Equestrian column: In The Saddle with Anita Marsh

Anita Marsh (Photo: Tracey Lambert)
Anita Marsh (Photo: Tracey Lambert)
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A regular look at the equestrian world, kicking off with your guide to buying a horse.

There’s no better way to enjoy the beautiful changing seasons of the British countryside than on horseback.

Whether you like to enjoy a quiet ride out or prefer the fast-paced excitement of competing at cross country events, horses are a great way to release those feel-good endorphins which are synonymous with exercise but are horses as good for your bank balance?

Buying a horse or pony requires careful consideration. There are many decisions to be made, some of which can be largely defined by your budget - from the breed you want to buy, to where and how you intend to stable your new four-legged friend.

When asked what I feed my horse by my non-horsy friends I always reply ‘ten pound notes’ and on some days it certainly feels like it! The easy part is buying the horse, it’s the everyday running costs which keep many of us equine enthusiasts awake at night.

And forget those designer handbags and shoes - you’ll often find your horse has more of a wardrobe than you do!

If you don’t mind any of that, and your partner is prepared to become a ‘horse widow’ then think about buying your first horse like buying a car, the difference here is you actually want a horse with more mileage (experience) on it.

Older horses with kind temperaments have been there, seen it and generally worn the t-shirt and are great schoolmasters for a novice. Like dogs, some horse types and breeds are known to be quiet such as the chunkier British native cobs as opposed to the more ‘fizzy’ thoroughbred or warm blood breeds - but don’t be fooled by breed alone, temperament is a big factor and can buck the trend on many preconceptions.

The way in which you keep your new horse will make a big difference in the cost too.

Full livery will board your horse so all you need to do is just turn up and ride, but be prepared to take out a small mortgage for the luxury at around £300-350 per month. DIY livery is much cheaper but you’ll need to be there to turn your horse out, muck out and ensure he is brought in.

Whichever option you choose there will still be ongoing regular expenses such as farrier and dental visits, worming and insurance costs. Expect to pay anything from £60 every 6-8 weeks for shoes, £20 for wormers every 3-4months and anything upwards of £25 a month for insurance.

That’s without buying saddles which might range from £350 for a second hand one to £1,500 new, bridles and rugs. It all pulls at those purse strings.

Once you have found your ‘perfect’ horse for sale, you should always ensure you take an experienced person with you, someone preferably who can match your capability with that of the horse’s ability. Don’t pretend you can do more than you actually can - being ‘over-horsed’ with a powerful animal can lead to a disastrous relationship for both of you.

It’s important to check the horse in all different situations. Being caught, saddled up, ridden and seeing what it is like to load if possible.

Alarm bells should start ringing the moment a seller tells you they won’t get on the horse first. It could signal the horse is dangerous.

Likewise, a horse should always have a passport - don’t be taken in by the ‘I’ve lost it’ stories. You don’t want to end up with the police knocking on your door.

The law changed on 1st July 2009, which means all foals must be microchipped before an owner can apply for a passport, and whilst this doesn’t affect older horses it will affect an older horse who hasn’t got an initial passport set up.

I would never buy a horse without having it vetted. Without a doubt it is extra cost but I’ve known even the most experienced friends accidentally buy drugged horses which are completely unsuitable and dangerous or even dog-leg lame.

Your vet can help save you heartache and thousands of pounds later on down the line and is a great way to double check they are suitable and sound.

Finally, it’s sometimes not what you know but who you know. Ask around the local area, many horsey people know each other and might know the horse, particularly if the horse has competed.

Good first horses are worth their weight in gold and usually have a reputation which proceeds them. If you are lucky a trial loan might be offered, which will quickly help establish if you are both suited to each other without shelling out first.

Horses evoke such powerful feelings in those that share a love and passion for them. They are therapeutic and calming, clever and beautiful all rolled into one trusting magnificent animal.

There is nothing more refreshing than feeling the wind in your face and riding as one with your horse across the countryside but whilst most horse owners will tell you it easily out ways the hard work and costs - it’s well worth understanding what’s involved before you finally take the plunge and gallop off in to the sunset.

* Anita Marsh