Smart tips for buying the right working horse

On a small property a horse can be an efficient substitute for a tractor. Though a horse may be slower, it is cheaper to buy, fuel and repair. It does less damage to the soil and can work in areas too wet and hilly for a wheeled vehicle. Here are some tips to help you buy the right working horse.

Smart tips for buying the right working horse

Buy a crossbreed and save!

Draft horses are ideal for hauling drays or pulling cultivation machinery across a paddock. Used at one time to carry medieval knights in full armour, draft horses have the size and strength necessary for long hours of strenuous labour.

  • Buying a purebred Clydesdale is an expensive proposition; a more economical alternative would be to purchase a crossbreed.
  • One such cross would be a draft horse sire with a utility-type mare; such crossbreeds have the size (about 550 kilograms/1,200 pounds) and steadiness for farm work, though they are not as powerful as draft horses.
  • The mule, a cross between a horse and a donkey, is another good draft animal.
  • Riding horses are too light for extensive ploughing, but if properly taught, some can do light pulling.

Training your working horse

Whatever horse you purchase, it should be trained for the work you expect it to do.

  • As a beginner, you will almost certainly be unable to train it properly and you can easily damage its personality by trying.
  • A seven- to 10-year-old gelding or mare would be ideal, but an older horse is better than one that is too young for hard work.
  • Avoid stallions because they are too unpredictable for a novice to handle.

Find a reliable breeder

Buying from a reliable breeder is essential, as is a close inspection of the animal.

  • Examine the horse's stall for any signs of kicking or biting the walls.
  • Watch as the horse is harnessed to be sure it is not head-shy or dangerous to approach.
  • Before it has had a chance to warm up, look for indications of stiffness, such as shifting of weight from one front leg to the other or failure to rest its weight equally on both front feet.
  • Next, watch the animal at work and make sure it neither balks nor is too frisky to handle the job.
  • Its gait while working can provide clues to soundness. Shortened stride, nodding of hip or head, unusually high or low carriage of head and unevenness of gait may mean the horse is lame.
  • After watching the animal work, listen to its breathing to be sure it is not winded.
  • Finally, examine the horse as it cools down; look for any signs of stiffness and for unusual lumps or knobs on the legs.

A working horse can be a great addition to your home, but they can be pricey. Keep these tips in mind to find an inexpensive horse that can easily complete common chores.

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