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Do You Have Enough Time for a Horse?

By: Alex Lieber

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Successful horse ownership requires a team effort from you and your horse. The two of you will spend a lot of time together, and a lot of that time doesn't involve riding. It involves grooming, feeding, training, regular veterinarian examinations, exercising and hoof care, just to name a few things.

Your time also involves the less glamorous side of horse ownership, such as stable care and sanitation. (Yes, this includes manure pile management – which is an art unto itself.) If you plan to leave the basic care to someone else, you'll want to invest a lot of time finding the right livery, and consider the travel time to and from the stable. And you will still want to perform some basic care yourself, such as grooming, to bond with your horse. In fact, grooming is vital to maintaining a healthy relationship with your horse.

How much actual time – on a daily or weekly basis – a horse requires depends on a lot of things. If you lease a horse, a program called shareboarding, you will have fewer responsibilities. This type of lease is helpful if time or money is limited.

The bare minimum of time you can expect to devote to a horse is about 8 to 10 hours a week. If you're doing more of the work, plan on blocking out 14 to 15 hours a week. It all depends on your level of involvement.

The Right Horse

Horses are wonderfully complex creatures. They are so complex that a person should invest a lot of time up front researching the age and type of horse they want and the care involved before "interviewing" actual equines.

A Morgan horse, for instance, is good for beginners because Morgans have a gentle demeanor and willing disposition. They are good as pleasure horses or for show, and can be ridden Western or English style. (If you are unfamiliar with these terms, take time to learn the lexicon of horse riding.)

Likewise, the quarterhorse is an excellent choice for beginning riders because they are very calm and forgiving. Their gentle natures have made them the most popular horse breed in the world.

Next, age is a factor. A younger horse will require a lot of training time, while an older horse may have habits you'll want to change – again, more time. In general, an experienced horse that has been well-kept is easier to handle, especially for beginners. Depending on the age, older horses may require more veterinary care.

Horse Care Checklist

If you plan to take care of your horse yourself, become familiar with the time required to do it right:

  • Exercise. Stabled horses need regular activity appropriate to their age and health. Activity needs to include warm-up and cool-down times. Activities include: riding, lungeing, driving, ponying and pasture time. At least a half-hour should be devoted to activity, not including warm-up and cool-down time.

  • Daily examination. You should spend a few minutes each day giving your horse a once-over to catch any hint of disease or injury before it becomes a bigger problem.

  • Stable care. Your horse's stall must always have a fresh layer of bedding (wood shavings or loose straw). Each day, scoop out the soiled bedding and manure, and replace with clean bedding.

  • Pasture care: Horses are happiest and healthiest when they spend a lot of time outside. This means taking time to keep the pasture well maintained. Manure should be cleaned up weekly, and the pasture be kept trim and free of dangerous plants.

  • Grooming. Your horse should receive a rinse from the hose every couple of days in warm weather, especially after riding or training. Avoid using shampoo too frequently since this can cause skin irritation. Your horse should be groomed every three days at least, but four to five days a week is even better. Each grooming session should last about 40 minutes. This is essential so it is important to learn the basics of grooming.

    You should pick out his hooves every day as well, regardless of whether he has been ridden. Schedule a farrier to trim your horse's hooves every six to eight weeks.

  • Nutrition. It's better to take the time to feed your horse three or four smaller meals a day instead of one large meal. Also, a horse must always have fresh water available. Some can drink 13 gallons a day.

  • Routine veterinary care. Time must be set aside to vaccinate and deworm your horse regularly. This should be done every six to eight weeks. They should be inoculated for tetanus and equine encephalomyelitis at least once a year, and for influenza/rhino two to four times a year. If rabies is a risk, they should also get an annual rabies shot.

    These are just a few of the things that require time. If your horse has any medical or behavioral issues, more time will need to be devoted to treatment. Finally, there's the life span of the horse. Horses can live more than 30 years, so this is a lifetime commitment. The time spent caring for your horse should be a labor of love, each and every day.

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