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Your First Horse
Your First Horse: How to Buy and Care for Your First Horse
Jacqueline Dwelle BHSAI

Table of Contents
Introduction 5. Horses at Pasture 10. The Foot and Shoeing
1. Horse Shopping 6. The Stabled Horse Afterword
2. Conformation 7. Your Horses Health Glossary & Appendix
3. Feeding 8. Common Ailments Index
4. Grooming 9. Lameness ORDER FORM

  1. Horse Shopping

  3. Conformation

  5. Feeding
    • Feeding Guidelines
    • Nutritional Needs
    • Deciding what to Buy
    • Hay
    • Hard Feed
    • Supplements
    • Storage
    • Sample Feeding Programs

  7. Grooming
    • Why do we need to groom?
    • Tools
    • How to Groom
    • Taking Care of Your Grooming Kit
    • Bathing
    • Sheath Cleaning
    • Clipping

  9. Horses at Pasture
    • Feeding
    • Water
    • Exercise
    • Grooming
    • Shelter
    • Fencing
    • Pasture Management
    • Poisonous Plants
    • Daily Routine

  11. The Stabled Horse
    • The Stall
    • Mucking Out
    • Stall Fittings
    • Caring for the Stable Kept Horse
    • Stable Vices
    • Where to Keep Your Horse
    • Check it out!
    • Boarding Contracts

  13. Your Horses Health
    • Finding a Veterinarian
    • Recognizing a Healthy Horse
    • Equine First-Aid Kit
    • Wounds
    • Interfering
    • Eye Injuries
    • Health Routines
    • Vaccinations
    • Worming
    • Teeth

  15. Common Ailments
    • Colic
    • Coughing
    • Colds
    • Hives
    • Diarrhea
    • Broken Wind

  17. Lameness
    • Pin Pointing Lameness
    • Types of Lameness
    • Sites of Foreleg Lameness
    • Sites of Hind Leg Lameness
    • The Lower Leg: Internal Structure
    • Lameness Summary

  19. The Foot and Shoeing
    • The Importance of Hoof Care
    • The Structure of the Hoof
    • Choosing a Farrier
    • Trimming
    • Shoeing
    • The Newly-Shod Foot
    • Indications That Shoeing is Necessary
    • Foot Problems
    • No Foot No Horse!
    • Internal Structure of the Foot

Excerpts from Your First Horse

Horses and man have always had close ties. For centuries horses have provided transportation and recreation. They have worked on our farms and carried us in battle. The bond between people and horses is as strong today as it has ever been.

Today’s horses continue this long association with man. They can be found in many different situations giving man the unparalleled opportunity to share in a unique partnership. Horse ownership can be extremely rewarding, not only because it provides an opportunity for recreation, but because it offers the chance to form a special friendship with an animal.

This book is written as a tribute to all the special horses I have met in my years in the horse business. Every horse has a character and personality which can be discovered by spending time with him. A lot can be learned about a horse from handling him on the ground. Stable chores may not be as glamorous as riding, however, it is whilst caring for your horse that you really have an opportunity to understand his character.

Horsemanship is not based solely on riding ability. A true horseman is a person that understands the horse’s needs and is able to provide for them. A true horseman knows when his horse is hurt or sick and is able to take the correct action to help the animal. A horseman puts his horse before himself and does not ask for more than the horse can give.

Becoming a horseman takes time. Spending time with horses is not sufficient. The time spent must be productive. Knowledge can be learned from books, but practical experience comes with time, practice and patience.

This book is written as a guide for the person who wishes to enhance his life by becoming more closely associated with the horse.

Selecting a horse is quite a daunting task. As well as finding a horse that is suitable for your level and style of riding, you need some assurances that the horse will remain sound and healthy. There is always some speculation involved in buying horses. We can never be one hundred percent certain that the animal in question will not turn out to be a lemon! The chances of making a poor selection can be reduced by acquiring a base of knowledge which directs the decision making process.

Once you have found a horse that suits your needs providing the best possible care will be your next priority. Caring for your own horse is an incredibly satisfying experience. If time and other commitments require someone else to care for your horse, a knowledge of horse care will give you the satisfaction of knowing that your equine partner is well cared for.

