What you need to know about buying a horse

Unlike other domestic animals such as cows, sheep or goats, horses — apart from the draught variety — are expected to provide their owner with nothing more than companionship­ and enjoyment of a simple pastime based on mutual respect. Here's what you need to know before buying a horse.

What you need to know about buying a horse

Riding and simple companionship

Riding is a satisfying way to spend time with one of the most gentle and friendly of all domesticated animals. You can ride through wilderness or prairie, in company or alone. Go for picnics, camp out or just wander the countryside.

  • Horses may not be the most productive of farm animals — they do not give milk or meat, for instance — but they offer rewarding companionship, which with a little care and attention can last for many years.

Choosing the right horse

A riding horse is a pet and should be chosen with great care so that horse and owner are completely compatible.

  • The average horse has a working life of about 15 years so take your time investigating breeds and prices to ensure that your choice results in a harmonious long-term relationship.
  • For the novice owner, a middle-aged, experienced gelding of medium height (14 to 15 hands) is ideal.
  • If you have not ridden before, it is a good idea to take riding lessons before investing in your own horse; it is also wise to make contact with an expert, such as a riding instructor, who you can refer back to if any problems arise.
  • As horses are herd animals, your mount will be happiest if it has company, and this does not necessarily have to be another horse. Cows or sheep make good companions, but be aware that these animals have a habit of eating horses' tails, and a tail takes two years to regrow.

Keeping the horse safe

  • A horse paddock needs to be firmly enclosed.
  • Horses are ­notorious for leaning on and breaking wire fences and in the course of doing so they become tangled and often cut themselves.
  • The answer is to install an inexpensive electric fence unit: though the shock it gives is a mild one, it is sufficient to protect both the fence and the horse.
  • Horses also like to chew on bark so protect your shade trees by wrapping the lower parts of the trunks in chicken wire.

Horse-back riding equipment you will need

The bridle and saddle are the two basic pieces of equipment needed to ride a horse.

  • Buy a bridle of good-quality leather and keep it clean and supple.
  • An appropriate saddle allows you to sit correctly and distributes weight evenly.

Horses can be loving pets and loyal companions. Consider these tips before making a purchase, and find a horse that will suit you perfectly.

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