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First Time Horse Owner - General
 
Expert Jill Hassler

Questions (For answers, scroll down or click on question)

How much exercise is too much for a 2 1/2 year old warmblood cross?

How do I get my horses to stop eating the wooden fence rails? What can I put on the wood?

Is there a way to find what size saddle is best for a person? I just bought a western saddle without looking at it or sitting in it.

My horse and I do well in an arena, but as soon as we go out on a trail, he gets very spooky. He will bolt and prance around. What can I do? I realize he needs to get out more, but it is scary for me too.

After one month, how long before I can return my colt and filly to their mothers as I only have one pasture to put them in?

I have an 8 year paint gelding who was just diagnosed with a bone spavin. The vet said he would always be uncomfortable and I would never be able to ride him again. Devastated that I had to retire him, I'm looking for any hope. Can you confirm what the vet said or tell me if there are any treatments available?

We have a small pasture (most of it is cement from an old barn). Will this harm a horse?

What is the life span of horses? How old will Morgans live? Where can I find articles on care for old horses?

I am 5'3" and weigh 125 lbs. I own an 11 H grade pony (probably a welsh or shetland mix). Am I too big for him? I only ride him about every other week and we only go on half hour trail rides.

Should a person buy a horse that is not even halter broken if they never owned a horse before? And the fact that this person is deathly afraid of them?

I am considering buying a 2 year old horse who has a small (short) mouth. Would I have to use a hackamore or bosal if he eventually objects to a bit in his mouth?

We are looking at a 9 year old gelding quarterhorse who has been pin fired because of torn suspensory ligaments. If we do not jump or slide stop the horse, will it be a good western pleasure horse for a 12 year old child? With proper care, how does his future look?

I am a new rider and have a newly broken horse. She is very calm and well-trained, but my confidence is shaky. What is the best way to learn safely along with her? How can we grow as a team together?

How long does it normally take a horse to adjust to a new home? Could it be possible that she is missing her old barn friends?

I recently bought an 11 year old Appaloosa gelding. All he wants to do is run or trot. Is there a special bit I can use to have better control of his speed and to stop him when I want to?

I purchased a 5 year old Rock Mountain gelding two weeks ago. He is very nervous and unsure and is touchy around his head, tail, and back feet. He is used to being with others but is now by himself. How can I get him to trust/respect me and calm down?

We have four horses and have just bought a round pen. We have been so overwhelmed by information and just don't know where to begin. Here are the personality and behavior patterns of each horse: One is quite unpredictable and bolts and spooks; one is very pushy; one is older and needs exercise to slim down; and one is an easy ride and easy to manage, except she is not very flexible and tends to trot rather than walk on a trail ride. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

How long do horses live?

How can I stop my horse from kicking the stable walls, paddock fencing, and the grooms?

What is the best type of walking bit I can get and where? I have a large horse (15 H).

What is the average lifespan for a well taken care of horse?

Being a new rider we are told to go around the arena from one letter to another. Why are the letters set out as they are and who decided what letters should be in what place?

I have two wonderful children, Katie (14) and Leslie (13) who, I believe, have gone past the normal kids interest in animals (horses in particular).  They have been asking constantly to go riding.  I want them to have a safe and enjoyable first experience.  I rode some during the summer when I was in high school and college, but none in the last 10-15 years due to my job overseas and constantly moving around.  Any suggestions on the best way to approach this task?  I want to keep my kids occupied with the better things in life and still be safe.

I bought a new horse a week ago. She seems to have some bad habits that were not there when I bought her. She paws in her stall and keeps her ears back when I enter her stall. Are these just sign of poor adjustment?

I would like to know what breed(s) is considered to be the largest horses? Which is larger, Percherons or Clydesdales?

I'm a new rider and want to buy a couple of horses to keep at home, not at a stable. What will I have to do to keep a hunter/jumper horse at home? Can they be ridden as trail horses or are hacks more appropriate? I will have around a year in the saddle by the time I get the horses and am considering showing. What kind of facility would I need at home to properly prepare for show?

Can you please recommend some of your favorite books on horse care?

I have just received my first horse as a gift.  Would you please recommend your favorite books for a beginner?

I was given an abused 14 year old mare.  What books do you recommend on how to re-train and/or gain her trust?

I have owned my first horse for 6 months - a 15 year old, 1/2 Arabian, very smart and well trained, trail, endurance.  We have reached a stage where he is constantly trying to take advantage of me.  My question is should I let other people ride him while I am trying to work through this new stage in our training.

My 15 year old daughter has just started taking riding instructions.  I am considering purchasing a 6 month old colt that is stabled where she rides.  Do the benefits of knowing a horse from such an young age outweigh the risk of it not turning out to be a good horse after it is broken?

What does complete care involve when someone else boards your horse?

I am a 5 foot female starting english lessons.  What type of horse is best for me.

What is the approximate cost of a pre-purchase exam?

I want to buy a horse but I don't know what kind or how much to spend.

After riding for about 3 years, I really want to buy a horse.  But this would be my first one and I'm not sure on some things like: shoeing, blanketing, worming, and shots.  Also, what are coggins?

What characterizes stock seat equitation?


Is it ever acceptable to keep a horse by himself in a separate pasture, especially when there is a pony that can be kept with the horse for company? The animals I'm asking about are quite gentle and do well together. The owner of the stable where they are says it is enough for them to see each other.

I have always ridden western -- get on and ride, grab the horn if there's a bump, etc. I would like to learn how to really ride and not just stay on a horse. Can you tell me what posting is and how to go about doing it?... What can I do to stay in the saddle and keep my teeth?

Why would my 7 year old QH gelding start bucking at a canter?... Can you help me enjoy our rides without the worry of getting hurt?

I'm 11 years old and have been riding for a little more than one year. I want to have the responsibility of caring for a horse. Is leasing a horse the best thing to start with, rather than looking for one to buy? Do you have to pay for the boarding when you lease a horse?

I have my first horse, born May 6, 1999. She chews everything, especially wooden fence poles. She is weaned and is fed phase 2 grain, alfalfa/timothy hay and additional vitamins/minerals. She has a salt block with extra selenium and plenty of large carrots to chew on. Any suggestions?

What is considered too cold for a horse? When does a horse need a blanket? I have an Arabian kept in a pasture and it is getting down to about 27 degrees.

