There are more than 350 breeds of horse in the world today. There are huge draft horses like the Percheron that stand over five feet at the shoulder, mini horses the size of German Shepherds and anything and everything in between. So how does one find the right horse for your needs and that fits well with your particular family?
First, why do I say family? Well that's simple; horses become an integral and much loved part of one's family as much as a dog or cat. You wouldn't bring home a pit bull that bites or a stray cat with mange, would you? Of course not. Neither would it be smart, for example, for a family with four small children to buy or rescue a three-year-old Thoroughbred ex-racehorse stallion.
Safety must be the number one priority when purchasing a horse because although you might love them as much as a favorite Lab or Poodle, a horse is 1000 pounds of muscle with a mind of its own and can, if not properly trained, cause serious injury or death.
The same thoughtfulness that applies to purchasing a dog or cat must be used when looking at horses to buy, except everything is increased exponentially from food cost to vet bills. This applies whether you board at a training facility or have horses in your backyard. Horses eat more, get hurt more and need more constant, daily care and attention than even the largest Great Dane or Mastiff, so make sure you have the financial means and enough free time to support and care for an Equine son or daughter.
Just in the last two years alone, my staff and I have rescued seven horses that were found starving in Bakersfield and Mojave. Don't say to yourself, "Oh, I'd never do that to my horse, or that can't happen to me." One never knows what the future holds, so since the horses can't speak for themselves, I will. Buying a horse is a huge financial responsibility and a sweat equity commitment.
If you can't afford to buy and don't have the time to take care of your own horse, look into leasing or lessons to start with. I recommend all my clients take at least six months to a year of lessons before they purchase their first horse.
Most importantly, even the most calm horse needs proper training to be safe, sane and re-sellable. There is no such thing as a bomb-proof horse! If a seller says this, run. Horses are not robots or motorcycles and even the best horse can have a bad day.
This is the best horse market in 50 years and if you use your head and don't get "first horse fever" you can find amazing deals right now.
If you follow these three simple rules, you can find a horse that will love you and be a partner for decades to come.
1. Never buy the first horse you look at
2. Always take a horse home for at least a week trial; if they won't let you sign a release and try the horse out, don't buy it. Reputable sellers will.
3. Have an equine professional appraise the horse. Find a vet, farrier and/or trainer who is reputable and licensed do a check on the horse. The $50-$350 you will spend on an evaluation or vet check is worth it. It could save you literally thousands in the long run. Don't be penny smart and pound foolish!
KELLY MOLLOY-MCDANIEL is an owner of Spit Creek Ranch in the Cummings Valley where she trains horses and riders.