Most horse owners dream of one day bringing their horses’ home. It is an image that can conjure thoughts of watching your horses munching grass out of the kitchen window while you are doing dishes. Maybe you are looking forward to morning trips to the barn with a cup of coffee in hand and being greeted by the nickers of excitement followed by the calming sound of horses eating hay in their stalls. However, bringing horses home can be expensive and challenging. So, if your new year’s resolution is to make this dream a reality, you will want to make sure that you have thought through what you will need to make this transition a happy one.
Preparing the Land – When it comes to pastures and grazing, horses can be tough, between the way they graze and the damage their hooves can cause. When setting up an area for the horses to be turned out, build a few pastures for rotation and a sacrifice area that is prepared with footing to help avoid mud. Plan where pastures will be based on best drainage. Mow, eradicate weeds, and re-seed as needed before the horses arrive, if possible. It is also important to plan pastures and barns according to water accessibility. This may mean you will have to run water, but it will make caring for your horse much easier.
Safe Fences – Once you bring your horses home, the responsibility falls on you to keep them safe and properly contained. Fencing that isn’t safe and strong is a liability and can pose a risk for devastating injuries. When you first bring your horses home, introduce them to the fencing boundaries and let them get used to being in the enclosures when you are home to supervise. If the horses that will be housed together are new to each other, introducing them slowly will help make the transition as smooth as possible. Horses are herd animals and will generally do better in a group of horses or with companion animals rather than being alone.
Shelter – Horses are hardier than we give them credit for, but they still need a place to shelter from the elements. If the horses are going to primarily be in the pasture, you may just need a three-sided shed that provides shelter out of the sun, wind, rain, and snow. Most people find that having a barn where the horses can be brought in and separated is the most convenient. Even if you aren’t planning on using stalls every day, having a place to bring them in can make management much easier for grooming, care and feeding.
Sourcing Hay – No matter how much pastureland you have, you will want to be prepared to feed your horse hay and grain as needed. It can be hard to find a good, reliable source for hay, so you will want to secure this before you bring the horse’s home. It is advisable to get enough hay in the barn to get you through until the next season. Hay will get more expensive and harder to find in the late winter/early spring. Hay can be tested for the nutritional quality, which will help you to determine what grain or supplements may be needed to create a balanced ration for your horse. When possible, store it in a separate building to help mitigate fire risk.
Equipment – Keeping horses at home can be more cost effective than boarding when you are looking at the day-to-day expenses. However, there ends up being a lot of overhead costs in building barns, outfitting stalls, and putting up fences. Additionally, to keep your property in tip top shape there is a variety of equipment you will need. Put together a list of items that will be needed and then rank them in order of most importance. Usually, a Tractor is number one on the list followed by a Bush Hog, Manure Spreader and Arena Groomer, depending on what you are doing on your property will determine what makes it to the top of the list.
Ride Time – Unless you are just bringing your horse home to turn out to pasture, you will probably need a place to ride. It usually makes sense to start with an outdoor arena since it will be more affordable than an indoor arena. Focusing on drainage and good footing to maximize usage throughout the course of the year. For a safe, contained space to work with your horse, consider a Round Pen. They are easy to move and can be expanded as needed. Riding at home can be fun, but make sure to plan time to meet with friends or have them over to ride so you can still enjoy the social aspect of riding horses.
These are just some of the basics to consider when preparing to bring horses home. There are challenges, learning opportunities, hard work, and what may seem like never enough time to ride, but there is something very rewarding about seeing those horses in your back yard every day. It is a big commitment, but one that is well worth the trouble. If you are thinking of bringing your horses home and need some additional guidance, check out www.cashmans.com, we would be happy to help make this a resolution that you keep.
Happy New Year!!