Buying and Owning a Horse
The prospect of owning a horse is exciting but there are a number of important considerations that will need to be taken into account. Making the decision to buy a horse or pony shouldn’t be taken lightly or rushed into. Buying a horse that turns out to be unsuitable or unsafe can be extremely upsetting and could potentially leave the new owner in a difficult situation. Taking the time to fully research and assess the impact owning a horse will have on your daily routine is imperative. Read more.
Loaning and Leasing
To loan or lease a horse may appear an attractive solution to alleviate the capital cost associated with buying a horse or pony of your own. However, both loaning and leasing are rife with potential problems for the unwary. Frequently the arrangement is nothing more than an unwritten understanding between friends and, if things go wrong, it may ultimately be the horse’s welfare that suffers.
We strongly recommend both parties should sign a written agreement. The British Horse Society has a sample loan agreement which you can download and use for guidance. Read more.
Horse owners and keepers are advised to make advance plans to have sufficient resources available to meet the cost of veterinary treatment. Advanced technical diagnostic procedures, colic and orthopaedic surgery and other sophisticated treatments are now widely available but inevitably expensive. A wide variety of insurance policies are available offering many types of cover including:-
All risk mortality- this covers an animal if it dies as a result of injury or illness or has to be destroyed on humane grounds. The cost of carcass disposal may also be covered.
Veterinary fees – this covers the cost of non- routine treatment following accident or illness.
Public Liability Insurance – this is essential as claims for property damage or personal injury caused by a horse can amount to considerable sums of money.
Strict liability – in certain circumstances a keeper may be strictly liable for damage or injury the horse does to other people, whether or not they are negligent.
Beat the Credit Crunch
Always Plan Ahead
Anyone considering horse ownership should look into the cost, care and commitment required before deciding to take a horse on. There are three areas of expense you must be prepared for:
- Routine maintenance (e.g. livery bills, feed, bedding, insurance)
- Unforeseen circumstances (e.g. accident, illness and equipment damages)
- Euthanasia and disposal of the body. This may become necessary at any point in a horse’s life. It is far better to make provision for this well before you need it than to find you’re struggling to afford it when the time comes.
It is worth thinking about the re-homing potential of any horse before you take on ownership so that you are prepared for the future. Prior to purchase, it is essential to ensure that you are aware of any existing or likely issues you may have to deal with, including behavioural problems. The horse should undergo a pre purchase veterinary examination.
Cutting Cost without Compromising on Welfare (click to open PDF) – caring for a horse properly is never going to be cheap, but there are areas where you can minimise costs.
The majority of horses manage very well on a forage-based diet and if necessary one vitamin and mineral supplement. A veterinary surgeon or nutritionist can advise whether your horse really needs additional feed or supplements. Fortnightly weigh taping and body condition scoring will help you monitor your horse’s health and could save you money. Horse weigh tapes do not work for donkeys; use a heart-girth measurement instead (please contact the Donkey Sanctuary for advice on taking these measurements).
There are many bedding products on the market. Look into alternatives and decide what will work best for you and your horse. For example, although there is a high initial expense in fitting rubber matting, it can soon pay for itself in reduced bedding costs.
Livery / location
One of the biggest costs for many owners is a livery yard fee. Review the facilities you are paying for to check that you do need and use everything you are paying for. If you are paying for someone else to provide all or part of your horse’s day-to-day care, it may reduce costs if you were able to do more yourself, even on a temporary basis.
Many horses can do very well on permanent turnout. It could be worth looking around for a suitable grass livery or renting a field, which can be even cheaper if it is shared with friends.
To reduce costs in all areas, look into sharing your horse with someone else or keeping the horse on working livery. This will also reduce your workload.
If you share a yard with other people, why not club together to save money and time:
- Many feed, forage and bedding suppliers may offer reduced rates if they deliver in bulk.
- Ask veterinary surgeons, farriers and other professionals if they can reduce rates for group bookings.
- Save fuel by sharing transport whenever you can
- Work as a team with other owners to share daily duties, this will save time and fuel.
Routine veterinary care
Discuss worming and feeding routines with your veterinary surgeon to make sure you are using the most effective and economical regimes. BEVA horse health programmes may be helpful: go to www.beva.org.uk
Discuss the shoeing options for your horse with your farrier; you may find your horse doesn’t need to have a full set of shoes. If there is not much wear on the horse’s shoes your farrier may be able to refit them.