How old do horses live and at what age should I not buy. I am interested in using a horse for trail riding.

Once the horse has been checked by a vet, and you're ready to go ahead with the purchase, is there ever a contract signed? If so, what kind of guarantees (if any) would the seller be making to me?

We just moved our new pony to a stable and they use cedar shavings for bedding. We have never heard of this particular type of bedding being used with horses. Is it OK?

If you have a problem horse, will throwing it help the dominance issue?

I have a 12 year old Qtr/Arab gelding that has a very "hard mouth." He does a little better in a hackamore than a bit but not much. Any suggestions for retraining him?

We have a 16 year old Appaloosa. We have just moved from North Carolina to a milder climate in Gainesville, FL. Is pasture boarding a good option? Or, should we continue to stall board him with turnout?


Note: See also Equerry's "First Time Horse Owner" section.

Click here for more First Time Horse Owner questions and answers by both Jill Hassler-Scoop and Jessica Jahiel

Questions and Answers

Q: I'm a new rider and want to buy a couple of horses to keep at home, not at a stable. What will I have to do to keep a hunter/jumper horse at home? Can they be ridden as trail horses or are hacks more appropriate? I will have around a year in the saddle by the time I get the horses and am considering showing. What kind of facility would I need at home to properly prepare for show?

A:  Keeping horses at home is a major commitment both in time and money and you will want to spend time reviewing what is involved before deciding if this option would work for you.  Since you are new to horses, you will want to spend at least one year working around them, riding, learning basic vet care, feeding, etc.  A qualified instructor that you trust will be able to help you learn all the skills necessary to be ready to own your own horse.  

When you feel ready to have a horse at home, you need to make sure you have safe fencing, good pasture (a good estimate is 1 acre per horse), a shelter from bad weather, and some place to ride.  Depending on your level of riding and the level of showing you would like to do will dictate the facilities you need.  Most likely you will want an outdoor arena to school your school horse.  You may want to have a small barn with stalls where you can keep your horses in before shows.  Check out the Bookstore http://www.equerry.com/bookstore/index.html for some suggestions on horse care books and barn plans.  If you live in a northern climate with a lot of snow you may need an indoor arena to continue working year-round.

Many hunter/jumper horses love to go on trail rides.  This will be one of the questions you will want to ask people as you are looking for your horses.  If possible, even try the horses once on a trail ride in addition to the arena.   Also mention that you will be keeping the horses at home.  Find out their daily schedule and any special needs they may have so you know if they would be suitable for your home.

Plot out your daily schedule.  Do you have time to feed and water twice a day, muck stalls, groom and ride?  If your schedule is tight and you won't have help, then there are often days you won't be able to ride because the care of the horses must come first.  If you do have the time, having your horses at home is a very rewarding experience and well worth the effort involved.  Good luck and have fun with your new horses.  

 

Q: Can you please recommend some of your favorite books on horse care?

A:  There are many excellent books available on horse care and all its aspects.  Some of my favorites include Feeding & Care of the Horse by Lon D. Lewis, Beyond the Hay Days by Rex A. Ewing, and For the Good of the Horse by Mary Wanless.  The first two books mentioned deal a lot with feeding, Mary Wanless's book covers all aspects of keeping a happy, healthy horse.  Other recommendations would depend on what specifics areas you were interested in.  I would suggest checking out our Equerry bookstore at http://www.equerry.com/bookstore/eq_bkst-main.htm , reading some of the book reviews and then deciding which seem to interest you the most.  You can purchase the books right online from our site and it will also provide you with a list of other recommended books.  

 

Q: I have just received my first horse as a gift.  Would you please recommend your favorite books for a beginner?

A:  Congratulations on your new horse!  What an exciting and wonderful gift.  I will give you a couple of suggestions for good books that will provide you with basic, overall knowledge.  I would also recommend you contact a professional instructor in your area and arrange for a couple of lessons.  Some times, hands on experience will be easier for you to absorb and comprehend than reading information in a book would be.  A good instructor could give you a strong basis for starting a safe, enjoyable relationship with your new horse.  Horse Handling and Grooming by Cherry Hill is an excellent source for a new horse owner, Horse Health Care is a companion book to this one also by Cherry Hill.  Jane Holderness-Roddam's The Horse Companion would also be excellent choice.  Reviews of these and other books are available on our website at http://www.equerry.com/bookstore/eq_bkst-main.htm  Good luck with your new horse.  

 

Q: I was given an abused 14 year old mare.  What books do you recommend on how to re-train and/or gain her trust?

A:  I do not know of any specific books on re-training previously abused horses, but I do have two recommendations on general retraining books which should give you some excellent suggestions.  Reschooling the Thoroughbred written by Peggy Jett Pittenger and Sharon Smith's Retraining: Teaching New Skills to Previously Trained Horses would both be a good place to start.  Check our bookstore http://www.equerry.com/bookstore/eq_bkst-main.htm for more recommendations on basic horse care, if you are new to horses, and horse communications. 

 

Q: I have owned my first horse for 6 months - a 15 year old, 1/2 Arabian, very smart and well trained, trail, endurance.  We have reached a stage where he is constantly trying to take advantage of me.  My question is should I let other people ride him while I am trying to work through this new stage in our training.

A:  This is a common stage for new owners to go through with their first horses and it should be one that you can work through quite easily.  Often, horses need a tune up by a more experienced rider in order to continue to listen obediently to a rider that is still learning the correct use and application of their riding aids.  You do, however, want to be cautious regarding who you let ride your horse.  Too many different riders will only serve to confuse and frustrate your horse.  I recommend finding a qualified professional in your area that you trust and respect.  Set up an evaluation lesson where you can explain the problems you have been encountering with your horse, show the trainer/instructor what you have been working on, and see what he or she recommends as a program for you and your horse.  Depending on the severity of the problems you have been having, this person may recommend allowing them to ride your horse to work through the issues.  If the problems have been minor, quite often a good professional will be able to teach you how to deal with the problems yourself.  This later approach is certainly the best if you feel comfortable and safe working with your horse, and the professional you work with is confident in your ability to resolve the problems.  By seeking professional guidance through this period in your training, you will be able to advance your own knowledge and that of your horse more quickly and safely than if you continue to try and work through the problems on your own.  Good luck. 

