Stocking Up for Your First Horse

One of the most enjoyable experiences in buying your first horse is a trip around the tack shop. You now have a reason to buy all those goodies you've coveted but not needed until now. It's easy, though, to go a little crazy on that shopping trip. So sit down and make a list of the essentials before you buy.

Exactly what you need will be dictated to some extent by whether you will be keeping your new equine at home or in a boarding stable. If you're stocking a barn of your own, your list will be much more extensive. You will need feed buckets, water buckets for indoors and out, a wheelbarrow, pitchforks, cross ties, broom, shovel and receptacles for grain storage just to start.

For the Barn

There will be a lot of choices to make in these simple items, so consider your preferences before shopping. Do you want floor feeders or plastic buckets to hook to the wall? If you opt for plastic buckets, be sure to look for either flat back or corner buckets, depending on where you'll place them. You can also purchase feed tubs that install permanently in the stall, although these are more difficult to remove for cleaning.

Many barn items can be found in your local hardware store – for instance, grain storage receptacles. Large plastic garbage bins are wonderful for storage and keep grain dry. Most will hold two 50-pound bags of feed. But be sure to purchase bins with locking tops, to keep unwanted animals as well as equine noses from getting into your feed. Plastic containers also provide wonderful storage for blankets and coolers when not in use, and can be stacked out of the way in the barn as well.

For the Horse

Now, for your horse. Whether you board or not, a tack trunk is a must. Trunks run the gamut from very expensive, custom-made to serviceable from the discount store. Before you purchase, compare styles and types in your tack shop or equine catalog. Be sure that the trunk you choose has room to store things you'll want to protect, either at shows or the barn, and is secure when locked.

Next, you'll need a grooming tote. There are boxes and caddies, wooden and plastic for this purpose. This will hold your brushes and grooming aids and should be easily portable, especially if you board, since you'll have to carry it to your horse each day.

Stock your tote with brushes first. Invest in the best brushes you can buy, and clean them regularly to keep your horse's skin healthy. Three basic brushes are a necessity: a stiff-bristle brush to remove caked mud and dirt, a medium brush, and a soft finishing brush. Include in your kit a mane and tail comb or brush. Keep a few cloths in your grooming kit for polishing off your horse's coat and your tack. Old towels work wonderfully well for this purpose.

Add to those a curry, either hard plastic or rubber depending on your horse's preference. The small rubber curries with cone-shaped teeth, such as the Grooma, are best for bringing up dirt without irritating your horse. Most horses enjoy this process, and you can also provide a good massage while eliminating dirt, hair and dead skin. Currying is the most important part of a good grooming and lays the foundation for getting the coat and skin really clean.

A shedding blade and sweat scraper are other necessities. Shedding blades come curved with a handle for whisking out dead hair, or with comb-like teeth. You'll find straight sweat scrapers and one-handed models with a rubber edge, which are convenient and very easy to use. Be sure to have several hoof picks in your tack kit, in case one is misplaced. You'll want a brush for hoof dressing as well, and a stiff hoof brush for your horse's feet.

For bathing, stock up on sponges – both for your horse and for your tack. Small, round sponges are terrific for getting in saddle crevices and for cleaning bridles. Have some medium-size sponges for larger tack jobs as well. Always keep a few clean sponges on hand for washing up the inevitable minor cuts and abrasions, along with some antiseptic soap. Larger sponges that fit comfortably in your hand are excellent for equine bathing. A small brush or scrubbing pad is a must to keep your bits clean, as well as your favorite equine shampoo for your horse.

Put together a first-aid kit for your horse that will be handy in case of emergency. A small, separate box should be utilized for first aid products so you can locate them easily when you need them. This also makes it simpler to take it along when you travel. You'll want the following:

Be sure your tack kit includes warm weather necessities such as fly spray and a fly mask and, for cooler weather, a sweat sheet and cooler. Finally, pick out a good-quality halter and lead line. A halter either made of leather or with a leather head piece is best so that it will break away should your horse get caught on something.

Now you're ready to enjoy your new horse!