I remember my first horse. I was 28 years old and purchased a mix breed that was advertised as a TWH. If there was walker in him, I didn’t know it. But I had fun and learned a lot. AND I KNEW IT ALL! Afterall, I had watched all the westerns with my Dad; John Wayne movies, Gunsmoke, The Virginian, Bonanza… anything with a western theme, Dad and I would watch it. We even had a puzzle of an Indian buffalo hunt that we put together occasionally. I had my share of pony rides at the fairs, and….I grew up riding a cow!. Yep, I knew how to ride and I was ready for my first horse. With two toddlers in tow, I went out and bought one. I pastured boarded him for $25.oo a month at a farm on Prosperity Church Road in Charlotte, NC before it became a retail/residential area. I had taken a few saddle seat lessons in Concord, NC at Paul Boone Stables. I had wanted horses my whole life and I was determined to have one.
Was I in for a huge lesson. I was so green and so dumb that I told the farmer who owned the land that his mare pony had an infection and needed to call a vet because she had all this discharge under her tail!! Imagine the laugh he had after I left! Well I kept my horse for a few years, but sold him after I had my daughter. I had owned him a few months when I found out I was pregnant for the third time and decided he was too much to care for with an infant and two boys that needed me more. I wish I had someone who took the time to tell me how much there was to caring for a horse when I bought him and had outlined it for me. I wouldn’t have changed my mind, but I would have had something in which to refer. And I probably would have picked out a better horse. There were so many books out there I could have thumbed through hundreds before I found the right one to go by.
Here’s what I wish I had known.
1. How to judge the temperament of a horse. I loved all horses and if I could catch them I thought they would be fine. I didn’t know to look for signs of sourness, distress, submissiveness or what-have-you. I didn’t know that ears flat back meant, beware, or that flared nostrils could mean the horse is ready to bolt, a swishing tail could mean, anger, not just swatting flys. There is a lot of body language I know now, that I had no idea even existed then.
2. I would have given anything to have known a horse has a one track mind and if you keep it busy doing something it knows well your chances are greater at having a safe ride. Especially if you horse hates to leave its buddy or the barn.
3. Knowing what type of grain, hay and wormer to give and when would have helped. My poor horse had to survive on what grass he could find. There was plenty of it, but he would probably have been healthier if he had been limited to his intake of rich pasture grass and wormed more often.
4. Realizing (not just knowing) horses are herd animals and feel safer in groups would have helped me understand my horses reluctance to be separated from his pasture buddy. Looking back I am thankful he had a pasture buddy.
5. Knowing the signs of colic and how to take a pulse, respiration and what is a normal temp would have been helpful. All these things should be kept on record for future reference.
6. Signs of lameness and what the common causes are, like laminitis and abscesses.
7. My most recent challenge was to have a horse choke. Never had that happen before and didn’t know what had happened at first. It’s nice to know that they can choke and still breath, but do need to see a vet immediately when this happens.
I could go on and on, but I would end up writing a book and there are already enough books on the market about horses. My best advice is, that if you love horses, but aren’t that familiar with them, then don’t be afraid to ask for help. There is no need to go out and hire a trainer, but you can learn a lot through riding lessons, videos and there is always RFD TV. There is lots and lots of practical advice on that program.
But if you have a question and need a fairly quick answer just email me. I’ll do what Ican to answer your questions and give my best advice. You can find me on Facebook under Baymount Farm or Twitter.