 

Q: My 15 year old daughter has just started taking riding instructions.  I am considering purchasing a 6 month old colt that is stabled where she rides.  Do the benefits of knowing a horse from such an young age outweigh the risk of it not turning out to be a good horse after it is broken?

A:  I always recommend that beginning riders do not purchase green, or in this case even unbroke, horses.  As a rider is learning they need a safe, reliable horse to give them confidence and teach them the appropriate responses.  Older, well-trained horses will be able to improve your daughter's riding and knowledge of horse care in a safe manner.  When you purchase an older horse you will already know what it is like to ride, how sound it has been, what its personality is like, and how it is to work around.  Your daughter would immediately be able to work around and ride her horse.  With a youngster you will be waiting years before your daughter could ride her horse and you would not be sure that the foal would develop into the horse you wanted.  Young horses need an experienced handler in order to learn the correct behaviors and to be properly started.  While a foal may be a cheaper purchase price, you will spend far more money getting it to the point where your daughter can ride and enjoy it safely.  I recommend speaking with your daughter's instructor and discussing if she knows enough at this point to purchase her own horse.  If the instructor feels that she does, ask them to help you look for an older, well-trained horse for your daughter to enjoy and learn from.  Colts are very cute, but they are not suitable for beginners.  I promise, your daughter will love and enjoy an older horse even more. 

 

Q: What does complete care involve when someone else boards your horse?

A:  Typically, complete or full care includes feeding and watering your horse two or three times per day, daily stall cleaning, changing of blankets if necessary, and daily turnout if it is available and suitable for your horse.  Some stables include grooming, tacking your horse up for you and scheduling vet and farrier appointments.  Costs and what exactly is included vary depending on your location and with each barn.  Most important is to be sure you ask a lot of questions, get all the details, and compare barns in your area to see which is most suitable for you and your horse. 

 

Q: I am a 5 foot female starting english lessons.  What type of horse is best for me.

A:  Since you are just beginning to ride, the one concrete recommendation I can make is for you to find a well-trained, older horse.  This will allow you to learn and practice your new skills safely and correctly.  A well-trained horse is a much better option for any beginner/intermediate rider than a young horse would be.  You will want to make sure you find a size horse that you are comfortable with, the exact height varies with each person's preferences and the type of riding that they do.  Many riders close to your height are comfortable riding 14 hand horses, others prefer 16 hand horses.  Keep in mind in addition to your height, your body type.  If you have short legs, you will want a horse with a narrow barrel.  If you have a long torso, be sure you horse has a long neck so you feel balanced.  Most important consideration is if you feel comfortable, balanced, and safe.  Breed and training recommendations will vary depending on what type of english riding you are doing, if you wish to show and at what level, and if you may possible want to ride more than one discipline.  Talk with your instructor to see what he or she would recommend and if they know of any suitable horses.  Take your time looking, be patient, and wait until you find the horse that you get along with and enjoy the most. 

 

Q: What is the approximate cost of a pre-purchase exam?

A:  Costs of a pre-purchase exam will vary depending on your location and what you have included.  A basic health and soundness check with no x-rays generally run $75-$125.  A full pre-purchase exam with health and soundness checks and x-rays of hocks, fetlocks, and front feet typically are about $500.  You can customize pre-purchase exams anywhere within that range or beyond to include only the elements that are important to you and a particular horse.  For example, if you have known the horse for quite some time and he has always been sound, or you are looking for just a pleasure mount, then x-rays would probably not be necessary.  On the other hand, if you are looking at a competitive show prospect for jumping, you may wish to do all of the above and even include x-rays of the knees and stifles.  If you are purchasing a mare and plan on breeding her in the future you may wish to include a breeding soundness exam as well.  Spend time talking with your trainer and vet to decide on the most suitable pre-purchase exam for you and the horse you are considering. 

 

Q: I want to buy a horse but I don't know what kind or how much to spend.

A:  Since I do not know the details of your situation I will give you some guidelines and questions that can help you reach the answers you are looking for.  First, I am assuming you have ridden and taken lessons already.  If you have not, you should contact an instructor in your area and begin with riding lessons.  Explain that you are also interested in eventually purchasing your own horse and would like your lessons to include horse care, safety, etc. in addition to riding.  You must decide on what type of riding you would like to do - english, western, dressage, jumping, trail riding, etc.?  Do you want to show or just enjoy your horse at home?  If you want to show, what level are you considering - local, regional, national?  These answers can help you narrow your focus into specific breeds or types of horses.  Set up a budget on how much you can spend monthly in caring for your horse.  How will you purchase tack?  How much can you spend on a horse?  Horse prices vary too greatly to be able to give you a specific amount that a horse you want would cost.  First decide on what you can afford to spend.  Stick to that limit and take your time looking to find the right horse.  Finding a trainer to help you answer these questions and find a suitable horse would be the best solution.  There are also some good books for first time horse owners.   Horse Sense by John Mettler Jr.  is available in our bookstore on www.equerry.com and would be an excellent place for you to start. 

 

Q: After riding for about 3 years, I really want to buy a horse.  But this would be my first one and I'm not sure on some things like: shoeing, blanketing, worming, and shots.  Also, what are coggins?

A:  Shoeing is done every 4-8 weeks depending on your horse.  Costs vary with location, type of shoes, any pads needed, etc.  Ask for farrier recommendations at the barn you currently ride at and call around to farriers in your area to see what their rates are.  Blanketing needs depend on your geographic location, if you show, and how heavy a coat your horse grows.  For a general pleasure horse in a mild climate blanketing would not be necessary.  In the colder, northern climates you may need to blanket in the winter.  Many horses that are shown or ridden year round are blanketed.   A vet can give you a specific schedule of shots and de-worming that will be customized to your geographic location.  A coggins is a test for equine infectious anemia which is a highly fatal disease in horses.  A negative coggins is necessary for a horse to travel.  You can see our news section for a related story on EIA outbreaks in Pennsylvania.  There are many excellent books in our www.equerry.com bookstore that would answer more questions for you on first time horse ownership.  The Horse Companion by Jane Holderness-Roddam would be one recommendation.  Read the listed reviews for more suggestions.  Good luck with purchasing your first horse.  

 

Q: What characterizes stock seat equitation?

