Sunday, February 3, 2013

New Horse Ownership: What do you need??

So sometime in my future I get to go pick up a new horse and bring her home, and it's got me thinking - what do you need?

Well, first of all, you need a boarding facility or farm. If you've got your own place, that's great. Most people bringing home a new horse will be boarding (at least where I come from) and there are a few things to consider: Is your horse used to being pasture boarded or used to a stall? Is he or she used to a dry lot or a pasture? Does where you plan to board have a trustworthy staff? Good fences and a clean facility? Healthy looking horses, and regularly scheduled farrier and vet visits? Do they feed good quality feed, or allow you to choose what you feed?  Is there a trainer there you can work with? There's a million questions to ask - and I would definitely tour several facilities when choosing a new one, even if you can't afford them, so you know what's out there and develop an eye for the good and bad.

Halter: For most horses I like a break away style halter- either with a full leather crown or a leather "fuse" under the buckle of the halter, both of which snap should the horse sit back and get caught up or trapped while wearing his halter. No matter how solid of a citizen a horse is, horses are flight animals, and when they get scared, it's better for them (and their necks!) to be able to get out of the tussle.

If you fall in love with a halter that isn't break away, get out a knife/scissors/seam ripper and tear out the piece of nylon holding the halter buckle on and replace it with a piece of leather like below, which is pretty cheap to buy. It attaches with a chicago screw, which makes it removable/replaceable. I like to use a little something to help the chicago screw stay fastened, as I had one fall out once and found my halter-less horse had "left" it, unbroken, in a mud puddle.

I also like brass fittings as they last and don't stretch, and a cheek clip, as shown, as it becomes an easy way to get a halter on and off (just be careful if your horse is ear shy - unbuckling might be easier there). I'm not as big of a fan of grommets or metal tips, but they do add to durability when they hold up. Preferably, I like heat punched holes in the nylon crowned halter, as grommets some times bend or fall out, leaving ragged holes. Full leather halters are break away in all directions - I'm just too cheap to leave them on a fence or gate in the rain/snow/sleet/heat.

For lead ropes, I like poly material for it's durability ( I make sure the end is good and sealed with a lighter, which melts the material) and rope for the feel on my hands. I like long leads (10 feet) for greener horses, as I like having a tail to use if I need it (for whacking/spinning purposes) and the length gives you some pull when you have a nervous or bolting horse who needs room - but not to escape like a dork. I like the regular trigger snaps (shown actually on the halter above.) but each to their own. I like that I can get them off quickly and don't need to struggle when I'm holding an impatient horse.

Other things you need:

Feed:  Your horse was probably fed something before you purchased him - find that out, and buy a bag or two. Even if you are planning to feed him or her another type of grain, switching a horse over from feed to feed is a slow process that requires mixing. I usually leave them on whatever it is until they've settled in, and then make up bags slowly transitioning from one feed to the next over a week or two. I start with the amount of old feed I was giving and start giving less (1/4 scoop less, then a 1/2 scoop less) while increasing the new feed in the same amount. Bagging it with labels lets me know it's done right and makes it easy for the staff. I would also purchase a container for your feed if need be - I have a metal trash can that I keep on bricks to help keep moisture from seeping in. 

A Grooming kit: curry (I have several kinds - soft and hard and a shedding blade type), hard/stiff brush, soft brush, face brush (extra soft soft brush), hoof pick (I like the one with the brush), scissors (you always need them when you can't find them) and a towel ( I use mine for everything from snotty noses to cleaning off my own hands. I also have a brush for the mane and tail, mane pulling combs and clippers for bridle paths, body type clipping and for keeping legs/muzzles neat and tidy.
Tip: If you have a grooming kit from lessons or a previous horse, use a effervescent brush cleaner or a bleach/warm water mixture to sanitize them and clean out old hair and mud. I do this regardless yearly or so to maintain my brushes - or after a bout of rain rot.

Lunge Line: Having a line is always a good thing- for training and ground work, hand grazing or for burning off extra energy, the lunge line is a wonderful investment. I like a flat like versus the big round ones, as I prefer the least weight put on the horse's head or mouth. I run the line up through the inside bit ring and over the head to clip on the other side when lunging with a bridle, or on a gentle horse not prone to leaping/playing on the line, I will run the clip through the bit and back to the girth buckle under the flap. I also use my lunge lines to long line, but please have a trainer teach you how to do that! On a halter I usually clip to the bottom/leading ring to prevent it turning on the horse's face.
Another alternative is a natural horsemanship type line, which is the middle ground between a lunge line and a lead rope - usually 15 feet long, they're made out of nice material but tend to be expensive.

Medical Kit: Consult my next post - I'll do a good one with pics for you guys!

Properly fitting tack:  This is a BIG one. I don't care if you buy cheap or expensive tack as long as it FITS and is SAFE. Horses are delicate creatures and saddles especially can really cause a lot of problems if they don't fit right. I'll post a video some time (warmer weather is coming!) but I'd consult a trainer, saddle fitter or VERY knowledgeable (and truly knowledgeable) person when making any saddle decisions. I have found that collecting tack, saddle pads and bits isn't usually a problem, as I love to shop :)

Clothes: Yep, I'm saying it. When you purchase your horse is the deciding factor here. I know a lady who found a horse in the fall, and thus she needed to find a blanket, and quick, for the upcoming winter. If you're buying in the summer, ask the owner if the horse wears a fly mask or sheet. I use fly masks, but discovered Foxie doesn't like "clothes" and thus don't make her wear a fly sheet. Measure blankets from the center of the chest around the widest part of your horse to the tip of the haunch (it sticks out the furthest) and make sure to cross the leg straps and belly straps (belly straps are usually sewn on a diagonal to show this, but some aren't meant to be crossed). Fly masks make your horse's life a little easier in fly season, as does fly spray and sheets, especially if they react to the bites and get swollen spots from them. I also recommend keeping an eye on your favorite tack shops and online stores to find good deals on blankets during the clearance season and save a few dollars in the process!

Oh, and don't forget to enjoy your new horse!!

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