From Chapter One, "Horse Shopping"
When to Buy

For most of us money is a consideration. To get the best value try to shop when the prices are at their lowest. The lowest prices are usually in the late fall, because it generally costs more to keep a horse in the winter due to the lack of pasture. Horses may need more bedding and feed in the winter in order to maintain condition and this all adds to the expense. Many people are fair weather riders and lose interest in the winter when riding may not even be possible.

With spring, people’s interest is renewed. The laws of supply and demand come into play and consequently horse prices are highest in April, May and June. There is no harm in window shopping during these months, but wait until winter is on the horizon before making an offer.

Do Your Homework
Spend some time studying horses involved in what you are interested in. If you are looking for a trail horse, try to find a riding stable that will take you on trail rides or provide lessons. Taking lessons on a horse you are interested in is a great way to try the horse and get to know him a little. Go to shows and other events. Watch the horses that win and the ones that have trouble. If you are planning to take lessons after you buy, there is a chance you might find a horse with some minor problems that your trainer can fix. These horses may be cheaper just because they are not winning.

Don’t ignore a horse that is rough looking or has some minor vices. A well mannered, fat, shiny horse will be more expensive than one which is a little thin, untrimmed and has a pushy nature. Make a careful assessment of your ability to deal with whatever the problems may be. Remember that a quiet horse may become more lively with proper food and care. Not all problems are fixable and it takes a lot of practice to recognize those that are permanent and those that are not.

Ask For Experienced Help
Anyone looking for a horse is strongly advised to seek experienced help. Have a knowledgeable person guide and help you. Even if you do all the research yourself, find someone who knows about the type of horse you are buying to take a look at your final decision, before you write the check! Pay someone if you have to, but get an experienced opinion. There may be some serious fault you have overlooked (and the seller forgot to mention!) that would make the horse unsuitable for you. People qualified to assist in your search for a horse include; your riding instructor, local trainers and veterinarians who specialize horses. Friends who have their own horse are also useful sources to recruit.

Whenever possible spend time with knowledgeable people at shows and other events. Pick their brains and learn as much as you can. Frequently, you can find out about a horse’s background by talking to people who have competed against it.

From Chapter Two, "Conformation"
How To Assess Conformation

Horses are large animals with many components. Initially evaluating a horse’s build seems like a massive task. To make the evaluation understandable and logical break it up into several sections and use a system to judge each horse you see. Once you are familiar with the system it becomes easier to judge each horse and make a reasonable evaluation of its merits.
The discussion that follows applies to the mature horse. Young horses go through many stages in their development, and some of the guidelines below will not necessarily apply to a horse that is still growing. (Horses can continue to grow until five or six years old, after three years of age the adult conformation will be apparent. As the animal grows it is common for the hindquarters to grow faster than the forehand giving the appearance of being higher behind. At maturity the forehand will be the same height as the hindquarters.) Assessing a young horse requires a lot of experience and practice and should be left to someone with many years of experience in this area.

The Forehand
Obviously, the forehand dictates how the forelegs move. The length and angles in the shoulder will give a good idea of how long a stride the horse will be capable of taking and whether his action will be smooth or choppy.

Look at the shoulder. Ideally the shoulder slopes at 45º from the vertical. Compare the length of the shoulder to the length of the head. The shoulder should be at least as long as the head.

Draw an imaginary line from the center of the withers through the point of shoulder and extend it to the ground. This should be close to 45º. Where this line hits the ground is approximately where the horse will be able to place his foot at maximum extension, or his maximum length of stride.

Draw a second line from the point of shoulder to the elbow. Where this line bisects the shoulder line we have the angle of the shoulder. Ideally this angle is 90º - 100º.

Compare the shoulder slope to the slope of the pasterns. Because angles repeat throughout the body the pasterns should have the same slope as the shoulder. A long sloping shoulder is usually accompanied by a long sloping pastern. Pasterns of a good length and angle are desirable as they act as shock absorbers. Short upright pasterns will produce a short choppy stride. Going to the other extreme, an excessively long pastern will place extra strain on the tendons and produce a slow swinging stride.

Combine good shoulder and pastern length with the correct angles, and you have a horse that moves with good extension and plenty of freedom. Any deviation from these guidelines will probably indicate a horse with less than perfect action.

