Picking a yard
If you’ve never owned a horse before, it’s very likely that you learned to ride at a stableyard, and it may suit you to move your horse there. Most first-time horse owners will find it easiest to keep their horse in livery, where experienced horse people will feed and care for him. You will have the support of knowledgeable equestrians, as well as access to facilities such as jumping and dressage arenas. There’ll also be other horse lovers to ride with.
Choosing a yard with a good reputation and happy, healthy horses is really important. Look out for clean stables, safe paddocks, well-maintained facilities and kind grooms. The yard manager should be willing to speak to you about your horse’s health and be able to give you advice when you need it. If you plan to ride competitively, a yard that holds regular training shows would be a good way to ease into the show world.
If you’ve decided to keep your horse at home, you have the advantage of being able to see him any time you want. However, keeping a horse is a big responsibility – you can’t go away for a weekend without making sure there’s someone available to care for him. DIY may also mean you have less access to riding arenas, jumping equipment and friends to hack out with.
Make sure you have a proper shelter if you don’t have a stable yet. Your pony must have protection from bad weather and shade from the sun. A safe paddock with good grazing and access to clean water is important. Check that your fencing is secure and that there are no hidden dangers like potholes, barbed wire or broken glass. If you have just one horse, consider getting company for him – horses are herd animals and don’t like to be alone. Some people get their ponies companions such as sheep or donkeys, although you need to bear in mind that these will need care too.
Along with feed and water buckets for his stable, you will need a regular supply of clean shavings, hay and concentrates, so locate your nearest feed shop and order enough food and bedding in advance. Some shops deliver, which is more convenient than having to collect it yourself, but you’ll need a storage area.
The previous owners can tell you what your pony was eating and you may want to stick with this, but if not, don’t change the food immediately. Instead, ask them for a few meals’ worth of food and change to the new food gradually to minimise risk of colic.
Most yards have their own instructors. However, if you’d prefer your own, and your yard permits it, have a good instructor picked out – someone who’s prepared to travel to you, understands your goals and can help you achieve them. Your local riding club may be able to recommend some good instructors to you. If you’re riding at home, you’ll also need to find an instructor, though you might find it better to box your horse to them if you have no schooling arena.
Health and care
Know who the yard’s vet, dentist and farrier are and get their contact details. It is a good idea to phone them to introduce yourself and give them your contact details. Some yards will let you use your own, while others will manage these aspects for you.
If you stable your own horse, you will need to find your own healthcare specialists and keep records of things such as dental checks, deworming, shoeing or trimming, and vaccinations. Choose these professionals with care and get recommendations for them. If necessary ask a more knowledgeable friend to check if they are doing their jobs correctly.
Shopping for your new horse is super fun and you’ll have to control your urge to buy everything you see! To save your piggy bank from dying of starvation, try to limit your initial purchases to the basics. These will include things like a halter and lead rein, fly mask, winter blanket and basic grooming kit including a rubber curry comb, body brush, mane comb, hoof pick and dandy brush. Buy the fly mask and halter according to your horse or pony’s head size – a pony-size halter may not fit every pony, so try to get a measurement first.
Basic tack includes a saddle with girth, numnah, stirrups and stirrup leathers; a bridle with bit and reins and maybe a martingale.