“For many women the opportunity to own their own horse as a child or young adult was never more than a dream, hampered by lack of money and/or support from family.” But now they are embarking on horse ownership and pursuing the put-aside passion.
Horizon Structures and Nikki Alvin-Smith explore what it means as you embark on horse ownership and offer advice on getting started.
By Nikki Alvin-Smith
There’s no question that fallout from the COVID pandemic has precipitated many lifestyle changes. People from all walks of life have had time to re-evaluate their priorities and take a reflective glance at how far they’ve come, where they are now and where they want to go in the future.
In the horse world, “Women of a Certain Age” are embracing the spirit of Equus and all that horse ownership offers. And why not!? So many ladies put aside their childhood passion for horses as they matured out of their teenage years to enter the workforce or college, embark upon family life and follow career paths.
For many women the opportunity to own their own horse as a child or young adult was never more than a dream, hampered by lack of money and/or support from family.
As a seasoned dressage clinician, I have always strongly embraced the vintage rider and admired their plucky plunge into the equestrian endeavor. Whether it is an older gentleman that is picking up the sport after life at a desk job and is a neophyte rider, or a lady who put down the reins to manage children and now seeks to fulfill her childhood dream to ride at advanced levels of dressage and compete, or the many riders in-between, I welcome all with a special interest and compassion.
Not everyone has been as lucky as I have and met and married a man who shared their passion for horses (although actually when we met neither of us had any idea through several weeks that we were both riders! But that’s another story), and been blessed with the joy of owning a farm full of horses for many years. It is a brilliant experience. So, when you have the opportunity and wherewithal to follow your heart into the wonderful world of horses in later years, I say, go for it.
Here are a few factors to consider as you take the plunge into horse ownership:
- Backyard horse keeping requires safe and secure fencing, decent pasture for grazing, a permanent shelter of some sort, a water supply, and hay/feed supply storage space. These are capital improvements to your property and may raise your insurance costs but also improve your property value. Check out budget-friendly modular and prefab options like run-in sheds and shed rows that can be delivered and set up on a suitable site and don’t be shy to ask for advice from the construction company. Don’t forget to check out if permits from the town zoning board are needed for buildings and fences and if livestock keeping is allowed on the acreage you have available.
- Horses cost money and you need to manage their expenses much as you would any household budget. Allow for farrier and vet fees including annual vaccination costs, hay/feed/supplements/dewormers/bedding, transport costs if you plan to show and showing costs, tack and equipment including blankets, boots, bridle, bit, saddle, halter, rope and grooming kit. Many items can be purchased cheaply on Ebay or similar sites. Be especially careful that the saddle fits both you and the horse properly and consult a saddle fitter if necessary. Similarly the bit and bridle must be appropriate for the horse’s training, and for the hands of the rider. And don’t forget the rider needs stuff too! Half inch heeled riding boots, chaps or britches, safety helmet (a must have, please protect your noggin), and gloves are all part of the equestrian wardrobe.
- Buy a suitable horse for your experience and riding level and also one that is up to the task you expect it to complete. Don’t make the common mistake and take the first rescue horse you fall in love with just because it is cheap or free. Do your homework and definitely spend the extra on a basic pre-purchase vetting of the horse. This will save much heartache later. Remember no horse is truly ‘free’ of cost.
- Horses are herd animals and need company to thrive. A donkey, miniature horse or even goat will suffice (though you may want to pasture it separately to prevent it from chewing your horse’s mane and tail), if you don’t want the cost of keeping a 2nd adult horse.
If you are re-entering the world of horses after a lay-off consider taking a few lessons to get you back in the saddle. Just like riding a bicycle you don’t forget how to ride, and a few lessons will set you on the right track minimizing fear and bad riding habits. The more practice you get in before you buy a new horse the wider your choice of suitable horses will be when it comes time to purchase, and the better you will know if a particular equine is the best partner for you.
One of my personal favorite quotes, credited to the famed author T.S. Elliot is, “It is never too late to be what you might have been.” I truly believe this to be true and encourage all ‘ persons of a certain age’ to take up their horse ownership and join the rest of us horse crazy people. There is nothing crazy to me about bringing a horse home to your backyard and enjoying its presence, regardless of whether a pet and companion, or a performance or trail horse for riding or driving.
I would only urge, please don’t buy just one and follow a few simple steps to ensure the success of your new adventure. For a more social sporting activity, keep the horse at livery and enjoy the camaraderie that a well-run boarding barn can offer with similar minded individuals that cross generations.
About Horizon Structures:
One horse or twenty, there’s one thing all horse owners have in common…the need to provide safe and secure shelter for their equine partners. At Horizon Structures, we combine expert craftsmanship, top-of-the-line materials and smart “horse-friendly” design to create a full line of sheds and barns that any horse owner can feel confident is the right choice for their horses’ stabling needs.
All wood. Amish Made. Most of our buildings are shipped 100% pre-built and ready for same-day use. Larger barns are a modular construction and can be ready for your horses in less than a week. All our barn packages include everything you need .
Horizon Structures also sells chicken coops, dog kennels, 1 and 2 car garages, storage sheds and outdoor living structures.
Headquartered in South-Central Pennsylvania, Horizon Structures, LLC is owned by Dave Zook. Dave was raised in the Amish tradition and grew up working in the family-owned shed business. He started Horizon Structures in 2001 in response to an ever-increasing customer demand for high quality, affordable horse barns.
For additional information about the company or their product line, please visit their website at https://www.horizonstructures.com
About Nikki Alvin-Smith:
International published writer and creative content producer. Ghostwriting, blog services, PR/Marketing specialist. Nikki also produces catalog and website copy, white papers, e-books, corporate brochures, advertising copy, photography, videography for a wide range of businesses.
As a Brit who has called the America home for the past 35 years, Nikki brings a unique perspective to the equestrian world. Nikki is also an accomplished Grand Prix dressage trainer/competitor, competing at international level and is a highly sought clinician offering clinics worldwide. She has been a horse breeder/importer of warmblood and Iberian breeds for more than 25 years. Together with her husband Paul who is also a Grand Prix trainer, they run Willowview Hill Farm, a private dressage training operation in the beautiful Catskill Mountains of New York. Please visit https://nikkialvinsmithstudio.com/ to learn more about her affordable services.