Conformation Basics

From Chapter Four, Grooming
How to Groom

The most important step in grooming is the first step. Picking out the feet. Start by standing on the horses left side at his shoulder facing the tail. With the hoof pick in your right hand, gently run your hands down the back of the horses left foreleg and pinch the back of the leg lightly, at the same time asking him to pick it up. Many horses know exactly what you want and will pick up their foot. If yours is a little stubborn squeeze more firmly and lean into his shoulder. With the hoof pick start at the heel of the foot and moving towards the toe dig out all the packed-in dirt. Clean out around the triangular frog, (don’t forget the cleft of the frog which runs down the center of the frog) and make a visual inspection of the sole of the foot, the shoe and its nails. Be observant and aware of what the horse’s foot normally looks like. Gently place the foot back on the floor. Repeat the process with the other three feet.

With the rubber curry comb, stand at one side of the horse and begin at the top of the neck behind the ears. The rubber curry comb is used in a circular motion on all the large muscles and fleshy areas. Don’t be afraid to rub hard, as it is the rubbing action that loosens the dirt and draws the natural oils to the surface. Go over the entire body with the rubber curry comb being careful to avoid the bony areas of the legs and the face. These can be curried with caution! Use a light touch here. For really muddy horses or ponies with a thick coat use the dandy brush to remove the mud and loosen the dirt.

If you are lucky enough to have access to a horse vacuum, now is the time to use it. Make sure your horse is accustomed to the noise of the machine and to the feel of the vacuum. Vacuum all the fleshy areas moving the head of the vacuum over the coat in the a smooth motion. The vacuum sucks up dirt and sand and loosens any deeply seated dirt. If a vacuum is not available, don’t worry, you can still get your horse clean with a little elbow grease!

After loosening all the dirt with the curry comb go over the entire horse with a damp rag. This picks up loose hair and dirt and can be used to remove any stains from the coat. You can use plain warm water, or to really bring out the shine try this mixture. In the bottom of a small bucket put a little fabric softener and pine cleaner, fill the bucket to the top with hot water. Take the rub rag and wring it out so that it is damp. Go over the horse from head to toe with the damp rag. Make sure to clean around the eyes and nose. This mixture works great in areas where horses can roll in sand and fine dirt. The fabric softener picks up sand and dust and the pine cleaner kills bacteria and helps to bring up a nice shine. Some grooms like to add a little rubbing alcohol to their grooming water. This lifts out the dirt and cleans the hair. Another mixture to try is a squirt of baby oil to the water, which leaves a trace of oil on the coat and helps to enhance the shine. Try any or all of these and judge the results for yourself.

Take the body brush and starting behind the ears use long sweeping strokes in the direction of the hair to remove fine dirt and stimulate the skin. This will bring the natural oils to the surface which give you that great shine. Brush the entire horse, and don’t forget under the mane, the legs and the stomach!

The mane and tail should be handled with care so as not to pull out or break any hairs. There are several products available which can be sprayed on the hair to make combing out easier. Traditionally the mane should lie on the right side of the neck. If you have a mane which naturally lays to the left it will be more manageable to keep it on that side. Treat the tail with the utmost care to avoid breaking the hairs. Take the tail in one hand and start at the bottom with a couple of inches of hair. Comb this out and then move up a little higher. Progress up the tail this way until the whole tail is combed out. Some grooms will pick through a tail with their fingers to remove bits of bedding and never comb out the tail. The tail will grow thick this way however, it will also be in ringlets which are very hard to get rid of!

To finish the horse off, wet the dandy brush and dampen down the mane. Doing this every day will encourage the mane to lay flat. Take a dry towel and run it over the horse to remove any fine dust and promote the shine.

To do a really good job you will need to spend at least thirty minutes working on your horse. A daily grooming will produce a cleaner horse than a weekly bath. A well groomed horse is something to be proud of, especially if he is the result of your hard work!

These excerpts are taken directly from Your First Horse. If you have enjoyed these excerpts please consider ordering your own copy of the book and learn all the secrets of successful horse shopping and horse care.

ISBN 0-9655048-6-7
Paperback, 5.5 x 8.5, 184 pages,
13 line drawings and 7 tables,
Price $17.95

Author: Jacqueline Dwelle
Hoofbeat Publications
Southern Pines, NC

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