Taking Care of a Horse: Basic Facts to Know Before Buying a Horse


Anyone who is thinking about purchasing a horse should know the basics how-tos of horse care long before they ever go on the first test ride. Knowing how to take care of a horse is essential to the horse's well-being as well as the overall happiness of both horse and rider.

Feeding a Horse

Horses are grazing animals, they function best if they have a continual source of roughage to keep their digestive systems moving. However, most captive horses do not receive enough nutrition from the grass in their pastures to survive, which is why horses are fed both horse feed and hay.

The average adult horse receives one to two scoops of feed every day as well as several flakes of hay. The feed provides the basic nutritional need and the hay provides roughage for the horse's digestive system. There are a variety of different types of feeds that can be used based on a horse's specific energy and digestive needs, so it is always a good idea to discuss an individual horse's feeding requirements with a veterinarian or trainer to determine the correct blends and amounts that should be given. It is important to know how to take care of a horse and feed it properly, otherwise the horse may experience feeding related health problems such as obesity.

Shelter and Pasture

Horses need both shelter and a place to stretch their legs. A good rule of thumb is to have one acre of land for every horse. Horses also need at least a three sided shelter that will protect them from the wind and rain. However, this is the bare minimum standard for horse care.

Most horses are kept in stalls that are 12 ft by 12 ft or larger. These stalls are part of a barn and contain amenities such as feed and water buckets, hay racks to keep hay dry and off the ground, sawdust shavings and rubber mats for padding, fans to keep airflow cool and moving as well as bug misters and even stall toys to keep the horse from getting bored when it is contained. Pastures and paddocks are large enough for the horse to wander around in comfortably and should have wooden, poly-vinyl, wire or electric fencing. Horse fencing should never be made from barbed wire, as it can lead to serious injury and infection.

Both stalls and smaller pastures will need to be mucked out on a regular basis to keep too much feces from building up. Manure should be removed and composted.

Horse owners who do not have adequate facilities for their horses at their homes commonly board their horses at riding stables. Stables offer a variety of amenities and services, however the average cost of horse board is between $300 and $400 dollars. In large cities or at exclusive training and riding facilities, it can be significantly higher. There are different levels of board at most boarding barns. Pasture board commonly consists of a horse living in the pasture with no stall. Full board consists of a horse living in the barn, with the barn staff providing all feed and care services. Partial board is when the barn offers a discount off the price of full board in exchange for the horse's owner caring for their own horse either partially or fully, including buying feed, feeding, watering and cleaning stalls. It is probably a good idea for inexperienced horse owners who are unsure of how to take care of a horse to keep their horses at boarding barns because it means that experienced horse people will always be close by.

One of the largest benefits of boarding barns are that horses are provided with socialization. Horses are herd animals and require the companionship of other horses to be happy. It is never a good idea to have a single horse alone on a property, so most horse owners who keep their horses at home have several horses or buy another animal, such as a goat, to keep the horse company.

Veterinary and Hoof Care

Horses need regular care from professionals such as the veterinarian and farrier. Virtually every horse in the United States has to have at least one yearly veterinary visit for vaccinations and to have blood drawn for what is called a Coggins test. The Coggins test is a blood test for Equine Infectious Anemia and certifies that horses are not currently infected with the disease. Current Coggins tests are required by all boarding barns, horse events and to transport a horse across state lines. Some states even require that a horse has a current Coggins test in order to be sold. Only a veterinarian can perform a Coggins test.

Horses also require regular hoof care and maintenance. Horse hooves are more similar to toenails than feet, and they need to be periodically shaped, trimmed and cared for by the farrier in order to stay healthy. A horse who's feet are not properly cared for will almost certainly go lame and develop hoof and leg problems as a result. Horses need to have their feet done every four to six weeks, even if they do not have shoes. Horse shoes need to be replaced every four to six weeks and will increase the total amount of the farrier bill.

Horse Handling and Riding

It is absolutely crucial to be competent at handling a horse as well as have a good understanding of riding basics before buying a horse. Horses can not live full-time in their stalls, they are social animals. They need to be taken out, exercised, groomed and handled in order to stay happy and healthy. Anyone who buys a horse should feel confidant and reasonably knowledgeable about handling horses prior to the purchase. An owner who is not comfortable with basic handling may not be able to catch their horse or provide care and medical treatment in the event of a emergency. Also, the horse might get away from them and be injured. Horses can sense whether a person is comfortable and in control, so it is in a potential owner's best interest to have a firm grasp of horse handling basics.

It is also worth noting that different breeds and genders of horses have different temperaments. Geldings are typically calmer and easier to handle than mares, and stallions should only be handled by very experienced horsemen. New horse owners are typically best off if they purchase adult horses rather than young horses and stick to breeds that are known for having calm, dependable personalities.


Horse owners need to have a variety of horse equipment in order to properly care for their horse. Necessary grooming tools include a body brush, curry comb, face brush and hoof pick. Necessary tack includes a properly fitting saddle, bridle, girth, bit and saddle pad. Horses also need to have at least one halter and leadrope, feed buckets and sheets and blankets in case of cold weather. A winter blanket is going to be one of the key things that your horse will need in the winter to keep warm and healthy!  New horse owners can expect to spend at least a thousand dollars on equipment to care for their horse.

Taking Care of Horses

Horses can be a consuming hobby, and anyone who wants to purchase a horse should be fully prepared to invest a significant amount of time. money and effort in properly caring for and riding their horse. Owners who do not know how to take care of a horse put both theirself and the horse at risk. If someone wants to learn how to care of and ride a horse, they should take lessons from a reputable professional instructor.