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How experienced do you need to be to realistically consider owning a horse?

(18 Posts)
Moviestar1979 Wed 28-Nov-12 10:53:19

How experienced should I be to realistically consider owning a horse?

I would keep it at a livery yard with other people around who I could ask for help, not at my house or in an isolated place. I would also be looking for a straightforward beginners' horse which is safe and I can learn with. Nothing too highly strung!

My experience is as follows:
I am now in my thirties. I first rode when I was about 11 or 12 then rode on and off throughout my teens until I went to uni at 18 when uni and work took over. I also helped out at a local livery yard at weekends when I was about 15 or 16 so learnt about stable management as well as riding. I have never had my own horse.

I have just got back into riding and now for the first time in my life I could afford to own my own horse and realise a childhood dream grin but am I experienced enough? Although I know the basics I am concerned because I am not an expert, so I just worry that what if there was something wrong with the horse and I did not realise due to lack of experience?

Is it common to buy and learn as you go or were you all experts before you bought a horse?

I know a lot of you will suggest loaning first but I have had my eyes peeled for the last six months and there are no suitable loan horses coming up, they are all either too far away to travel or looking for competition homes etc.

Also this might be a daft question, but is there anywhere that you can go and do a course in horse ownership or anything just to test whether I am ready?

Any tips appreciated. Want to make sure I am ready before I buy!

50BalesOfHay Wed 28-Nov-12 11:32:28

Hi Moviestar, none of us could have been experts before we got horses because it's a bit like learning to drive, passing your test, then going out on the roads by yourself: theoretical knowledge and supervised experience gets you so far, with a foundation to learn from, then you learn as you go and become more expert as you go along.

When we got our first pony (for GD)I was very, very rusty and knew I couldn't look after one properly by myself, so we went on full livery (not working) to a small riding school where the yard owner was always there, taught me as we went, patiently answered my endless stupid questions, and kept a close eye on the pony's wellbeing. It also meant that we were on site for lessons as well. I also did the BHS horse owners certificate, and read very extensively

It was expensive but I looked on it as an investment: not just livery but also intensive training in horse care. After a year there I felt competent to move to a cheaper, largely DIY yard (care available, others around, and a 'guru' of a yard owner, and I still consult our old yard owner sometimes)and got a horse for DH then one for me.

It worked out well for us, and I know my horses are well cared for and healthy, and I'm confident that I know when to call the vet etc and largely trust my knowledge/instincts, but I wouldn't have gone straight to our current arrangement as I needed that close supervision initially.

I'd say that as long as you are prepared to spend the time and money on a similar arrangement, and are committed to learning then you should be fine. The only way you'll become an expert is by hands on experience.

Where I would advise you to be sure though is what sort of horse you want. I could be that at this stage you may think you want one sort of horse (bit of a plod if not confident for example) then as you grow in experience, ability and confidence you might end up wishing you'd gone for something else.

50BalesOfHay Wed 28-Nov-12 11:34:26

Oh, and I'm 50, and my mare is my first pony of my own grin. I realised that childhood dream.

Alameda Wed 28-Nov-12 14:19:51

I started on full livery too, but not sure how much use any 'expertise' is. The experts never seem to agree on anything and there are lots of different ways of doing things and still have a well cared for horse.

Think the BHS and NVQ courses helped me with recognising when to call the vet and that sort of thing, you could update your horse care/stable management knowledge that way?

ThatVikRinA22 Wed 28-Nov-12 15:17:55

im feeling pretty much in the same boat as you OP though i probably have less experience than you do.

Im learning to ride and also want to own my own - i think i would start on part livery at the school where im learning (also run by a guru of horsey knowledge) but not yet, though im thinking that possibly by the summer i may start to look for my own.

can anyone tell me more about the BHS or NVQ courses please? what sort of time commitment do they require? sorry for the hijack OP!

Alameda Wed 28-Nov-12 15:30:06

I think it partly depends on you, can't find the nvq2 as a part time course but when I did it I think it took about one academic year, a couple of hours a week, it was very similar to bhs stage one (although they have conflicting ways of doing things, NVQ was supposed to be industry standard and bhs is just bhs!). The NVQ was good because of not having a final exam, just assessments as you go where the bhs exams meant dressing up and going to a strange place to ride strange horses and generally a bit pressured and expensive.

This link should hopefully help you find BHS course providers near you. There is a horse owner course, I haven't done that, just one and two and the riding and road safety thing in between.

ThatVikRinA22 Wed 28-Nov-12 15:40:00

thanks alameda - ive also started a thread about the courses as think it would be a good idea for me, but depends on how and where they are run. Thank you for the link. i should be able to find out from that.

Backinthebox Wed 28-Nov-12 16:12:25

Most people are still learning as they go - even experienced people! I think as long as you are aware you have a lot to learn and have reasonable back-up from a voice of experience, you should be OK. A voice of experience can be anything from a friend who will be there for you to a good livery yard to a decent riding club. My riding club has people competing at eventing 2* level, but also a lot of beginners too, and holds rallies for them to get out and about for a bit of experience. Be aware also of your limitations - it's not worth buying a fancy warmblood for megabucks and then realising it scares you (like my neighbour did!)

You sound as though you are reasonably comfortable round horses just a bit nervous about being wholly responsible for one. Sometimes you just have to take the plunge. I'm not sure loaning would be a better suggestion - you are then wholly responsible for someone else's pride and joy.

If I were you I would be looking to buy a sensible riding club type horse and keep it on part livery. Most yard owners I have come across love telling their liveries how it should be done anyway wink I've bought quite a few horses, and I still think 'holy crap - I'm responsible for this now!' whenever I buy another one. It's almost (but not quite) like being sent home from hospital with your PFB, the day you buy your own horse. Terrifying, but exciting, and you will make mistakes but you are unlikely to do anything really bad if you are keen to try and learn.

