So your kid wants a horse.
You knew this day would come eventually; it was only a matter of time with your horse-obsessed child. Don’t panic! Many parents have been in your shoes. Before you rush out to buy a horse for your child, take some time to consider if horse ownership is the right choice for your family.
We’ve compiled 5 questions to ask yourself if you are ready to buy a horse for your child, with the assistance of long-time horsewoman and founder of CBC Therapeutic Horseback Riding Academy, Brittney Chambers.
1. How do I know if my child is ready?
It can be all fun and games until your child has had personal exposure to a live horse. What you see in the movies (yes, the ones your kid is probably watching) is often far-removed from what horse ownership is actually like. If your child hasn’t had yet had any experience with horses, consider starting there first.
Brittney suggests getting your child involved with a local lesson barn or asking if they can help a neighbor with their horses.
“Get them into lessons if you can or have them volunteer at a local barn or horse rescue,” she says. “Have them spend the day there and that will let you know a lot.”
Many kids have fantasies about their first horse that prove to be unrealistic. Remember, these are very large animals that require close attention to detail and lots of care.
“There are many opportunities out there to give them hands-on experience to see if it’s something they want to do. If they’re like, ‘No mom, this is a lot of work,’ okay then maybe you should just lease a horse 2 days a week. But if they say, ‘Yup, I can do it,’ then alright – maybe you can do this.”
2. Is my family prepared for the responsibility?
Think about where you’ll keep this horse. Will it be boarded or will it be housed on your own personal property? Boarding facilities can be wonderful because their staff handles most of the cleanup and feeding of your horse, but that can also be costly. If you plan to keep your horse at home, you need to take some time to consider who will be responsible for its care.
“It’s not like a dog where you can just take them for a walk and let them be,” Brittney tells us. “You have to spend time with them. You have to consistently ride them. Are you ready to scrub water buckets? Are you ready to throw hay in the freezing cold rain? Are you ready to get up and go feed them every single morning? They’re going to be waiting on you. You have to clean their stall. Even when you’re sick, you still have to get out there and take care of your horse even if you don’t feel like it.”
That’s not all – consider who will do the work if you need to leave for any length of time and keep your horse at home.
“If you want to go away for a week on vacation, someone has to take care of your horse. These are the things that you have to do and be ready for,” explains Brittney.
“This is a big commitment; it’s not something we can change our mind about.”
3. Do I really need to own right now or should I consider a lease?
Many parents are unaware that there are alternative options beyond purchasing a horse to own. Consider experimenting with horse ownership in the form of a lease prior to going all in.
“One thing I always suggest prior to buying: see if you can lease a horse for a couple of months to see if you can take on that responsibility financially,” says Brittney. “If it’s in your backyard, you’ve got to feed them, you’ve got to water them, you’ve got to take care of them.”
There are many different kinds of lease options available to potential horse owners, including a free lease also known as a feed lease.
“I think parents don’t know that there are all of those options. They come to me and say, ‘Well I saw this horse for sale.’ And I say ‘You know, people do feed leases.’ “
The feed lease is a situation where the lessee pays for the care of someone else’s horse. This situation is much like a full lease, only the lessee is not paying a monthly fee to lease a horse, he/she is only paying for the care and upkeep of the horse. (Source: ALL THE HORSE LEASING ALTERNATIVES TO SELLING YOUR HORSE)
This is a great way to save on upfront costs while still getting a taste of horse ownership.
4. Who do I know who can help me with this decision?
Whether you buy or lease your first horse, know before you begin that you don’t need to figure everything out alone! This is especially important if you are looking to buy a horse for your child.
“Have someone that you trust go with you, like taking a mechanic to go with you to look at a new car,” says Brittney.
Understandably so, not all people will have that option, so do as much research that you can ahead of time. If you and your child aren’t already working with a professional riding instructor or trainer that you can ask for help, look into finding someone in your area that you can hire on a short-term basis to assist with your horse hunting process.
Brittney recommends, “You can ask [a trainer] to consult with you and help you prep for getting a horse. Try not to do it alone. It is a process, and some people will try to sell you anything. Especially if it’s for your kid.”
5. What are my options if this doesn’t work out?
As a final consideration, think about what you’ll do if for some reason things don’t work out as planned.
What happens if your child outgrows this horse or loses interest? What if the horse gets injured and can’t be ridden? What if the horse isn’t what you expected and isn’t a good match after all?
“This is a big commitment; it’s not something we can change our mind about,” Brittney advises parents to say to their kids. “If you do [need to] get out of it, not all horses sell very fast. You might be stuck with this horse for a very long time, so just make sure this is something you really want to do.”
If you’re ready, go for it!
Horses can be a fun and exciting experience for the whole family. If you feel confident that you’re ready to buy a horse for your child after you’ve reviewed these questions, maybe it’s time for that next step. Gather up your research and (hopefully) an experienced horse-person to go with you, and enjoy the search as you work to find your kid’s new equine best friend!
About Brittney Chambers: Brittney Chambers, the Founder of CBC Therapeutic Horseback Riding Academy has over 20 years’ experience with horses. She has ridden several different disciplines such as English, Western, and Dressage. In addition, she has also helped fellow horse owners by consulting, training, and handling their horses. She specializes in Rider Biomechanics and both English and Western Fundamentals. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram for more great resources and tips!
RELATED: 10 Tips for First-Time Horse Owners