A:  Stock seat equitation is one of three forms of equitation classes recognized by the American Horse Show Association (the other two being hunter seat and saddle seat).  Riders are mainly judged on their seat, hands, position, ability to influence their horse, and their riding skills.  Western tack and apparel is worn.  Riders are asked to walk, jog, and lope as a group both ways of the arena.  The judge may then ask for individual patterns to be performed to help determine class placings.  The American Horse Association can give you further details at www.ahsa.org   

 

Q: Is it ever acceptable to keep a horse by himself in a separate pasture, especially when there is a pony that can be kept with the horse for company? The animals I'm asking about are quite gentle and do well together. The owner of the stable where they are says it is enough for them to see each other.

A:  It is fine for a horse to be kept in a separate pasture, especially if they have a companion animal or are next to other horses.  Being alone can be difficult for some horses, but others do just fine.  Be sure to watch your horse the first few times he is turned out alone.  Also be sure to keep a close eye on the horse and pony if they go out in the same field to make sure they get along well.   As long as you introduce this slowly, your horse should do just fine. 

 

Q: I have always ridden western -- get on and ride, grab the horn if there's a bump, etc. I would like to learn how to really ride and not just stay on a horse. Can you tell me what posting is and how to go about doing it? I was on a trail ride and the girl in front of me (who had never been on a horse) rode without so much as a head bob, whereas I am practically airborne while trotting. What can I do to stay in the saddle and keep my teeth?

A: The best way to learn how to correctly ride is to invest in a few riding lessons. A good instructor will be able to get you started on the right track in the quickest, safest, and most efficient manner. Posting is a riding skill that is utilized by both english and western riders. When the horse trots, he moves in a two beat rhythm. On the first step the right hind leg and left front leg step forward at the same time. On the second step the left hind leg and right front leg step forward. To post, the rider sits the first step and stands up on the second. This is an easy rhythm for the rider and horse to match each other's movement and more comfortable for some horses and riders than trying to sit a bouncy trot. All horses will move slightly different from other horses. Some are very bouncy while others are very smooth. This may be one of the factors you noticed while watching the girl in front of you. In addition, the more relaxed the rider is, the easier it is for that person to adapt to the horse's way of moving; or in other words, the more relaxed you are, the less you will bounce. To stay down in the saddle you must develop what we call an independent seat. This means that your seat is able to follow the movement of the horse, that you are sitting evenly on both seat bones, and that you can move individual parts of your body without it affecting the rest of your body.  Lessons with a qualified instructor will allow you to practice posting and other exercises that will improve your seat and general riding skills. Have fun with all the new information that will make riding even more enjoyable. 

 

Q: Why would my 7 year old QH gelding start bucking at a canter? We rode all summer and had a great time with no trouble. Fall came along and he started to act strange. I have not changed any of my tact (except for a new blanket which is almost like the old). Can you help me enjoy our rides without the worry of getting hurt?

A: Bucking can be caused by a number of different conditions. Is your horse bucking every time you ride, only after he has had some days of rest, if the weather conditions are bad, or if he is ridden with other horses? These are just a few of the questions you will need to ask yourself to determine what the source of the problem is. Without seeing you and your horse in person it is difficult to correctly diagnosis, but I can give you a few possibilities to check and explore. The first thing I would do is check to make sure your tack is still fitting correctly. As he has developed muscles over his back from working all summer it is possible that your saddle no longer fits him. A professional saddle fitter or tack shop owner should be able to assist you with checking for the correct fit. I would also recommend having your vet check your horse's teeth and do a basic physical exam to make sure that it is not pain that is causing this resistance. Has the amount you are able to ride changed? If your horse is getting less work than he was during the summer it may be he has excess energy that he needs to burn off. Turnout and lunging prior to riding may help with this. Are you asking for more demanding work that he could feel is too hard for him? I would strongly recommend contacting a professional instructor/trainer in your area and asking for their evaluation. They can assess your riding to make sure you are not doing anything differently and give you ways of working through this resistance if it is related to training. Bucking can be a frightening and difficult problem to work through on your own. A qualified professional will be able to give you the support and guidance you may need to successfully and safely work through this.  

 

Q: I'm 11 years old and have been riding for a little more than one year. I want to have the responsibility of caring for a horse. Is leasing a horse the best thing to start with, rather than looking for one to buy? Do you have to pay for the boarding when you lease a horse?

A: First, let me congratulate you on the mature way you have decided to take on the responsibility of a horse. Many people just rush into this process without being prepared, but you seem to be carefully considering your options. Since you have been riding for a year, I am assuming you are taking lessons with someone. I would begin by speaking with your instructor about your desire for more responsibility. Perhaps he or she will have more ideas on leases or horses for sale in your area. If at all possible, I would recommend leasing a horse to begin with. This will allow you time to experience the joys and demands of horse ownership before you take on the cost of purchasing your own horse. Leases vary greatly depending on the horses and circumstances. In general, you would be expected to cover all the expenses of the horse including board, feed, vet, farrier, and any other incidentals. Some horses that have a lot of training also require a monthly payment to be paid to the owner in addition to the above fees. Occasionally, you may be able to find a horse you can 1/2 lease. This would mean you would get to ride it half the time and someone would ride it the other half. You would split all expenses on the horse. We recommend carrying an insurance policy on the horse you are leasing. In the rare event that something serious happened to the horse, a lease would usually hold you accountable for the value of the horse. An insurance policy would pay the owner this determined value. Good leases can be hard to find, but with patience you could find an excellent horse to take care of. I also recommend you read our first time horse owner section. Many of the pieces will be suitable for lease or purchase situations and will provide you with more details on things like budgeting for a horse, finding insurance, and locating a suitable boarding facility. Have fun with this new responsibility of taking care of your own horse. It is well worth the effort. 

 

Q: I have my first horse, born May 6, 1999. She chews everything, especially wooden fence poles. She is weaned and is fed phase 2 grain, alfalfa/timothy hay and additional vitamins/minerals. She has a salt block with extra selenium and plenty of large carrots to chew on. Any suggestions?

