Top tips on caring for your new horse
New horse? Here are some great tips to help you get started caring for your new best friend.
So, your new horse or pony has arrived at the yard and been led to their stable. You’ve offloaded all their gear and are now standing outside the stable as other yard goers gather around to marvel at the new arrival. Depending on your level of organisation, you’ve probably ticked off your to-do list, hung the new headcollar on the hook outside the stable and checked the kick bolt is secure around 200 times. But, what next?
In this article, you’ll find some great tips to help get you and your new horse or pony get off to a flying start.
Top tips for caring for your new horse
Take your time
Slow and steady wins the race, pardon the pun! This is the time to put the horse’s needs first.
Take your time, do not succumb to the temptation or pressure from others to ride your horse the first day it arrives. Try not to overly fuss, pat, or give treats. Your horse will need time to settle into the new surroundings and figure out who its new neighbours are.
When moving around your new horse, talk quietly and in a reassuring manner. Depending on your horse’s age and nature, he or she may find sudden movements and loud noises unsettling. Make sure you are in a good mood, and aren’t stressed – horses pick up on this quickly and may act in a defensive or unwilling manner.
Keep activity to a minimum, do only what’s needed for the first few days. Make all experiences pleasant from the outset.
Build a bond
Building a good relationship with your horse from the outset will set you on the right path to building a bond. Spend time handling him or her over the first few weeks. Grooming is also a good way to get your new relationship off to a great start. Take time out to walk in hand and graze your horse. Potter around the yard while your horse is stabled to let him or her become aware of your body language, and to help let them know you’re no threat.
Walk around the school with your horse in hand, to lay the foundations of communication with each other. Using the tone of your voice is a great way to practice rewards – stay away from treats though! Scratch the horse’s neck near the mane rather than a thudding pat. This mimics the way other horses bond over mutual grooming.
Check tack fit
You may have already covered this area prior to purchasing your horse, however, checking the fit of any tack provided should be the first step, before climbing on board. A qualified saddle fitter can help with making sure your horse will not be in pain/discomfort from the saddle and bridle. If you’re buying new, to save yourself time and money, book a saddle fitter to come and measure your horse. You may choose to purchase a second-hand saddle or one that is made to measure – depending on your budget of course.
Not for your car, but for your horse. Giving your new best friend a general health overhaul will help put you on course to nurturing the best relationship you can, after all a healthy horse is a happy horse. Here are some general points to consider:
- Physio – have a physio take a look at your horse’s movement, they will also check for muscle soreness and any stiffness. Following assessment, the practitioner will give your horse a massage to help release tension and stretch. Ask them to show you some exercises to help stretch and supple your horse.
- Dentist – have your horse’s teeth checked, even though previous owners say the horse is up to date, sadly, this is not always the case. Sharp molars can cause discomfort when eating, and during riding. An irregular jaw can cause other problems with bits and how your horse digests food, so it’s best to understand this area well.
- Farrier – Check with the livery yard manager for recommendations, or speak to friends and get booked in for an initial trimming/shoeing. The farrier will be able to assess the condition of your horse’s feet, alongside balance and recommend a plan moving forward.
- Vet – it’s always recommended to have a horse vetted prior to purchase, however, if this hasn’t been done get it done as soon as possible. Make sure all vaccinations are up to date too.
- Saddle and bridle – we’ve already covered this above, this is an absolute must.
- Worming – consult with the livery owner and decide on the best course of action regarding your horses current plan, or how to get in line with the yard’s schedule. A worm count is recommended to get a clear look at current burden levels. This will help assess and recommend a worming plan going forward
- Nutrition – if you choose to seek advice for your horse’s feed, then it’s best to choose an independent nutritionist. They will discuss requirements based on your plan for riding, where the horse is in terms of fitness and any changes needed in your diet. Remember, any changes to the horse’s diet must be done gradually to prevent conditions such as colic, unwanted behaviour and ulcers.
Insurance for your new horse
Take your time to decide on the best type of horse and rider insurance for your situation. This should ideally be done prior to the horse’s arrival. Here are some areas of cover:
- Veterinary costs
- Use – i.e hacking, competition, leisure
- Tack – in case of theft
- Third-Party Liability
- Rider Insurance
- Loss of use
Lots of different factors will determine the overall price you pay for your cover, including age, type, previous conditions and what you will be using your horse for. You may only choose to insure your horse for particular areas, this helps keep premium cover at a minimum, however, be aware that the seven areas covered above are recommended.
Reputable equine insurance providers include Harry Hall, Petplan and SEIB Insurance Brokers. Each provides expert assistance and advice when finding the best cover to suit your needs and in terms of making a claim.
Riding your new horse
Depending on your horse’s experience and ability will help shape when, and what you do when you get on. After he or she has settled in and is familiar with the new surroundings you’re ready to start to ride. Following some in-hand work, it’s recommended to lunge your horse to get a feel for what to expect and to work off some excess energy after not being ridden for a short while.
A 10-15 minute lunging session can help you gauge energy levels, and reaction to the environment and see how well he or she is moving under saddle. It’s also a great way to see if there is any stiffness, lameness, or areas of discomfort.
Keep the first few sessions short, but don’t let your horse wonder aimlessly as it could become easily distracted. Practice some circles, and transitions and take your horse through the paces. Use your voice to reassure them and don’t put too much pressure on them. Soft hands work wonders in terms of communication with your horse, alongside your seat and legs.
Have another horse owner stay with you at least for the first time riding the horse. This also may help reassure you if you are nervous or apprehensive.
All of the pointers here will help you in the first few weeks of horse ownership. Try and enjoy the time the best way you can. Try not to stress, take your time and get to know your horse well. You have a long loving journey ahead of you, one that’ll be filled with reward and fulfilment as long as you get things right from the start.