Horses are quite unique animals and it is often asked “Do horses make good pets?” That all depends on what you want from a pet, if you want a faithful companion and friend, a sporting partner, a means of transport and garden fertiliser, the answer has to be “yes”.
Owning a horse comes with pros and cons. As with any pet, you will have to accept responsibility for your horse’s well-being as well as the costs of ownership, which will be both expected and unexpected. And also the responsibility you have for the horse’s well-being.
Once you have decided on having a horse, selecting the right horse for you should be based on these two key factors:
- The horse’s personality and temperament
- What you plan on using your horse for
Horses are large animals and so have large needs, so you should expect large food bills, large vet bills (remember you can’t just put your horse in the car and take it to the vet – it will likely be a house call!) and large bills for agistment, fencing and shelter.
Of course most horse owners will agree that horse ownership is worth all the time and expense in exchange for the pleasure they get from owning and riding their horse, whether it be for fun or in competition.
Do horses make good pets – research is the key
Once you’ve considered the economics and the logistics and you’ve still decided to go ahead with a purchase, it’s critical that you do more research on the characteristics of any horse you choose.
Horses come in all temperaments but in general they can tend towards being spooky. Temperaments can range from flighty to docile and from pushy to easy, so once again the question “do horses make good pets?” will rely on you being comfortable with handling and responding to the temperament of your particular horse. Retired racehorses for example often come with a broken spirit or a dislike of people. Different personalities and temperaments in horses can be worked on, but you need to be certain that you are prepared to commit the time and money to do that.
When choosing a horse, things to consider carefully are:
- Will the horse be suitable for your level of riding skill?
- Is the horse the right size for you to ride and handle?
- What to you intend to do with your horse – show jumping, trail riding, urban or country, etc?
- Does your horse have a good history of health?
- What is your horse’s temperament – will it need further training or is it calm and well-behaved?
- Does your horse socialise well with other horses or is it a “loner”?
What breed of horse should I choose?
As with most pets there are many different breeds of horse. The most popular are:
- Quarter horse
- Paint horse
- Miniature horse
- Morgan horse
- Tennessee walking horse
- Welsh pony
It’s always wise to speak to people who already own these breeds before you decide – it will help you figure out which horse will best suit you and your needs.
Horse ownership and care
One of the biggest responsibilities that come with horse ownership is the significant cost. If you do not have the facilities yourself to keep and shelter the horse, the cost of boarding or agistment can range from $300 to $2000 a month, depending on the amenities provided and the proximity to an urban area. Unless you only intend to ride your horse near where it’s kept, you will also have transportation costs, which will include buying or renting a float, or paying a specialist transport company.
Horses also need an annual check up by a qualified veterinarian, which usually involves a comprehensive physical examination (especially teeth) and vaccinations. You will also need a farrier every couple of months to maintain your horse’s feet.
With horses there can also be a range of quite unexpected costs. Horses are prone to leg fractures and punctures as well as laminitis (swelling in the hoof) which can cause a horse to become lame and for which euthanasia is sometimes the only possible outcome. Laminitis is usually caused by stress, such as changes in feed or environment regimes, obesity or colic. Colic can also be a life-threatening condition.
As well as the health responsibilities, you will also be responsible for the well-being of your horse. Horses need regular attention from their owners and will respond to that attention, building a stronger relationship with you the more you give. In order to build a relationship with your horse, you should ride it 3-4 times a week, which is an important part of the commitment that you must consider before purchase. You have a responsibility the moment you take any pet or animal into your care and that responsibility is usually for life. Horse ownership particularly should not be a fad that you give up on once you tire of it. Remember, “A pet is for life, not just for Christmas”.
If you are buying a horse for your child, there are plenty of camps and facilities that can help you and your child work through the care, feeding, training and riding, and all the other aspects of responsible horse ownership.
Are there alternatives to owning a horse?
Yes there are alternatives to outright ownership of a horse. They can include:
- Leasing, where you have the horse for a specified amount of time for a set monthly payment. Leasing is often used for a show season, but you will usually still pay for maintenance and boarding on top of your lease payment
- Part or share ownership, where you share ownership but also share the costs
- Part-boarding, when someone else owns the horse but doesn’t have the time or money to board, train or ride it, so you share the costs along with the benefits
The benefits of owning a horse
Horses have a long lifespan
In a world where the majority of people think of a companion pet as a cat or a dog, there are thousands of people who regard horses as very valued companions. The benefits of owning a horse cuts across many areas and can include companionship, therapy, recreation and sport. Horse ownership can be a very rewarding as long as the responsibilities of ownership have been well thought through.
Another benefit of keeping horses as pets is that horses have a long lifespan. Stabled horses usually have a lifespan of over 20 years and even more if they are well cared for.
Horses are easy to keep under control
Horses are fast learners and quickly learn how to be kept under control. Good training and regular attention will see them become responsive to instruction quite quickly. As a family pet however, a mare or a pony would be a better choice than a stallion, as stallions are more strong-willed so are better suited to breeding rather than as pets.
Horses are easy to feed
Although most people would consider that a large animal like a horse would require higher maintenance, they are in fact relatively easy to keep fed and healthy because they are not very fussy. The best food option for any horse is grass, which can be supplemented with hay if grass is in short supply.
Horses can be fun to take care of
A horse’s coat needs regularly brushing to bring out its natural sheen. This can more often than not be turned into a pleasant experience rather than a chore. The more difficult functions such as bathing or foot-cleaning can still be made to be fun. Whatever needs to be done, it is all part of the rewarding experience of owning and caring for a pet.
Horses are fun to be with
How many pets can take you for miles on their back, on paths and into areas you would probably never normally go? Horses are fun to be with, and kids especially will get hours of fun and enjoyment from having a horse as a companion pet. Horses can also be quite affectionate, which makes the “companion” part of your relationship with your horse even more enjoyable.
So whilst horse ownership certainly comes with many responsibilities, it can also bring fun and happiness to individuals and families, at the same time bringing people closer to the joys of life through ownership of a faithful companion pet.
More information to help answer the question “Do horses make good pets?”
Yahoo Answers – Do horses make good pets?
All Experts – Do horses make good pets?
For and Against – Horses make good pets!
The Horse Shed Shop – Can horses make great family pets
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