First Time Horse Owner (7 Step Guide)

First time horse owner

First of all! Congrats on considering buying (or already bought) your first horse. The horse world and sport is truly a unique passion that gives many riders around the world an escape from the stressors in the everyday world and a great way to meet new friends and spend more time in nature. The horse ownership journey involves learning a lot of new skills and will come with both ups and downs. Before buying your new horse make sure you read through our 7 Step by step guide to becoming a successful first time horse owner. Whether you just want to trail ride and play around with your horse or have huge goals of competing and showing – this list applies to all first-time horse owners.

1. Decide What Breed of Horse You Want

types of horses - first horse owner
Photo: I Heart Horses Different types of horse breeds and disciplines

Step one is to decide what type of horse you want and need. If you are a complete beginner then its probably a good idea to look at older horses who have ‘been there done that’, as they are less likely to spook and are more forgiving to an unbalanced inexperienced rider. A green horse can easily start with bad habits if an inexperienced rider accidentally teaches it that it can get away with it. As a general rule a young horse or inexperienced horse should only be trained by experienced owners or with the help of a good instructor. To be safe its best to always ask for a short trial period before buying your new horse to make sure its a good fit. You also need to look at which breed you want as certain breeds are more suitable for certain disciplines. Draft horses are great beginner horses as they are calm gentle giants and perfect for anyone who wants to go on trail rides. If you want to ride western then a quarter horse or Andalusian horse might be a better fit. For jumping or dressage you may want to look at warmblood horse breeds such as Hanoverian, Oldenburg and Holsteiner. 

2. Decide on Budget

new horse budget

Firstly, its important to understand that the initial cost of buying a horse is only the beginning of being a part of this expensive hobby. There are so many associated costs of horse ownership so its important that you consider the ongoing costs of owning a horse and any unexpected vet bills etc.We recommend that first time horse buyers sit down and make a budget for the purchase price and horse owners costs such as: Horse board, horse feed, farrier, vet, worming, riding lessons, horse tack, horse hauling, horse dentist and more. As a general rule the daily operation costs will look similar to as follows:

  • Horse Purchase Price: This varies a lot and be anything from $1000-$100,000 
  • Horse Board: $300-$1200/Month (Depending on where you live)
  • Farrier: $60-$200 Every 6 weeks (Shoes costs more than just a trim)
  • Dentist: $200-$400/Year
  • Horse Feed: Hay is usually included in Boarding cost. Extra Grain/Supplement $100-$200/Month
  • DeWorming: $50-$100/Year
  • Horse Tack: One time cost of approximately $1000 (if you buy used)
  • Unexpected Costs: (vet bills etc) $1500
  • Horse Hauling & Showing: This varies for each discipline and state so do your own research if you are looking to show your horse too 

Try to find reputable breeders for the breed you are after and remember performance increase horse value so if you don’t care about buying a show horse then you should be able to find a decent value horse under $10,000.

There are also a range of horse rescue organisations where you just pay an adoption fee. At Stabletalk we rescued this baby thoroughbred from slaughter in August 2023, the photo is 5 week difference after being cared for and given the right feed and vet care. Please note rescuing a horse is probably not the best option for a new horse owner as you don’t really know what you get as you won’t know the horses background and potential health issues.

3. Find a Boarding Facility

first time horse owner - decide on barn

The next step is to find a affordable and friendly boarding facility near you (unless you live on a farm with your own land). Things to look out for at boarding facilities include: will the horse get daily turnouts, do they get fresh water daily? is stall cleaning and feeding included? what are the riding arenas like – are they dragged and watered daily? Any access to trails? Is it within your budget? Is there a good trainer on site? A great boarding facility should meet your specific needs and be within a 40 minute drive (if you want to go out everyday). If you own your own property with stables and pastures then congratulations! Please note keeping horses at home is a lot of work so make sure you have the time and are up for the task before you commit to buying horses.