Booboostoo Wed 28-Nov-12 17:44:47

A privately owned horse, even one suitable for a novice, is quite a big step up purely for practical considerations, e.g. a riding school horse will be ocassionally schooled by experienced people, a riding school horse will be worked several hours a day, riding school horses usually hack in groups, by contrast a privately schooled horse may pick up bad habits from its rider, it may only get ridden 3-4 times a week and it may often have to hack out alone.

Ideally you need to be able to ride, both in the school and on hacks, the most challenging horses your RS has, and go on to buy a horse that is 'easier' than these horses. You also need to make sure you have access to regular lessons (ideally weekly) and the opportunity for your instructor to help with handling issues.

If you keep the horse on full livery on a reputable yard you should be able to get quite a lot of help from the YO and generally it is fairly evident when a horse needs a vet. If you are planning on keeping the horse on DIY livery you would need to get quite a few stable lessons and have people around you who would be able to give you a second opinion.

It's really difficult to answer your question exactly as it's a bit like asking how long is a piece of string. If you are finding that loads of things are coming back to you really quickly then maybe take a year of frequent lessons to get back into the swing of things, remember how to ride different types of horse, develop your muscles and stamina, etc. It's always a good idea to avoid buying a horse in autumn/winter anyway, so at least I would wait until spring.

Mirage Wed 28-Nov-12 19:06:10

You've got more experience than me and I bought a pony for my DDs.I rode until I was 10 or 11,then went back for a bit in my late 20's,but then dropped it again.DD1 had been having riding lessons for years before I finally caved in,I'd memories of how much work they can be..grin

I rented a yard at home from my experienced neighbour,who was always on hand to give advice [not always right,but horses are very good at making liars of people].We've had dpony for 17 months now and can't imagine life without her.I learnt a lot very fast and made some mistakes,but we have come through it ok.

It is scarey,we had a new pony arrive on Monday and I was reminded how much I hate getting to know a new pony.I'm happy once I know all their little quirks,but until then,the poster who said it is like coming home with a new baby,is right.

Buying dpony was the best money I ever spent,and I have found my niche,but I grew up on a farm,and work outdoors,so bad weather,mud,contrary animals and slogging about dealing with poo are second nature.hmm

Backinthebox Wed 28-Nov-12 20:20:44

Not sure I'd agree with the stuff about buying a horse 'easier than a riding school horse.' Most of the riding school horses I have known have been dead-mouthed, dead to the leg and very set in their ways. Often with a few quirks thrown in for good measure. One of the only horses I couldn't get on with eventually went to a riding school because it was decided he was good for nothing but walking in circles. It completely depends on the riding school. It would really be of benefit to you though to take someone like an instructor who knows your experience level well and is very knowledgable around horses when you go to try horses. And don't fall for the first one you see! Be realistic - you want to be able to share hours and hours of your week with your horse, so it makes sense to make sure you buy one that is just right for you

DudeInaTutu Wed 28-Nov-12 20:32:44

reading this has made me feel marginally better about my plans - i have already asked my instructor to help me find one when the time comes, and her horses are not your usual riding school horses. They are quite lively and very responsive but she will not tolerate bad riding. Thanks OP for starting this thread! i was also thinking i would need to be an expert before owning, now i know i need to know more than i do now, but maybe i will just take the plunge in the summer, as i would livery part time with my instructors yard and learn on the go.

horseylady Thu 29-Nov-12 08:18:25

What books said!!

Also chose your yard carefully!! Make sure the other liveries have time to help you and are willing too!! Be honest about what you know etc. Good luck!!

horseylady Thu 29-Nov-12 08:19:24

Books I meant backinthebox!!

Booboostoo Thu 29-Nov-12 15:24:29

Backinthebox I kind of meant it without saying that if we had in mind a crap RS with crap horses then none of what I said applied. Decent RSs should have decent horses, i.e. reasonably light in the hand and reasonably responsive to the leg without any ingrained tendencies to rear, buck or take off habitually. The more 'advanced' RS horses should be equivalent to a first competition horse, i.e. able to do a Prelim/Novice test, jump a 2.9" SJ and XC course.

Not to mention that there are RSs which are also major training centres, e.g. Tallant, YRC, which will offer lessons on top schoolmasters, but again these are exceptions so I did not mean that the OP should buy a horse slighly easier than a GP schoolmaster!

Whatever horse one gets depends on what job one wants it to do, but as OP has not mentioned any competition aspirations, I assume she would be looking for a 'family friend' type to hack out on, in which case she needs a step easier than the more challenging RS horses.

NothingIsAsBadAsItSeems Thu 29-Nov-12 16:00:47

I started riding at 4 and learned a lot for the yard girls/instructors, going on pony days etc

By the time I was 12 I was helping at the yard - tacking up, mucking out, cleaning tack, leading ponies in lessons/on hacks, bringing in/turning out, mixing feeds, learning to tell when a horse was ill/lame etc

At 14 I was loaning a riding school pony. Doing the same as above

At 16 I was sharing an ex racer on a private yard - had sole care of the horse on my days and went competing etc

At 17 I was loaning a dutch warmblood on the same yard as the ex racer - Again sole care of horse and her well being

By 18 my parents deemed me experienced enough to have my own and /I've owned them ever since smile

NothingIsAsBadAsItSeems Thu 29-Nov-12 16:02:18

* I do still have lessons as you can never know everything

NothingIsAsBadAsItSeems Thu 29-Nov-12 16:03:11

Know idea why there is an / before I've blush

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