A: A couple of things may be going on. I would first get a hay analysis done on the hay you are feeding. Then take the results along with details of how much hay and grain your filly is eating to your local feed dealer. They should be able to connect you with someone who can give you a detailed report on if all your filly's nutritional needs are being met. From what you have described I would not expect any abnormalities, but it is worth checking. If you cannot find a local source to help you with this information, "Beyond the Hay Days" by Rex A. Ewing is an excellent nutrition book and is available in the www.equerry.com bookstore. Secondly, your weanling may be bored. Is she out with other horses? This would be the best way to keep her occupied. Some horses enjoy playing with the horse balls or orange traffic cones. Make sure she gets plenty of attention and exercise to keep her mind busy. Finally, some horses can go through mouthy stages. You mentioned she was chewing on everything - if this includes you, make sure you are not giving her hand treats. That will encourage her chewing. Instead, break carrots or other goodies up and give them to her in a bucket. She still gets the treat, but not the bad manners that can go along with hand treats. To help prevent damage to your fence, I would recommend apply one of the many commercial treatments that are available to discourage wood chewing. These are available at almost any feed or tack store. 

 

Q: What is considered too cold for a horse? When does a horse need a blanket? I have an Arabian kept in a pasture and it is getting down to about 27 degrees.

A: There is not a set temperature that is too cold for horses. Conditions vary and are different for each horse and each situation. Making the decision to blanket or not blanket your horse must take into consideration a number of factors. Most horses do not need blanketing in the winter if the following conditions are met. First, the horse must have some sort of shelter or windbreak to escape from, or at least receive partial protection from the weather. Secondly, if your horse is acclimated to the colder climates they will usually adapt fine to the weather. If however you bring a horse up from a warmer climate into a colder one, it would more than likely need a blanket because it will not grow as heavy of a haircoat. Blanketing requires a lot of time commitments. You must check blankets, change them as the weather changes, and always have an extra blanket on hand in case your normal blanket gets wet or torn. Do you have the time to take on this responsibility for your horse? Do you continue riding throughout the winter? If so, blanketing will be a convenience for you. If you don't ride, or rarely ride, during the winter your horse will probably appreciate being allowed to grow his natural, fuzzy coat. Finally, you must take into consideration your general climate. If your weather is prone to lots of snow and/or rain and low temperatures your horse will be more likely to need a blanket than in a dry, climate with similar temperatures. If blankets are used, they must be checked a couple of times a day to ensure that they have not slipped and are rubbing the horse, have not torn, and that they are still dry. A wet blanket would be colder for the horse than no blanket at all. For horses that wear blankets and are turned out or kept on pasture you must have a waterproof blanket. Blankets labeled as stable blankets or water resistant blankets will get wet and are only suitable as indoor blankets or for short periods outside. If you start blanketing, you must continue throughout the winter. Blankets compact the horse's hair and therefore if you suddenly stopped blanketing your horse he would be too cold. Blanketing decisions are often based on personal preferences and beliefs. I recommend finding someone in your area that is an experienced horse person that you admire and asking what they recommend for your horse and climate. Good luck in your decision making. 

 

Q: How old do horses live and at what age should I not buy. I am interested in using a horse for trail riding.

A: The age to which horses live varies greatly between individuals. Many horses live very comfortably into their early twenties and continue to have a productive, useful work life. I have known a couple of horses in their twenties that are still successfully competing in dressage. I have also known horses in their teens who are no longer sound for riding. I would not necessarily eliminate a horse as a possible purchase due to its age. Instead, I would recommend looking for a horse that suits your requirements and has been consistently and comfortably working at or above the level at which you are planning to ride. Once you find a horse that you are interested in purchasing, regardless of age, have an equine veterinarian in your area do a health and soundness exam on the horse. Explain all that you know of the horse's health, soundness, and work history and give the vet a good description of what level of work you intend to do with the horse. How often will you regularly ride, for how long, at what speeds? The veterinarian will be able to give you a good assessment of each individual horse's suitability for your riding schedule and an overall assessment of the horse's overall health and condition. Have fun with your horse search. 

 

Q: Once the horse has been checked by a vet, and you're ready to go ahead with the purchase, is there ever a contract signed? If so, what kind of guarantees (if any) would the seller be making to me?

A: Once your vet check has been completed and the results are satisfactory, you will need a signed Bill of Sale which documents the transfer of legal ownership of the horse. This document describes the horse being sold, including a physical description (age, height, size, sex) and registration number if appropriate. Usually it will also state the amount of the sale or purchase price and any additional conditions or terms. It must be signed by both the seller and the buyer. Typically, horses are sold "as is" with no guarantees offered. However, occasionally a seller may make some guarantees such as soundness or a mare being in foal. If that were the case, then those guarantees should be included in the Bill of Sale.  

 

Q: We just moved our new pony to a stable and they use cedar shavings for bedding. We have never heard of this particular type of bedding being used with horses. Is it OK?

A: Cedar shavings are an unusual bedding choice for horses. I consulted with our local vet and he recommended NOT using any type of cedar shavings. They can occasionally be toxic for horses. Other woods that are toxic for horses include black walnut, maple, and the tannins found in oak trees and acorns. Straw or pine shavings are the most common types of bedding. Consult your regular veterinarian for more details.  

 

Q: If you have a problem horse, will throwing it help the dominance issue?

A:  Throwing a horse is a dangerous procedure and will not help you with dominance/training issues.  If you are having problems with your horse, I suggest finding a reputable professional in your area to help you work through any resistances with safe, humane methods.  I also suggest reading some of the many Natural Horsemanship books available at the Equerry Bookstore to learn other training methods and ideologies.  

 

Q: I have a 12 year old Qtr/Arab gelding that has a very "hard mouth." He does a little better in a hackamore than a bit but not much. Any suggestions for retraining him?

A:  If your horse is having any problems with a bit, you should first have your horse examined by your vet.  A horse's teeth need to be checked one-two times yearly to make sure there are not sharp points or other dental problems that could make carrying a bit uncomfortable.  I would also be interested in examining the bit/bits you have been using.  Are the good quality with no sharp edges or grooves that could pinch your horse?  Do they fit properly?  Sometimes, horses will have a particular preference for one type of a bit over another.  Try different bits and you may find one your horse accepts more readily.

Horses develop a "hard mouth" or unresponsiveness to the bit usually due to harsh or rough treatment at some point in their training.  Your horse may have had a rider with "rough" hands at some point in his past and is afraid that the same treatment will occur again.  Many times, riders don't even realize how much their hands are moving and how much that will affect and punish their horse.  If a horse is unresponsive to the bridle, often uneducated riders will continue to try stronger and stronger bits instead of dealing with the correct training issues that need to be addressed.

