Horse Care 101: Are Horses Easy To Keep?

If you’re considering buying your first horse or are new to the world of horses (or are thinking about buying your child their first horse) you might be wondering just how easy or difficult are they to take care of. We all know that horses need a certain amount of care, attention, and love but does that mean they’re easy to look after? This is something that I’m asked a lot which is why I thought I’d write this article, to hopefully answer all those questions.

Are horses easy to keep? Horses aren’t high maintenance and only have a few basic needs such as food, water, company, shelter, and a desire to be safe but that doesn’t mean they’re easy to keep. While they’re not difficult to look after caring for a horse requires time, effort, and commitment and shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Before we get into whether or not horses are easy to keep I wanted to talk about where you keep your horse. A lot of owners keep their horses on partial or full board which means that the amount of work and time they need to put into their horse makes this the easiest option, but for the sake of this article I’m going to presume you’re either keeping your horse on self board or on your own land.

Horses are generally happier outside

Are horses easy to take care of?

Owning a horse is great fun but it does require a lot of work, even if your horse is turned out all year round and isn’t ridden. There are things that you need to do every day such as feed your horse, make sure they have enough clean fresh water, check their hooves, and clean their stall (or pasture) and that’s before you’ve even taken into account riding them.

Horses are grazing animals and are generally happier when they’re turned out with other horses (there will always be the odd horse that would prefer to be inside) and while this means that you won’t need to clean out a stall it does mean you’ll need to clean the shelter. You’ll also need to check their pasture for poisonous plants (and remove them), pick up any manure and check the fencing regularly. 

If your horse is stalled though, even if only overnight, you’ll have to clean it out daily to prevent the build-up of ammonia (which can cause respiratory issues), reduce the number of flies, and protect your horse’s hooves (which can become damaged if the horse is standing in urine for too long). You can do this quickly by just removing the dirty bedding but you should change it completely at least once a week.

You’ll also need to monitor how much your horse is eating, given the chance most horses will eat non-stop so you’ll have to make sure they’re not eating too much forage. You’ll also need to keep an eye on how much your horse eats in relation to his workload and adjust it accordingly.

Then of course you’ll also need to make sure your horse’s blankets and tack are in good condition and clean them regularly. If your tack is leather you should also condition it at least once a month.

Don’t forget that your horse will need caring for regardless of how you’re feeling or what day it is, this includes Thanksgiving and the 4th of July. It also means that if you want to go on vacation you’ll need to arrange for somebody responsible to look after your horse while you’re away unless, of course, you take your horse with you.

I know it sounds like it’s a lot of hard work but there are plenty of bonuses to owning a horse too, you’ll be able to ride whenever you want to and best of all you’ll be making a friend for life.

How much time does it take to look after a horse?

The question of how much time it takes to look after a horse is a little bit like asking how long a piece of string is. The time it takes depends on how much time you have to spend with your horse, how thorough a job you’re doing as well as whether or not your horse is stalled. That said though, if you’re only going to do the basics then you should allow yourself 35 minutes. This of course doesn’t include traveling times, or the time you spend catching your horse.

TaskTime spent
Feeding & watering10 minutes
Turn out / Bring in5 minutes
Cleaning stall10 minutes
Check horse5 minutes
Cleaning hooves5 minutes
Total35 minutes
The minimum amount of time it takes to care for a horse every day.

On top of the basics, you should also allow time for grooming and exercising your horse as well as clearing manure from the pasture. One ‘task’ that’s often overlooked though is actually spending quality time with your horse. Of course, you don’t need to do this every day but the more time you dedicate to just being with your horse the better the bond between you both will be (and the happier you’ll both be too).

Personally, I think you should set aside around 2 hours every day for your horse, after all, how would you feel if a friend came round to eat and then went? Your horse would feel the same and it wouldn’t lead to a good bond between the both of you, with this in mind the table below gives you a rough idea of how long other tasks can take.

TaskTime spent
Grooming20 minutes
Exercising30+ minutes (can be hours)
Picking up manure from pasture30 minutes (depending on pasture size)
Quality timeAt least 15 minutes
Total95+ minutes
The average amount of time it takes to care for a horse every day.
Grooming your horse can be beneficial for you both

When considering how much time you need to spend with your horse it’s not just the time you spend every day that you need to take into account. Horses can easily live for 30 years which means you’ll need to make sure you’re able to commit to your horse for years to come.

Are horses expensive to take care of?

