First Time Horse Owner’s Checklist

Before your new horse arrives

Before your new horse arrives you need to make sure you have boarding arrangements already set up for them, have organized a vet, farrier and dentist. If your horse isn’t coming with any tack or rugs then you’ll also need to buy these. Don’t forget food as well, you might also be planning to change your horse’s diet but don’t do this straight away. Moving will be stressful enough for the horse so use the same food they’re used to for the first few weeks then change it slowly.

The most important stuff first

It can be very tempting to rush out and buy everything straight away so that it all matches but anybody who’s bought horse’s before will tell you not to do this. I know it can be tempting, you’re at the tack shop buying essentials when you suddenly notice that the rug you’re buying has a matching halter, lead rope, grooming kit and boots but ask yourself – will your horse really care if everything is matching? No, he wouldn’t so don’t buy loads of unnecessary stuff right away, believe me, you’ll accumulate as you go! 😉

The most important things to buy are things that your horse can’t do without things such as:

  • Halter and lead rope – often overlooked it’s a must-have if your new horse doesn’t already have them
  • First aid kit – I’ll go into more detail later about what should be included in the first aid kit.
  • Basic grooming kit – You don’t need every brush to start with, just a hoof pick, curry comb as well as body brush, and possibly a dandy brush.
  • Rugs – Your climate will determine the rugs you need but essentially to start with you only need a turnout rug and possibly a stable rug. You can get others as you go. If you’re not sure what sort of rug you might need this guide to blankets will help.
  • Tack – A lot of the time your horse will come with his tack but if not speak to the seller to find out what you need.
  • Hay – Some yards provide hay while others will sell it to you at a reduced rate and some just won’t provide it at all. You need to find this about beforehand and buy some if it’s not provided.
  • Bedding – As with hay, you need to check this first and buy some if it’s not already provided.
  • Feed – Even if your yard provides feed it’s still a good idea to have a little bit (about a week to ten days worth) of the feed your horse is already used to.
  • Buckets – Most yards, unless full board, will expect you to provide buckets so make sure you have enough for a day’s feed as well as a couple of water buckets.
  • Haynet – Again you’ll probably be expected to provide your own haynet so make sure you’ve got at least one.
  • Calendar – It might not seem like an essential but a wall calendar or planner will help you to keep a note of all of the vet, farrier, and dentist visits as well as important dates such as inoculations, etc.

If you’re keeping your horse at a self-board stable (or if the stables don’t provide their own) then you’ll also need:

  • Fork/Broom – A good strong bristled brush will allow you to keep the stall area tidy while the type of fork you get will depend on the bedding you’re using – after all you won’t be able to pick up a lot of wood chippings with a pitchfork and a chipping fork will make mucking out straw very difficult.
  • Wheelbarrow – Personally I prefer to use a barrow to take the old bedding to the muck heap but some people prefer to use big buckets. Either way, you’ll need a way of taking the old bedding out of the stall.
  • Fencing – It’s often overlooked but check the fencing is included in the cost. Not all yards provide it so it’s better to double-check rather than arrive and find it’s not provided.

If the seller is keeping the tack then I’ll also have to invest in a new saddle and bridle. Speaking to the seller will help you to know what sizes to get but you’ll also need to take into account the type of riding you’ll be doing. If you’re only going to be riding for pleasure then a general-purpose saddle (English) or a pleasure (Western) saddle will be fine but if you’re wanting to jump or are interested in reining then you might find you’d be better off with a specialist saddle. I recent wrote a couple of guides, one on getting the right bit for your horse and the other on how to buy and fit a saddle, that you might find helpful.

What should be in my first aid kit?

You can buy off the shelf first aid kits and they can be good but over the years I’ve found they contain a lot of stuff I never use but also leave out some important items. My basic first aid kit contains:

  • Vetwrap bandage a multi-purpose bandage for wounds
  • Gamgee padding used as a wood dressing
  • Tail bandage always useful
  • Cotton wool can be used to help clean wounds
  • Dettol (or other antiseptic liquid)
  • Syringe to help wash out any wounds
  • Scissors (for first-aid use only)
  • Thermometer 
  • Poultice a moist pad used to draw out poison or reduce swelling
  • Plastic bag to wrap around poultice before bandaging
  • Antiseptic wound cream
  • Any prescribed medication your horse needs
  • Micropore tape will help to keep dressing secure
  • Tweezers a must-have to remove splinters etc
  • Sterile saline to make sure wounds a re-clean before dressing
  • Latex gloves to prevent contaminating a wound
  • Band-Aids (for humans not horses) believe you’ll need them
  • Human painkillers always good to have some
  • Pocket sewing kit can be used for so many things such as securing a dressing
  • Safety pins always useful to have around
  • Flashlight/Headlamp you never know when you’ll need a little bit more light
  • Box to keep everything in with your number on top as well as the number for the vet and farrier

Don’t forget about boarding, vet, dentist, farrier and insurance

Not necessarily in that order but you need to have these in place before your horse arrives. If you’re buying a horse local to you then you may be able to use the same vet, dentist and farrier. If not then asking other owners about who they use is a good start or asking in tack shops or online. When you’ve found somebody don’t just assume they’ll be able to look after your horse, call them and talk to them about your horse. They may not have space in their books but could recommend somebody else if not.

Boarding stables are probably the single most important thing you should organize before your horse arrives, after all, if you don’t where will your horse be delivered too! Finding the right boarding stables can be time-consuming but is vitally important. Do you have the time to spare to keep your horse at a stables but do all of the work yourself? Does your budget enable you to keep your horse at full board so that you can just turn up and ride whenever you want? Or, like most of us, do you lie somewhere in-between? I recently wrote a detailed guide on where to keep your horse that you may find helpful if you’re not sure where the best place to keep your horse is.

Insuring your horse isn’t compulsory in most countries but I still think it’s a must-have. Nobody wants to think about the worst but planning for it and being prepared is a no-brainer. With any luck, you’ll never need to make a claim on your horse’s insurance but its there if you needed it. The cost of horse insurance is pretty low considering how much it could save you. You don’t need to go for the all singing all dancing insurance package if you’re not able to, but with even the basic level of cover, you’ll get help with some of the larger vet fees. I’ve tried to explain everything about horse insurance in this recent article.

Do I still need riding lessons?

You might think that now you’ve got your own horse you don’t need to worry about riding lessons anymore but I would recommend still having lessons. You now have the ability to ride whenever you want which is great but it can also be easy to slip into bad habits. I’m not saying that every time you ride it should be in a lesson but just don’t stop them altogether. One lesson a week is enough to stop bad habits, your instructor will also be able to work with you to help you get the most out of your horse.

Do I need to buy a trailer or horse van?

Most people choose not to buy a trailer straight away and instead either hire one or borrow a friend’s trailer. This is something that’s down to personal preference and circumstances as well as budget. After all if you’re only going to ride locally then you probably don’t need to buy a trailer but if on the other hand you intend to spend a lot of time on the road with your horse then hiring one can become very expensive and you can’t borrow a friend’s trailer for months on end. There’s a wide range of different trailer types depending on the number of horses you want to transport, some trailers even have living quarters too. There are also different loaders which not only determine how the horse enters the trailer but also how it stands while instead. If you want to know about trailers then have a read this guide to trailers that I wrote a while a little while ago.

Page 2 – Finding & buying a horse

Page 4 – The big day!

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