I would strongly recommend, after having a vet examine your horse, finding a qualified, professional trainer in your area.  Depending on your level of riding, your horse's level of training, and the style of riding you do all affect possible re-training exercises.  Unfortunately, with all those variables I am not able to offer a concrete re-training plan, but after speaking with you in detail and watching you and your horse work together, a local trainer should be able to help you.  Good luck.  

 

Q: We have a 16 year old Appaloosa. We have just moved from North Carolina to a milder climate in Gainesville, FL. Is pasture boarding a good option? Or, should we continue to stall board him with turnout?

A:  The choice on whether to pasture board or stall board with turnout will depend on a number of factors.   In general, horses are happier and healthier if they are allowed to live out.  They tend to have less vices and health problems.  Especially as the horse ages, the more he is able to move around the better.  Many problems, such as arthritis, will be helped if a horse is able to be kept outside.  There are benefits of keeping your horse in a stall as well: customized feeding programs, daily handling, and convenience for the rider are just a few.  Either decision is acceptable.  I suggest writing down what your specific horse requires in terms of feed, time outside, any health considerations, and your time.  That should give you a clearer idea of what situation would be best for your particular circumstances.  Then, look around your area for suitable boarding stables that offer the right boarding situation for your horse, as well as amenities you may need such as lessons, riding trails, a tackroom, etc.  If you carefully consider the needs of both you and your horse, you will find the right boarding situation for you in your new home. 

 

Q: I would like to know what breed(s) is considered to be the largest horses? Which is larger, Percherons or Clydesdales?

A: Typically, draft or workhorse breeds tend to be the largest.  Variations exist within each breed, but some estimated height ranges for a few draft breeds are:  Clydesdales: 16.2-18 hands, Percherons 15.2-17.2 hands, Shires 16-18 hands.  These larger draft breeds can easily weigh in at over 2,000 pounds (1 ton)!  If you are interested in learning more about these and other breeds, check out the Equerry Bookstore where we have recommended books that are available for purchase.  Look under the General Horse category for more books about horse breeds. 

 

Q: I bought a new horse a week ago. She seems to have some bad habits that were not there when I bought her. She paws in her stall and keeps her ears back when I enter her stall. Are these just sign of poor adjustment?

A: My first question would be if you had spent time with her in her stall prior to purchasing her.  Some horses tend to be protective of their space and like to be left alone when in their stall.  It is certainly a possibility that your horse is just going through an adjustment period from being in a new place and with a new owner.  There are a few things you can consider checking to make this adjustment as easy as possible.  First, was she kept in a stall in her previous home?  Was she able to see other horses or not?  How much turnout is she used to?  If she is not used to being stalled, or is used to extensive turnout, that could explain her attitude somewhat.  Depending on how your stalls are arranged, it would be she is actually feeling threatened by seeing other horses and is just being territorial in her stall.  The pawing seems to point more towards her being nervous in her new home.  Again, plenty of turnout time should help her remain calm and settle into her new adjustment.  Also, make sure she always has fresh hay to keep her busy when she is in her stall.  I would also recommend having your trainer come see your mare in her stall and give you some more specific suggestions for your mare.  Good luck and congratulations on your new horse. 

 

Q: I have two wonderful children, Katie (14) and Leslie (13) who, I believe, have gone past the normal kids interest in animals (horses in particular).  They have been asking constantly to go riding.  I want them to have a safe and enjoyable first experience.  I rode some during the summer when I was in high school and college, but none in the last 10-15 years due to my job overseas and constantly moving around.  Any suggestions on the best way to approach this task?  I want to keep my kids occupied with the better things in life and still be safe.

A:  I would recommend finding a good riding instructor in your area who has safe, well-trained lesson horses available.  Call local vets, feed stores, and tack stores for recommendations.  Check your local phone book for listings.  Ask how they run beginner lessons, costs, availability.  Then go watch a lesson or two and see if the facility looks safe and well run, the lesson horses and tack well cared for, and that the instructor is friendly, clear, and works well with children.  If everything looks good to you, then sign your daughters up for lessons.  Ideally, they should learn how to groom, tack, work around, and be safe around the horses as well as learn to ride them.  By starting them in a safe, controlled lesson environment you will provide them with the safety and guidance they need to really enjoy the horses.  Eventually, you may want to look into leasing or purchasing a horse, but for the beginning safe lesson horses are your best option.  Who knows, perhaps you will want to pick back up riding with your daughters.  It can be a great family activity.  

 

Q: Being a new rider we are told to go around the arena from one letter to another. Why are the letters set out as they are and who decided what letters should be in what place?

A: There have been a number of theories, and even more jokes, about the arrangement of the letters around the dressage arena.  To be honest, I can't find anyone who actually knows why they are in the order they are in.  The important thing to recognize is why we use letters.  Not only do they provide a visual aid for you to look forward to, they give us a specific marker or point to evaluate our horse's responsiveness and our accuracy in riding.  It doesn't matter if you canter at the letter "C", a cone, or a tree in a field.  What is important is if you asked your horse at the correct time, that he responded promptly and correctly, and that you have a plan on what (and where) you will ask your horse for something new.  If you are able to find out the history of the dressage letters, please write into Equerry.  We would love to know.  And if you would like to read some jokes on dressage tests and the origin of the letters, visit the Equerry humor section. 

 

Q: What is the average lifespan for a well taken care of horse?

A: Horses live to a variety of ages, just like people do.  Some horses will appear to age quickly and may only live until their late teens or early twenties.  On the other hand, I have known horses who are still actively competing in a variety of disciplines in their mid-twenties.  In general, ponies tend to live longer than horses, many times even into their late-teens and early thirties.  I don't know of an exact average lifespan, but I would assume it would be in the early twenties for a horse who has had excellent care his entire life.  

 

Q: What is the best type of walking bit I can get and where? I have a large horse (15 H).

