Thursday, December 12, 2013

Reining In Horse Related Expenses

The least expensive aspect of owning a horse is the price you paid for him. Horse ownership is an expensive hobby when you care for your horse in a responsible manner. Your horse should be kept happy and healthy, and to do this good hay and feed are required, as well as regular visits from the veterinarian, farrier, and equine dentist. Annual vaccinations and periodic deworming products are administered to insure good equine health. His teeth should be checked and floated, as needed, annually.

Whether you show your horse or trail ride, you will incur expenses to participate in those activities.  We purchase saddles, bridles, and other kinds of tack; shampoos, fly sprays, and other grooming supplies to keep our horses clean. We buy trucks and horse trailers to drive to and from shows and trails. Fuel must be purchased to get to and from these venues. Camping and trail access fees must be paid.

Fences are set and barns are built, water troughs are purchased and filled, bedding is bought to provide stalled horses a comfy place to lie down. Electricity is used to provide light in the barn or to power electric fences and water tank heaters.

If you board your horse away from home, you pay a monthly fee for his care, which may or may not include the cost of hay and grain. Riding lessons are purchased to enable you to become a better rider. Safety equipment, such as riding helmets, is purchased to keep you safe while riding.

Whew! Take a breath. Shake your wallet. Check your pockets. Where did all the money go?

How do you begin to budget for the expenses that you will incur through the year for your horse? As with any budgeting effort, you first must have a good idea of what projected costs might be. Project both for a higher projection and a lower projection, and if you’re lucky, your actual costs will hit somewhere between those two numbers.

To aid in your budgeting forecast, keep all horse-related receipts from the previous year to help you with the next year’s projections.

Following is a sample budget of what you may expect to spend on your horse. This is a basic budget that should give you a starting point. Based on your location, specific horse, and type of riding, your budget may look very different.

Line Item
Price Per
Total Price

Farrier – Reset
6 visits
Farrier – Trim
4 visits
Equine Dentist
1 visit
1 visit
Vaccinations owner administered
Fly Spray
Grooming Supplies
100 bales
6 bags
Mineral Blocks
Camping Fees - Campsite
4 weekends
Bridle Tags
Fuel for camping trips



Even though the costs you incur may far surpass the amount you paid for your horse, the enjoyment and peace of mind you get from having him are priceless!

by: Darlene M. Cox

Monday, November 11, 2013

Establishing Trust Between Horse and Rider

Photo via Flickr

There is a breathtaking video floating around the internet of a young lady riding bareback and bridleless on her beautiful horse, wowing those in the arena with their wonderful display of athleticism and skills. What immediately struck my mind was the degree of trust she had to establish with her horse in order to train him to do all she asked with nothing more than cues given from her legs and seat.

Natural Horsemanship training is based on winning a horse’s trust, rather than forcing him to do your will. Training with trust makes your horse “want” to please you by doing what you ask.

But how do we get there? How can we build that kind of trust?

Just as trust with those whom we form relationships is important to humans, it is equally important in the relationships our horses have with us. By nature, horses are “fight or flight” minded.

They know two things: 1) there is safety in numbers, and 2) humans are predators.

It is our responsibility to show we need not be feared and that we can be entrusted as a leader. Your horse will interpret and compare everything you do in the context of herd behaviors.

Have you ever seen a horse respond well for a friend, but when you rode him he tried you? Rather than being stubborn as most folks would try to ascertain, he was simply telling you he was unsure of your leadership. Trust is not something that will be attained in a short amount of time; rather, it is built slowly and must be maintained daily.

Your horse will look to you for leadership, just as they look for the same within their herd.  When a horse trusts you, he knows you’ve got his back and that there is safety under your leadership; therefore there is no need for fear.  But he judges your ability to lead every time you are with him, because your lack of leadership may, in the herd, cost him his life.

We must be consistent in how we reinforce positive behaviors and correct bad behaviors. Again, we are emulating reactions in herd life. Our horses will always test our leadership to see if they can shift us from our course of action, which is a sign of weakness in a leader.

