Owning a Horse
When you decide to own a horse, you are accepting the full responsibility of maintaining all of the necessary elements that are involved with keeping an animal. To fulfill your obligation, you must understand both the horse’s mental and physical needs. Although it may be unintentional, ignorance of the horse’s needs may lead to abuse. Owning a horse is also a financial and time-consuming commitment. When planning, budget for one and a half times what you think the cost will be. You will need to factor in funding for possible veterinary care and other unexpected events.
A few natural behaviors that horse owners can expect:
Like any animal, one of the horse’s natural instincts is to eat and drink. Food and water provide the body with hydration and the nutrients that are essential for it to function properly. To obtain enough nourishment from its natural food source, grass, a horse needs to spend most of the day grazing. In the wild, it will eat the food around it and then move to a new location in search of more. A domesticated horse depends entirely on its owner for food. If you expect your horse to work, then you may need to offer it dietary supplements and food other than just grass or hay.
All animals have an innate predisposition for self-preservation and will evade danger at all costs. Like a zebra running from a predator, all horses, including domesticated horses, have the same instincts to run. This natural behavior may cause a horse to bolt if it becomes startled or frightened.
Another instinct of the horse is to reproduce. Even when a domestic mare or stallion is not being used for breeding, its reproductive system is still active. Mares come into heat for five days every three weeks in the summer when they are ready to breed. A mare may become temperamental and more difficult to handle when it is in season.
Horses are herd animals and need companionship. If you keep a horse on its own, then you must provide it with the physical contact and the mental stimulation that it would normally receive from other horses in a herd.
There are proper ways to command attention from a horse, but careful consideration should be given to the treatment of any animal. Horses will naturally submit to a human, even a child, because it will often consider you a member of its herd and look to you for guidance and leadership. There is no need to make a horse submit to you out of fear.
Keeping a horse entails responsibilities on your part. Some tasks such as mucking out, carrying water and hay, and grooming may, at times, be time-consuming or physically demanding. A stabled horse needs exercise every day and a turned-out horse must be checked at least twice a day, especially in bad weather. The costs associated with keeping a horse are not optional. Food, blankets, farrier, veterinarian visits, and shelter are absolute necessities.
Horse ownership doesn’t have to be stressful or difficult. Keeping all of a horse’s natural behaviors in mind and providing for its mental and physical needs will keep your horse happy and make owning a horse truly enjoyable.