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Tips On Selecting Your First Horse

Insights For A Positive Experience

It's a big decision to purchase a horse. With some research and thoughtful consideration, the experience can be a positive one for your family and the horse.

Why a horse?

Your reasons for wanting a horse will help determine the type of horse that's best suited to your family. Enjoyment and companionship are often cited, as is pleasure riding. Many youth are eager to participate in organizations that offer horse-related activities. Match these interests with the horse's training and attributes. Decide if you'll board the horse or keep it at home. If you plan to keep it at home, make sure your property is properly zoned. Attending equine-related events is an easy way to become familiar with horses and their various attributes. Other horse owners can lend helpful insight, too. Most will be happy to share their insight and experiences.

Buying a horse

Generally horses are purchased at auctions or through a private sale. Auctions allow you to compare different horses. Some auctions feature a certain breed or horses to be used in a specific activity. Buying from a private owner gives you more time to look over the horse and research its background. Horses may be registered with one of several registries. A registered horse has accompanying paperwork proving ownership, identity and value. If the horse isn't registered, it's considered to be a "grade" horse and will generally sell for substantially less than a registered horse.

Ask how many previous owners the horse had and determine why it's being sold. You don't want to purchase a problem horse. Inquire about aggressive behaviors, such as biting, bucking, charging or kicking. Remember, though, that boredom, inactivity and loneliness can be the root of some bad habits.

Learn the details

Horse height is measured in hands high (HH). A hand is four inches. Today's average horse is approximately 15 HH from the ground to the withers, which is the high part of the back. A pony is less than 14.2 hands. Horses can be too fat or too thin, but some breeds are naturally lean or sturdy.

The prime age of a horse is typically from about age five to six through age 10 to 12. When considering gender, remember geldings usually are calmer. Mares may become difficult during their heat cycle. Novice horse owners should leave stallions to those with more experience.

Review the horse's pedigree. When evaluating its conformation, look for proper body proportions and structural correctness, as well as desirable breed and sex characteristics.

It's wise to have your own veterinarian check the horse and review its medical history prior to closing the sale. Some illnesses and injuries are not a big concern. Others can persist, cause other health problems or worsen over time. In particular, ask about lameness or colic. Both are serious conditions.

The relationship between a horse and his human family is one of the joys of horse ownership. The animal's disposition, its personality, is usually among the top deciding factors. Only you will know which horse is the right one for your family.

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