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Looking after horses well is something you can only really learn by experience. You can read and learn all the theory, but it is one of those things what really requires you to develop an eye or a feel for things. You can never know everything about horses and they constantly surprise even the most experienced horse folk. Because of this I think it is hard to say whether beginners should buy a horse.
Beginners lack horse experience
Even experienced horse owners can miss or be stumped by something they have never seen before. But for a beginner, there is just so much information to learn and take on board that horse ownership might be a step too far.
When you buy a horse, you are responsible for deciding what they eat, what rugs they wear, what tack they have, their routine and their health. The theory of all of these is fairly easy to pick up and is similar from horse to horse. What yard you are on might even determine a lot of these things for you.
However, what about when these things don’t work for your horse? Or what if your horse picks up a minor injury or illness? Someone lacking experience might miss these subtle signs and the horse might suffer until the symptoms become worse. Because of this, the idea of beginners buying their own horse doesn’t sound like a good idea.
Beginners need experience from somewhere
If you don’t come from a horsey family, you usually get into horses through a riding school. Riding schools can be fantastic, but not many seem to offer horse husbandry lessons too. So when a rider gets to the point that they are invested in the horse industry and they are ready to take the next step, they often lack the knowledge out of the saddle to properly care for a horse. They end up in a catch 22 where they need the experience looking after a horse to get the knowledge, but owning a horse themselves might be too much. So what options do they have?
Pony Club/Own A Pony Days
Some riding schools offer own a pony days and may be affiliated to the Pony Club. These experiences give you the chance to learn some other skills such as grooming, plaiting, feeding, tack cleaning and basic first aid. This can be perfect for children and teenagers.
Sharing & Loaning
If you are already comfortable with the basics of looking after a horse, then sharing or part loaning could be a good option for you. This is usually where you pay some money towards the upkeep of a horse in return for looking after and riding on set days. It gives you the extra experience of owning a horse while also having the safety net of the horse’s owner to help when you need it.
Part or Full Livery
Another good option is buying a horse and keeping it on part or full livery. These yards will take care of the day to day care of your horse and will be able to notice any changes or issues with your horse. Depending on how helpful the yard staff and owners are, they might also be able to help you learn more skills.
So should beginners buy their own horse?
Beginners will only learn the skills they need to care for their own horse by having similar experiences. Because of this I don’t think we can say that beginners shouldn’t buy their own horse. However, I do think we should be encouraging them to get other experiences where they can first. Whether this is through sharing, working on a yard or a riding school.