A:  From your question, I am not sure if you are referring specifically to bits for Tennessee Walking Horses or just a bit for trail riding and pleasure riding.  I will give you some basic guidelines assuming the latter as I am not familiar with Walkers and you would need to contact a professional in your area for more specific info.  Most horses work well with a snaffle bit or a low-port curb, the preference is dictated by whether you ride english or western.  There are many variations of these bits and it will just take some looking to decide on one particular bit.  When choosing a bit for your horse, you want to look for a well-made bit that does not pinch the corners of your horse's mouth.  Some horses will have a definite preference for a certain type of bit and you may have to try a couple to find the right bit for your horse.  I suggest contacting a local trainer and having an evaluation done with you and your horse.  A trainer could provide you with more details on the correct equipment for each of you.  If this is not an option, your local tack store should be able to at least give you general guidelines on popular bits for your discipline. 

 

Q: How can I stop my horse from kicking the stable walls, paddock fencing, and the grooms?

A: This sounds like a very serious problem and requires a professional trainer to come and see your horse in person, evaluate your particular situation, and make a recommended training program to overcome this aggressive behavior.  A horse may kick its stable walls if it is locked in too much or has a neighbor that he doesn't get along with.  Moving your horse to a different stall or paddock and making sure he gets plenty of turnout may help this behavior.  Kicking at people is NEVER acceptable and must be dealt with immediately!  Find a professional in your area who you trust and admire and get help solving this problem before someone gets seriously hurt. 

 

Q: How long do horses live?

A:  Horses vary in their length of life, as do humans.  In general, I would say most horses with good care live until their early twenties. 

 

Q: We have four horses and have just bought a round pen. We have been so overwhelmed by information and just don't know where to begin. Here are the personality and behavior patterns of each horse: One is quite unpredictable and bolts and spooks; one is very pushy; one is older and needs exercise to slim down; and one is an easy ride and easy to manage, except she is not very flexible and tends to trot rather than walk on a trail ride. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

A: The feeling of being overwhelmed is quite common due to all the information available now to horse owners.  There are many excellent books, videos, and magazines, but you need to find a systematic approach to all the available information.  You won't be able to utilize it all, but must instead find the pieces that fit together to form a cohesive system that works for you and your horses.  You need a local trainer, one you respect and who models the principles you are interested in, to come get you started through this process correctly.  Chances are, with a few lessons with each horse, a trainer can give you a specific program to follow for each horse that will take into account their needs, personalities, and physical capabilities that will include both round pen and riding work.  With this variety of horses, you will learn an incredible amount!  With experienced help, you will be able to enjoy this process instead of feeling overwhelmed.  Good luck and have a great time. 

 

Q: I purchased a 5 year old Rock Mountain gelding two weeks ago. He is very nervous and unsure and is touchy around his head, tail, and back feet. He is used to being with others but is now by himself. How can I get him to trust/respect me and calm down?

A: Isolating a horse that is used to being in a herd with other horses could explain the nervousness and uncertainty that your horse is experiencing.  If you can find another companion for him, it would probably help your gelding to relax and adjust to his new home.  There are instances, however, where you will be unable to have another equine companion for your horse.  In those cases, be very careful that you spend extra time with your horse, allowing him to bond to you and build up his trust.  Being touchy around his head, tail, and back feet may be due more to lack of previous handling than being by himself.  There are some excellent resource books on gaining trust and respect with your horse.  Visit the Equerry Bookstore for book reports and recommended reading lists.  If the problem persists, or if you are unsure of your ability to cope with it, I would recommend seeking a local, qualified professional to work with you and your horse.

 

Q: I recently bought an 11 year old Appaloosa gelding. All he wants to do is run or trot. Is there a special bit I can use to have better control of his speed and to stop him when I want to?

A: A different bit, even a more severe one, will not solve your particular problem.  It sounds as though your horse is lacking in some basic training.  Every horse should be taught to calmly listen to the rider, and proceed at whatever pace the rider chooses.  As a rider, you will also need to make sure you are giving your horse the right aids and signals to help him understand what is wanted.  I recommend you immediately seek a local professional who gives lessons in your chosen discipline and at your level.  The investment of both time and money to get professional help at this stage will be worth it.  Once you are in control of your horse and he knows what is expected of him you will find both of you enjoying your time together more.  There are many wonderful books and articles available, but do to each horse/rider being a unique unit, you are best starting with a trainer.  After you are in control, you can use the books, articles, and videos to further your learning.  Good luck.

 

Q: How long does it normally take a horse to adjust to a new home? Could it be possible that she is missing her old barn friends?

A: Most horses will adjust within a few days to a few weeks to a new home.  The timeframe depends on the horse's personality, the amount of traveling they have previously been used to, and the set-up of their new home.  Find out what your horse's previous routine was and stick by that as close as possible.  If she was normally turned out all day and stalled at night, try and copy that same pattern.   Did she go out alone or with other horses?  What time of day was she fed and ridden?  Was she used to more or less activity around her?  She could be missing her previous companions, but if you pay attention to her needs and spend lots of time with her, she will quickly settle into her new home.

 

Q: I am a new rider and have a newly broken horse. She is very calm and well-trained, but my confidence is shaky. What is the best way to learn safely along with her? How can we grow as a team together?

A: The best thing to keep your confidence level high is to ride with instruction at least once or twice a week.  A patient instructor will be able to help you learn while your horse is also learning.  Taking small steps and staying patient will be critical because you are both learning and your horse's confidence may be as shaky as your own.  Occasional rides on an older horse who is well confirmed in its training may be very beneficial for you to "feel" where you are working towards with your own horse.  Additionally, having your trainer ride your horse periodically will ensure her progression and keep bad habits from starting that you may not notice early enough.  With careful thought given to your progression, you and your horse will make a wonderful team as long as you take it slow, ask for help before it is really needed, and enjoy the learning process. 

 

Q: We are looking at a 9 year old gelding quarterhorse who has been pin fired because of torn suspensory ligaments. If we do not jump or slide stop the horse, will it be a good western pleasure horse for a 12 year old child? With proper care, how does his future look?

A: Most important consideration for a youth horse is temperament.  If the horse is quiet, he might be fine.  However, you should be aware that pin firing often counts against horses in the show ring.  If you plan to show, that should be considered.  A good pre-purchase exam will give you further details and the information you need to know if the leg is likely to hold up to use. 

 

Q: I am considering buying a 2 year old horse who has a small (short) mouth. Would I have to use a hackamore or bosal if he eventually objects to a bit in his mouth?