Be quick to praise and equally as quick to correct, and do it every time.  Trust can be lost if we lose sight on how our horse interprets our actions.

Begin to establish trust from the ground. If your horse doesn’t trust you on the ground, he is not going to trust you when you’re riding him.  Grooming is a bonding moment as it mirrors herd mechanics when horses groom each other.

If your horse approaches you unasked in the paddock, make him back up a couple of steps. He wasn’t invited to approach you. Once he stands for a little bit, invite him to walk up to you.

While on the trail and a “boogie” is encountered, stay cool in the saddle and urge your horse forward with consistency. Okay, my human is cool with this, so it must be safe. If you are tense in the saddle, it will transfer to your horse.

Round penning or longeing your horse also builds trust because you are in control of when, how, and where he moves, which again mimics natural herd dynamics.

Continually focusing on the bond shared with your horse and maintaining your position of leadership will strengthen your partnership and performance whether on the trail or along the rail.

By: Darlene M. Cox

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Challenges and Rewards of Owning a Draft Horse

Photo via Flickr

For as long as I can remember, I have loved horses. My love for them was inherited and began when listening to my grandmother speak of “Old Denny” a draft plow horse her father owned and used on their farm. She always spoke fondly of him as she told how she and her siblings would all pile onto Denny’s massive back and ride him while her father plowed the fields. The roles of the draft breeds from my grandmother’s time was that of work horses, whether they pulled plows, lumber skidders, or fire wagons for city fire departments.

Draft, or heavy breed, horses are known for their good temperaments, gentle nature, level headedness, and unflappability. There are many draft horse breeds (Clydesdale, Belgian, Percheron, etc.) with horses weighing at or over a ton, and several draft pony breeds (Haflinger,  Fjord, Gypsy Vanner, etc.), shorter in stature but with a draft build.

Popularity for draft breeds continues today, with some folks moving away from saddle horses and investing in these gentle giants, who can still be used to work farm land, pull wagons, and trail ride. Some folks have become homesteaders and enjoy the tranquility of working with draft horses to mow or plow their fields. They kindle a different kind of partnership with their horses than those maintained for pleasure riding.

There are challenges when moving from owning pleasure horses to maintaining draft horses, with the most obvious being increased expense for their maintenance and upkeep.

Surprisingly, you will not see a huge increase in your feed bill, as draft horses will only eat a little more than saddle horses and not double the amount that you might think.

You may see an increase in foot care as drafts require hoof maintenance like all other horse breeds. Not all farriers will work with draft breeds, and those who do may charge more for their services and may employ stocks to get the job done.

Veterinarian expenses will not increase, as draft horses require the same vaccine doses as saddle horses.

You will need to invest in larger, draft-sized tack and equipment to properly fit your big boy. Halters, bridles, saddles, blankets, etc., can be found in some local horse tack stores and can be ordered online through many horse supply houses.

Horse-powered farm equipment may need to be purchased if you plan to work your land with your horse.

You may need to purchase a larger and wider trailer to transport your draft, which may mean selling your slant load trailer for one with straight load capacity. Stalling accommodations need to be considered because a typical 10x12 stall will not work well for a draft horse.

The biggest challenge facing those new to draft horse ownership is learning how to “drive” a horse and wagon. There are many details involved in successfully harnessing a horse and hitching him to the wagon.

There are always solutions to challenges. As with any new horse endeavor, always seek out those who have great experience in handling drafts. Many states have Amish communities from which you may employ the help of a friendly Amish man to show you the ropes of working with your draft horse. Many rural communities have folks who participate in plow days and draft pulls. These experienced horsemen may also be able to instruct you in the nuances of draft ownership and handling.

Some horse auctions, particularly those in draft horse areas, will have wagons, farm equipment, tack, and other items specifically needed for your draft horse. Some saddle makers have draft sized English and western saddles, as well as bridles, halters, etc. for your big horse.

Just as with any other breed, your draft horse is surely to provide you with many years of enjoyment and quickly become a member of your family.

By: Darlene M. Cox