There was a time not so awfully long ago when a traveler’s outfit consisted of a horse, rigging, and saddle — today’s outfit is more likely a 4-wheel drive pickup with full climate controlled cab! And though we’ve not relegated the horse to total retirement yet, we’ve certainly reduced its working numbers by a stretch and elevated it to even higher mythical status than ever before.
Among many decisions a new horse owner will need to make, choosing a horse breed can be every bit as important as selecting an individual for its temperament. You can familiarize yourself with various breed characteristics by reading, contacting specific breed organizations such as the American Quarter Horse Association, and attending local events.
Once you’ve decided on a breed, you’ll do well to search out a good farrier to look over any potential purchases ahead of time — in addition to asking an expert handler to evaluate the animal. These folks take how you intend to enjoy your future animal into account and make their evaluation based on that.
As you get closer to pulling the trigger, you will want to find an equine veterinarian if you don’t already have a relationship with one. Know who to call in an emergency before it happens. So, you can see that it takes a variety of experts to help get you started on the right trail with your mount.
For folks who grow up working with horses this is all second nature. For folks looking to get into some aspect of horse handling, finding the experts may be the most daunting part of the process — but it doesn’t need to be so. One of the easiest ways to get connected locally is by reaching out to the equine experts at your local feed store — those folks have a vested interested in steering you right and they are usually practicing horse enthusiasts themselves. And you’ll also likely find all kinds of local contacts for riding clinics, horse training and boarding facilities, farrier services and more right at the store.
Like virtually any pet, a happy and well prepared owner is every bit as important to the success of an equine relationship as is the quality of the horse. Take some time to do your homework thoroughly, and ahead of ownership and you’ll likely wind up with a working, playing or commiserating companion for life!
Watch the full episode! Hank shares hits like these in each episode of Tough Grit. Visit Tough Grit online to view this episode and many more. The new horse owner tips above appeared in Episode 9, “Back in the Saddle Again.”
Hank Will raises hair sheep, heritage cattle and many varieties of open-pollinated corn with his wife, Karen, on their rural Osage County, Kansas farm. His home life is a perfect complement to his professional life as editor in chief at GRIT and Capper's Farmer magazines. Connect with him on Google+.