. Even if all the regular tasks are covered, there may be seasonal or one off projects that the staff at the yard are struggling with such as repairs and painting.
Sell your Spares
If you have accumulated a hoard of tack and accessories and don't regularly use certain items then perhaps it is time to turn some of your gear into cash. If you don't need it then sell it on!
Commuting to and from the yard and travelling to competitions is a regular expense that you should address. Are you able to car share with someone who lives close to you? If you require a trailer or lorry could you find someone to share this with or would hiring make more financial sense?
There are always ways to save money. Examine every aspect of what you do to see what can be achieved. Even small economies here and there will soon start to add up to a significant saving.
Why Sharing a Horse Could Prove Problematic
Horses are an expensive hobby and make huge demands on your time. On the face of it, sharing a horse with a friend or relative is the perfect way to mitigate your costs and to accommodate your busy schedule. You can both enjoy riding and form a bond with the horse and everything will be rosy in the garden. Or will it?
The Lazy Sharer
Things can and do go wrong when you share. The operative word here is share because some people aren't very good at that. Or at least they aren't very good at it when there is work involved! It is all too easy for the lazier members of the species not to fulfil their side of the bargain. This could leave you knee deep in muck when it isn't really your turn to be at the stable.
When your friend or relative has enjoyed a night on the town and then crawled into the sack at stupid o-clock, they just might decide not to get up again. But someone has to see to the horse so that would be you then! Of course you could take your revenge and perform a no-show of your own but you are a conscientious sort and wouldn't dream of it. When riders don't do their share of the work, arguments are bound to ensue.
The Trouble with Change
Things can take a turn for the worse when your co-owner acquires a new life partner or a new job. Their priorities change and the horse might find itself relegated in the pecking order. That will leave you with a level of responsibility that you didn't sign up for. The situation could prove to be even more serious if your friend's new job happens to be in Australia. Then you will be looking for a new sharer.
People's lives change and those changes are often unexpected and sudden. There often isn't anything & that can be done about it. But that doesn't make things any easier when it is you who has to pick up the pieces.
Difference of Opinion
Everyone has their own ideas on how best to care for and to ride a horse. You could find that your ideas are at variance with your friend's. You might believe that their actions are detrimental to the horse or are causing behavioural issues. Alternatively, you could find that your co-owner's insistence on a certain type of bedding or feed is stretching your budget to the limit.
Talking of money. What happens if your friend loses their job or falls prey to a long-term illness and can no longer afford the horse? It is a problem which can be sorted eventually, but in the short term someone has to cover the cost of the horse and once again, that would be you.
Nothing is certain in this world and so sharing a horse could prove problematic no matter how careful you are about who you share with.
What to Check When Buying a New Horse
You may have searched far and wide to find what looks like the perfect horse. But it is important to ensure that you are making the right decision. When you travel to see the horse in person it is crucial that you learn as much as you can about the animal during your visit. Set out with a clear idea of what you really want and the questions that you should ask.
It is always a good idea to take someone with you and preferably someone with equestrian knowledge. Use your phone or a video camera to film the horse and the owner. The footage can then be shown to an expert for further advice. Refer to your checklist throughout the meeting in case you forget to ask some of the questions that you need to. A checklist will also prevent you from getting carried away and buying a horse which does not meet your needs.
Ideally, your horse should be vetted before it's purchased. Even if you know where the horse has come from or the previous owners, it's better to be safe than sorry. The vetting process will involve an inspection of the horse's health. This means that you can determine if any problems need addressing right away or if there are any to watch out for in the future.
The full vetting process can take up to 2 hours, but it's worth doing to avoid any issues further down the line. During this time and adhering to the British Veterinary Association guidelines, your horse will be checked and examined in five stages, where the following are monitored:
- Skin, heart, lungs, legs, teeth, and feet
- Walk and trot and assessment of movement
- Ridden exercise, trot and canter
- Strenuous workout, eyes
- Second trot and flexion tests
So that you can determine if there are any short or long-term health