If your child is obsessed with horses and you are thinking of buying him or her a horse for Christmas or Hanukkah, there are a few things you need to know. Horse riding and horse ownership can help build confidence in your child, as well as teach responsibility. It can also allow them to develop a life-long love of exercise. Building a positive connection with their horse can help them through the rough times they might experience growing up. There is a reason there are so many organizations that offer those with post-traumatic stress disorder, mental and/or physical challenges the opportunity to improve their lives by working with horses. That said, buying a horse is a commitment. The animal will need a place to live, training, attention, a farrier/blacksmith, and ongoing veterinary care. You will likely want to insure the animal, as well. If your child loses interest in the sport, you will have to find a new owner for your horse. If you are still ready to delight your child, here are some thoughts to get you started:
- The type of horse you purchase will depend greatly on your child’s age, experience, and goals. Finding a horse that will be kept on your farm and used for trail riding is a much different experience than purchasing a show horse. If your child is new to horseback riding, you may want to purchase a gift package of riding lessons to ensure the sport is one they will continue to enjoy and pursue before you consider buying a horse. If your child has been taking lessons, ask the trainer for recommendations on the best horse for your child’s skill level. If your child currently has a horse and you will be “trading up,” watch for cues on the next level horse they would like to have (you can expect they will share this at every opportunity).
- Include your child and your trainer in the actual purchase. While you lose the immediate gratification of taking your child out to the barn Christmas day to meet the horse, you have a much better chance of finding a good “fit” if your child is involved. Instead, you might put a horse statue, saddle or bridle under the Christmas tree with an IOU, promising them a horse. Helpful hint: You may wish to put a dollar limit on the purchase!
- Make certain your child understands the horse will need to undergo a physical exam by a qualified veterinarian before it can become theirs. According to veterinarian Dr. Fernando Cardenas, Jr., “The purchase exam is an evaluation of the horse at that moment in time. There are no guarantees, but you want to be as certain as you can be that the horse is sound before you pay the seller. The veterinarian you choose will ask you questions about how the horse will be used – for example, as a trail horse or competitive hunter/jumper – that will help him or her know what to look for when examining the horse. The purchase exam may include a review of the animal’s health history, conformation, a test for lameness, or evaluating the horse’s movement. The doctor may also draw blood or order a radiograph or ultrasound. Each exam will be tailored to the client and horse.” If health issues are identified, you will need to decide if you are willing to deal with whatever issues are uncovered.
Getting a horse for the holidays can be very exciting for both you and your child. Take the time to find the right horse for your situation and your child may enjoy the gift for many years to come.
3H Equine Hospital and Mobile Veterinary Services offers 24-hour emergency services. Our skilled veterinarians are available to handle equine purchase exams; contact us at 919.363.1686 to schedule an appointment.