Any horse owner will tell you that whatever you pay for a horse it’s nothing compared to how much you’ll pay for their upkeep. Even if you keep your horse at home they can cost a pretty penny with feed, bedding, veterinary, and farrier costs all adding up and that’s before you’ve even taken the cost of the tack, riding lessons and show entry fees into account.

The monthly cost of keeping a horse can vary from region to region but on average you can expect to pay somewhere between $200 and $350 per month.

Are horses high maintenance?

I’ve often heard non-horsey people talking about horses being high maintenance because they need a lot of care and attention but this isn’t really the case. Yes of course they do require a certain amount of attention and care but unlike dogs, horses are more than happy to be left to their own devices, just as long as their basic needs are met.

That doesn’t mean to say you can leave your horse for days on end but rather they won’t fret if you feed them in the morning then don’t go back until that evening, or even the next day.

Compared to dogs horses are low maintenance 

Can a beginner take care of a horse?

Horses are living creatures that do require a certain amount of attention and care every day which means that you need to have some degree of knowledge of what you’re doing which is why a lot of first-time owners choose to keep their horses at boarding stables. That way they’re able to own and care for the horse themselves but are also surrounded by experienced owners that are able to help and offer advice when needed.

I wouldn’t recommend caring for a horse on your own if you’re a beginner because while you may mean well if you’re not looking after your horse properly because you don’t have enough knowledge it’s still neglect. You are solely responsible (and legally responsible) for your horse’s care, health, wellbeing, and happiness so it’s important to know how to care for your horse properly. 

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To conclude 

I know it may sound like I’ve spent the last few minutes trying to convince you that owning a horse is a lot of hard work without any reward but that’s not the case. Yes, there’s a lot of work involved in owning a horse but ask any owner and they’ll tell you that the benefits far outweigh that. Owning a horse is one of the best things in the world and something I’d recommend to anybody but at the same time horses are living creatures that do have needs, and I just want to make sure you understand what those are before you commit to buying a horse.

I hope you found this article helpful. If you did I’d be grateful if you could share it please as it would really help me.

Recommended products 

Over the years I have tried hundreds of different horsey products, from various blankets and halters to different treats. Some I’ve loved, others I’ve hated but I thought I’d share with you my top all-time favorite products, the ones I never leave the yard without. I’ve included links to the products (which are in no particular order) that I really think are great.

  • Horse Knots by Reference Ready – If you’re like me and enjoy pocket reference guides then you’ll love this knot tying guide. These handy cards can easily fit in your pocket or attach to the saddle for quick reference. They’re waterproof, durable and are color coded to make them easy to follow.
  • Mane ’n Tail Detangler – Even if you never show your horse you’ll need to detangle his tail from time to time (and possibly his mane too) which is always a challenging chore! I’ve found that if I run a little bit of detangler through my horse’s tails every few days it stops them from getting matted up and makes combing them easy, even if they’re coated in mud. I don’t know if I should admit to this or not but it also works wonders on my hair.
  • TAKEKIT Pro clippers – Over the years I’ve tried a lot of different clippers and while some were obviously better than others I found these to be by far the best. They are heavier than a lot of other clippers but for me, that’s a good thing, it makes them feel more sturdy and hardwearing. On top of that they have a range of speeds so are just as good for clipping your horse’s back as they are his face. I also like the fact that they come in a handy carry case but that’s not for everybody. The company that makes them is super good and incredibly helpful too, a real bonus these days. The only thing I wasn’t keen on was the fact that it doesn’t come with any oil, but that’s not a major problem as it’s not difficult to buy lubricant.
  • Shire’s ball feeder – There are so many boredom buster toys out there but I like to use these every day, regardless of whether or not my horses are bored. I find that it helps to encourage my horses to problem solve by rewarding them with treats (or pieces of fruit) but it also mimics their natural grazing behavior which helps to keep them calm and de-stressed.
  • Horse safe mirror – This is a strange one that many people are surprised about but I like to put horse safe mirrors in the trailers as well as in the quarantine stalls. It helps to prevent the feeling of isolation by giving the impression of other horses being around. Being herd animals horses can get extremely stressed when they feel that they’re on their own but with these stick-on mirrors, they believe that at least one other horse is with them.
  • Rectal thermometer – I know this isn’t glamourous at all but it’s vital for your horse’s well-being to be able to check their temperature and a rectal thermometer is the easiest way of doing this which is why I’ve added it to the list.

Shopping lists

I’ve also put together a few shopping lists of essential items that I’ve found helpful over the years. I’ve broken the lists down into different categories rather than put everything in one massive list 😉

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