Horses have simple needs. When money is in short supply think very carefully about what is REALLY needed for your horse’s welfare. Make sure you are not buying unnecessarysupplements, rugs orequipment. Looking after existing equipment helps it last longer, even if it starts to show its age.
There are some essential areas of horse care where corners should never be cut. These are the fundamentals of responsible horse ownership; short-term savings can put the horse’s welfare at risk and can cost the owner a lot more in the long run. The essentials include:
- Proper veterinary care. Do not be tempted to diagnose and treat a condition yourself.
- Vaccinations. Lapsed vaccinations leave your horse vulnerable to disease.
- Regular hoof care. Taking shoes off to save money without consulting your veterinary surgeon or farrier could lead to lameness and expense as some horses are not able to go barefoot.
- Worming and dental checks. These essentials can be reviewed, as outlined above, but not avoided.
- Professional services. Do not employ a cheaper, unqualified person to do a professional’s job.
- Repairs to damaged property and equipment are vital to safeguard your horse’s safety and security.
- Insurance. If you are not insured against veterinary fees you must be confident that you can pay an unexpected veterinary bill. Third party liability cover is highly advisable for all horse owners.
It is vital to look ahead and budget effectively to meet the needs of your horse. Ideally, put a little away every month or when you can, to help you manage if and when unforeseen problems arise.
Be realistic about the effect on your horse, both short and long term, should your financial circumstances change. Not facing up to looming difficulties can greatly reduce the options available to you once the problem has become too overwhelming to ignore. Taking advice on personal budget management before your finances get out of hand may also help you make the savings necessary to keep your horse.
Dealing with an Emergency
Assisting the Emergency Services in Equine Rescue
Safer Horse Rescues (formerly the Emergency Services Protocol) is an equine rescue initiative, launched by the equine industry, most notably, Horse & Hound magazine, the British Horse Society (BHS) and BEVA, in close partnership with the animal rescue specialists at Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service.
The Protocol sets out procedures for the emergency services when dealing with incidents involving horses, with the aim of minimising delays in injured animals receiving veterinary care, maximising the chances of a positive outcome for the animal and improving the safety of all those involved.
BEVA has compiled a Directory of Equine vets, drawn from its membership, that have agreed to assist the emergency services at rescues. This is to ensure that appropriate veterinary care reaches animals as quickly as possible. However, as it is not uncommon for vets attending this type of incident to remain unpaid if the owner of the animal is never traced, BEVA has established the Equine Rescue Fund to cover these costs. The fund guarantees that no time is lost in the treatment, or euthanasia, of an injured horse whilst owners were traced.
The latest version of the Directory of SHR Equine Veterinary Practices can be downloaded here.
Thieves will be less likely to take a horse that has evidence of a permanent identification tag. Ensure that prominent signs stating the animals are permanently tagged and identified, are placed around the animals grazing area to act as a deterrent.
A micro chip, roughly the size of a grain of rice, is inserted into the horse’s neck by a veterinary surgeon; the horse suffers minimum discomfort during the process. The chip carries a unique number which is registered with the animal’s details on a central register and the horse’s passport. If the horse is stolen or lost then the scanner is able to read and display the number therefore identifying the horse. From July 1 2009 all horses, ponies, mules and donkeys being issued with a passport for the first time must also be microchipped.
Freeze-marking is also a good way of marking and identifying your horse, the process is painless to the horse. This process should be done by trained staff and is carried out by using specially chilled irons to permanently mark the horse. The unique number normally consists of four letters and numbers shows up as white hairs, therefore is more effective on dark coated horses. Records of all animals that are freeze marked are kept and registration papers are issued to the owner.
The Horse Passport Regulations Act (2004) now means that all equines require a passport, which can be obtained from Passport Issuing Organisations at a small cost. These were introduced to ensure that certain veterinary medicines not intended for human consumption do not end up in the food chain, the passport will be able to identify whether the animal is intended for human consumption.
Owners are not allowed to sell, buy, slaughter for human consumption, export, use the horse for competitions, or breed a horse that does not have a passport. It is essential that if you are purchasing a horse that you ask to see the horse’s passport prior to buying.
From July 1 2009 all horses, ponies, mules and donkeys being issued with a passport for the first time must also be microchipped.