A: A short mouth is not indicative of future bit problems.  You will have to pay close attention to bit fit, but if handled correctly and ridden with quiet, soft hands and a correctly fitting bit you should have no trouble. 

 

Q: Should a person buy a horse that is not even halter broken if they never owned a horse before? And the fact that this person is deathly afraid of them?

A: No.  For one, we always recommend matching new riders with older, experienced horses who they can learn from.  There is too much potential for learning the wrong things, accidents, or dangerous situations with a young horse (let alone an unbroke horse) and an inexperienced rider.  Secondly, I would seriously question why a person who is seriously afraid of horses would consider purchasing any horse, much less an unbroke horse.  If they really want to be involved with horses, the best place to start would be taking lessons at a nearby facility on safe, quiet school horses.  This would boost their confidence and knowledge and they could then decide if they wanted to look for a horse at that time. 

 

Q: I am 5'3" and weigh 125 lbs. I own an 11 H grade pony (probably a welsh or shetland mix). Am I too big for him? I only ride him about every other week and we only go on half hour trail rides.

A:  Ponies are very strong for their size, but you are too large for your pony.  Both of you will be comfortable with a different size partner.  Something at least 14 hands, preferably 14.2 hands or larger, would be a more suitable size for you.  A smaller rider will be more comfortable for your pony to carry.  Carrying too large of a rider could cause back trouble or other soundness problems.  I am sorry as I am sure you are very happy with your pony, but a different match would be better for both of you in the long run. 

 

Q: What is the life span of horses? How old will Morgans live? Where can I find articles on care for old horses?

A: Horses can live, on average, to between 20 and 25 years. As with people, there is a wide range of lifespans. Morgans tend to be a slower developing breed and can easily live into their mid-20's. I would recommend Equus or The Horse for regular articles on older horse care. I also suggest searching the Equerry Bookstore for related books. 

 

Q: We have a small pasture (most of it is cement from an old barn). Will this harm a horse?

A:  I am not quite sure of the layout you are describing, but it does not sound suitable for a horse to live with.  Rough cement chunks left over from a foundation could cut your horse, bruise his feet, and would prevent grass growth.  A smooth cement slab would get slippery and your horse could fall.  You should be able to get the foundation or flooring removed leaving your pasture with a nice, safe area for your horse. 

 

Q: I have an 8 year paint gelding who was just diagnosed with a bone spavin. The vet said he would always be uncomfortable and I would never be able to ride him again. Devastated that I had to retire him, I'm looking for any hope. Can you confirm what the vet said or tell me if there are any treatments available?

A:  I would suggest contacting another vet for a second opinion if you are not comfortable with your vet's diagnosis.  There are many degrees of severity in bone spavins.  A mild case may be manageable with corrective shoeing, anti-inflammatories, and moderate exercise.  Severe cases may not be manageable.  A veterinarian is required to be able to make further recommendations.  I hope you are able to find the right answer for you and your horse. 

 

Q: After one month, how long before I can return my colt and filly to their mothers as I only have one pasture to put them in?

A:  I know it is difficult having limited space for horses, but you will probably need to keep your foals separated from their dams for at least 6 months and a year is ideal.  Earlier than 6 months and it is not unusual for the foals to try and nurse again.  Can you rotate when they are turned out so they are out at separate times?  Another idea would be to see if you can find someone else with a similar situation or extra pasture space.  You may have to board either the mares or the foals out for a short time to really help with the weaning.  The last option I could suggest would be to cross fence your pasture.  While initially the most expensive option, it would allow a number of benefits:  it would keep your foals separated from the dams, would allow for pasture rotation to allow grass to grow without the horses always on it, and could create a smaller space in case you have an injured horse or a horse that does not get along in the group later on.  Whichever option you choose, good luck, and enjoy your foals. 

 

Q: My horse and I do well in an arena, but as soon as we go out on a trail, he gets very spooky. He will bolt and prance around. What can I do? I realize he needs to get out more, but it is scary for me too.

A:  Can you find a friend with a quiet, experienced trail horse who you can go out with?  If so, this will be ideal as having another horse and rider will give both you and your horse confidence.  You are correct that your horse's behavior will improve once he is more used to the surroundings outdoors.  Work your horse in the area prior to going out.  This will take the edge off a little, but will also make going out seem like a reward.  Start with very short trips.  Walk just around the barn or within site of it until your horse seems confident and comfortable with being outside.  Then you can slowly lengthen the distance of your time outside.  Keep your horse's attention focused on you through doing walk-halt transitions, small circles, even a few steps of leg yielding.  This will help your horse focus more on you and less on what is going on around him.  Take it very slow, and with enough time and miles, your horse will enjoy going outside. 

 

Q: Is there a way to find what size saddle is best for a person? I just bought a western saddle without looking at it or sitting in it.

A:  Determining correct saddle fit depends on a number of factors including height and weight of the person, discipline being ridden, and size of the horse.  Just like shoes, saddles can be the same size, but will fit a person differently.  Most important is, of course, comfort for the rider and horse.  Nothing should pinch or rub either of you.  You want the saddle to sit level on your horse so you are centered in the deepest part of the seat.  I suggest taking your saddle into a local tack store or your trainer and discussing with them the fit.  It is impossible to say what will fit best without seeing you, your horse, and the possible saddle in person. 

 

Q: How do I get my horses to stop eating the wooden fence rails? What can I put on the wood?

A:  There are a number of commercial products available to put on wooden rails to discourage chewing.  Your local farm & ranch store should have a couple of different brands available.  From our experience, there is not one particular product which works better than another.  Wood chewing can be a sign of mineral deficiency so I would also recommend making sure your horse has access to a mineral supplement as well as a salt block. 

 

Q: How much exercise is too much for a 2 1/2 year old warmblood cross?

A:  Each horse will mature at a different rate, but as a general rule, warmbloods do mature later than breeds such as Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses.  We do not start our youngsters until their three year old year, so at 2 1/2 they are still out playing in the fields 24 hours a day with their friends.  They get handled briefly each day, but most time is spent just growing up and playing with the other horses.  Depending on the development of your youngster, some people will recommend lightly backing a youngster late in their two year old year, and then turning out again to mature more over the winter.  I would strongly recommend against doing anything more than that with a 2 1/2 year old. 

 

Click here for more First Time Horse Owner questions and answers by both Jill Hassler-Scoop and Jessica Jahiel


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