You have been riding for a while; the length of time is not important except that it is long enough for you to know that you are seriously interested in horses and riding. Now you are thinking about owning a horse. Before you rush off and buy the first pretty face you see, there are some things you should consider.
To begin with, buying a horse is not like buying a refrigerator; it's more like getting married! It starts with falling in love, then you spend some time together (and, like a marriage, the longer you have known each other beforehand the more likely it is to work out)
So, you decide that this is THE one, and you go for the big commitment. The great day comes, and you ride off into the sunset. The honeymoon lasts a few days or a few weeks, but eventually reality sets in. Your horse is not perfect, nor are you, and there is a lot more involved than you thought.
For Better, For Worse
No horse is perfect, all horses need training. If you are a good rider, there will be areas you want to improve; if you are not so good, you may undo some of the horse's training, or he may have to learn new skills to cope with your lack. In any case, there is often a period of discouragement when the new horse doesn't take all the blue ribbons for you right away. If you and your trainer have used good judgement in your choice, you and the horse will grow together, but it may take a while. Enjoy the experience.
For Richer, For Poorer
Nobody ever really tells you how much it costs to own a horse, especially in the beginning. Horse clothing and equipment cost more than you think, and it doesn't pay to buy junk; your horse just destroys it. Board, shoeing, vet bills, vanning and entry fees, it all adds up. And adds up. If you expect to save money by keeping the horse at home, unless you already have a farm you have the added costs of stabling and rings and fencing, and the maintenance thereof.
In Sickness and In Health
Something that one never really expects is for the horse to experience health problems. A misstep in the pasture, a misplaced nail in the shoe, an unlocked door that allows the horse to get at the grain, these are just a few of the things that can lead to extended or even permanent disability. A bowed tendon can lay a horse up for six months to a year. If you break the strings on your tennis racquet you can chuck it in the closet until you have the time or the money to get it restrung, or you can just throw it out. Not so with your horse. A horse with an injury requires constant attention; hand walking, wraps and bandaging, visits from the vet. All requiring time and money, while you lose the use of your horse. When he does recover from a long layup, there is an equally long rehab and reconditioning time before he is back to where he left off. Are you ready for this?
To Love and To Cherish
Quality time. That's a buzzword of the nineties in family relationships. A horse needs not just quality time, he needs a lot of your time, period. If you keep your horse at a boarding stable, you have to figure on at least two hours every time you ride, not including travel time. Half an hour to groom and tack up, an hour to ride and half an hour to cool out and put away. And your horse should get ridden about five times a week if he is to stay sound and healthy. (My experience has been that the healthiest horses are the school horses who work about twelve hours a week. The horses who have the most problems are usually the ones whose owners don't have enough time to ride them.)
If you are keeping your horse at home, you have to add another hour for stalls and feeding and general care. Seven days a week. And dependable horse sitters are hard to come by. (A dependable horse sitter must be capable enough so that he/she won't get hurt, and won't hurt the horse or create behavior problems either through carelessness or abusiveness.)
Til Death do you Part
Suppose that you do achieve a great relationship with your horse. He turns out to be a wonderful person, always there when you need him, supportive, loving, and just generally extra-special. If something happens to you or to him, so that you can no longer ride him, you still have a responsibility toward him. You can't just send him to the auction and risk his being sent to the killer, or worse, to a hack stable. Horses generally live well up into their twenties, so unless you find some one else to whom you can entrust your horse--assuming he stays useful into his golden years--be prepared to maintain him for his lifetime, whether you can use him or not.
Annulment and Divorce
It is important to recognize that there are times when the marriage just isn't going to work out. You and your trainer have tried everything, but it's no good. If you find out fairly early on--say the first six months--that you and the horse aren't going to get along, you can sometimes get an annulment (send him back.) This is where it helps to have purchased from a dependable dealer. As long as the horse is sound, he will probably take him back. He will probably NOT give you your money back, but he will give you another horse in trade (but you usually have to put in a bit more money.) That's because your old horse will keep eating until he sells him to some one else.
If you've had the horse longer, or you can't give him back, then you have to go the hard way; you have to sell him. If you really don't get along with him at all, it can be hard to think up reasons why some one else should buy him, but again, it's like marriage; the new wife is sure that she can get the man to change his ways for her. And maybe she can, but in any case, it is no longer your problem. Selling a horse can take a long time, and you may want to sell through a dealer if you don't have any luck after a month or two.
That You may Faithfully Live Together
If after considering all the above, you decide that you do want your own horse, blessings on you. Since you have not entered into it unadvisedly or lightly, there is every hope that your relationship will prosper. And if you treat your horse with love and consideration, he should become to you a strength in need, a comfort in sorrow and a companion in joy.