4. Book A Pre-purchase Exam

A horse can come with a lot of hidden health issues from previous injuries etc so its important to hire a vet to perform a PPE (Pre-Purchase Exam) before buying a new horse. A PPE is a vet check that usually involves a one day overall examination of the horse as a guide to wether its likely to be healthy enough for the intended use you want it for. Please note that veterinarians can only give you advice on the results and there are no guarantees for its future health. The veterinarian is usually hired by the buyer (yourself) and you need to make the vet aware of your goals with the horse and what you are looking to do with it. As a new owner the last thing you want to do is to rush into the purchase and then end up with a horse that needs ongoing veterinary care. Its also important to understand that no horse is perfect and minor health problems might show up in the PPE so use common sense and discuss with your vet wther its going to be a problem or not.

first time horse owner - pre purchase exam for horse

Common Problems that tend to be ‘Easily Fixed’:

  • Bite marks from other horses in the field
  • Lower body weight than desired
  • Sharp teeth (one visit at the dentist will fix this)
  • Small spots of rain rot in the coat

Common Problems that are More Serious:

  • Laminitis
  • Kissing Spines
  • Arthritis
  • Melanoma
  • Bowed Tendon (common in off the track racehorses) 

The vet will usually do a physical examination of its body, legs, hooves and teeth followed by xrays and ultrasound of the legs. The exam will also include seeing the horse move in all gaits in both directions. Blood is sometimes drawn too if there is a reason to but is usually not part of a standard PPE.

5. Sign a Bill of Sale

A bill of sale needs to be signed for all horse sale by law in most states, if you don’t have your own lawyer to draft one then you can download one for free here. The bill of sale will need to be signed up both the buyer and the seller (and any agents) and is also acts as the proof of purchase of the horse. Make sure you also get any papers for the horse. The bill of sale will also help you if you for any reason would need to take the previous owner to court or if they would try to ‘steal’ the horse back, this sounds a bit crazy but these things do happen! So make sure you stay on the right side of the law by having all your paperwork in order at the time of the sale.

6. Buy Suitable Horse Tack

Once you have decided on your new dream horse its time to go shopping for horse supplies! Your local tack shop should have everything you need but we also recommend looking unto used tack as a saddle is a major purchase and you can find many used saddles in perfect condition at half the price.  Saddles are usually made of quality leather and will last for many years. New horse tack you may need:

  • FOR THE HORSE: Bridle, Fully Mounted Saddle, Saddle Pad, horse brush, hoof pick,  mane and tail comb, halter and lead rope, lunge line, fly spray, some kind of antibacterial ointment (to treat small cuts), horse shampoo
  • FOR THE RIDER: Riding boots (anything with a heel), Horse riding helmet, horse riding pants, riding gloves, body protector
  • STABLE SUPPLIES: Hay, grains, feeding pan, water bucket, Lunge whip (all of these should be supplied by your local stable), pine shavings, stable fork

7. Hire a Professional Instructor

horse riding instructor

Once your new horse arrive at your local barn its a good idea to invest in riding lessons. Even if your horse is an angel with a calm personality you will set yourself up for success with regular lessons as a beginner horse owner. Horseback riding becomes even more fun when you get to learn new skills every week and you have someone on the ground teaching you on a regular basis. In United States riders are often ‘in a program’ with their horses with 2-5 lessons per week. In Europe however lessons tend to be only 1 day per week. Its all about preference and there is no right or wrong, we do recommend at a minimum of 1 day per week in the beginning when you get to know your horse.

Have Fun!

The most important thing is to have fun and enjoy your new hobby. Take your horse to the beach, sign up to local shows, go trail riding, find new barn friends and enjoy a lifetime of happy horse ownership. Its truly a unique hobby that gives so much joy. Your horse is lucky to have found a good home. Research have shown that spending time with horses can decrease stress, reduce anger, cure depression and lower blood pressure, and you get to spend time in nature and exercise at the same time!

Beware: Things to Lookout For As a First Time Horse Owner

  • Some barns can be full of spoilt kids or toxic people, remember there are friendly barns to take your time finding the perfect one
  • Listen to your gut feel, if something feels off then don’t go ahead with the purchase
  • It takes time to get to know a horse so don’t stress if you doubt your decision the first few weeks, growing a bond with your horse takes time
  • Ask the previous owner for testimonials from previous buyers – Many horse sellers are not trustworthy so also always do a thorough PPE
  • Don’t feed you horse too much of a sugary diet (for example too much alpha alpha hay) as this can make them very high energy and more difficult to handle
  • Caring for and riding your horse everyday is a big commitment so remember that if you do get overwhelmed and need help there are always people that would love to help ride your horse for free or you could potentially half lease it out, it helps with costs and gives you more time!

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