I have ridden on and off for years but I have always dreamed of owning my own horse. We were in the military until recently so it hasn't really been an option. Now we have settled in the country and DD rides at a local lovely riding school which also does livery. I am also riding there but would ultimately like to own my own horse and possibly one for my daughter.
My experience with horses have been lessons so my stable management is limited. I wondered about volunteering at the stables to get some more experience.
Mucking in (and out!) at stables is a really good idea and should start to give a picture of the heavy duty duties you'll take on with a horse of your own. if it's possible to take responsibility of one horse in particular, then try and do that - i.e get a view of the sort of round the clock responsibilities you'll have if you're looking after your own (unless its at a livery yard). Also, have you got a good picture of the full costs of horse ownership? And have you tried loaning/share arrangements?
McDreamy - I think a share would be a really good place to start. There is such a lot to learn about looking after a horse, and it's a huge drain on time, money, energy; lots and lots and lots to be learned and taken care of if it's done properly, so definitely a good idea to ease yourself into it, see if it's really tenable, etc.
I agree with previous posts - a share/loan would be best, that way you can try out 'ownership' without the responsibility. Perhaps ask the instructor at your riding school. If they also have horses on livery it's possible they may know if an owner is looking for a sharer, it is even possible they will be happy to let you part-loan a horse from them (but be a bit careful of the contract and ensure you get what you want out of it).
HerMajesty - So true...somedays think I should just feed my horses bank notes!
If your local riding stables does ABRS (Association of British Riding School) exams, these cover stable management as well as riding. Otherwise volunteering is a good idea, and will get you into the local horsey network as well. They'll probably be delighted to have an extra adult at no cost to them, but you may have to have a CRB check.
If you get on well with people at the stables and they do livery (working or otherwise), that might be a way to start too.
OP - sorry for being so flippant earlier but I recently did the maths and the amount of money I have spent per ride for one of my horses is so astronomical I fear to write it down in case I expire. Horses cost money, lots of money. You become so attached to them that you keep on pouring money into them and when you tot up what you have spent it can be breath taking.
You also need to think of when your horse reaches the end of its working life. I didn't think enough about this when I bought my two. What will you do? Carry on pouring money into a bottomless pit? Find a retirement home (NOT EASY)? Have them put to sleep? Sell them?
No matter what there will eventually come a time when you have to have your beloved horse put to sleep. I had to do that last summer and it was one of the worst things I have ever had to do.
Sorry to be so negative but although I love my horse I could do without the huge financial drain of keeping her.
I will not buy a horse again. I will share, borrow, hire or do without.
Oh, HMSC What you say about costs of horse owning is true, but there's also a huge range... OP - what are you thinking of getting/looking after? An eventer/TB or something lovely but less fancy who'd be happier to live out most of the time and do a bit of hacking?
McDreamy - I wasn going to say that should make things a lot easier. (I really think it does, actually). Btw, re. loans. shares, etc., it can take longer to find the right horse this way than it would if you were buying, but I'd still strongly recommend it. Could try asking in local saddlers for a start. And you never know what might turn up: I used to pass by what looked like the horse of my dreams where I worked, happened to meet the owner one day, she was just off to uni and looking for someone to do share with!
HMSC - I can't help it, I'm nosey: what happened? Also, re. retirement, I don't know if you've considered this, but does Riding For the Disabled still exist (or something similar)? We used to have a lovely mare, v good jumper in her day (and quite skittish), when she was about 17 she moved to a lovely family and used to do a bit of Riding for Disabled, which she seemed to really enjoy. (It's actually bringing tears to my eyes thinking of it. Must be getting old <sigh>)