Saturday, 20 August 2011

O is for Ownership

Ownership ~ Years of in-job training at Vaysey Pastures - other wise known as "grind" - taught Bunty Pargeter many practical lessons about how to cope with the owning a horse and life in livery. Seeing every painful and expensive mistake in a very lengthy equine book and learning from a lifetime’s misjudgements, prompts the following top ten tips to cope with owning a horse in livery:

Be realistic: be truthful about your own riding ability and potential and choose a suitable, trainable and safe horse. It is easy to fall in love with a beautiful thoroughbred, but some riders are better suited to a more biddable horse less in need of frequent exercise or experienced handling.

Buyer beware: when you have chosen a horse, proceed with caution. Take an experienced person with you to view, see the horse without tack and request that it is ridden, before riding yourself. In most cases the horse should be vetted and consider any extra examination needed for teeth, back and feet. If the horse is purchased free of vices, record this on the bill of sale. Also don’t forget to collect any papers and the passport and to arrange insurance from the date of purchase.

Choose the right yard for you: if, like most people, you are not lucky enough to keep your horse at home, make sure you select the environment that is right for your horse and you. As well as a satisfactory stable, safe and adequate grazing, and facilities such as a school, you need to consider the type and standard of care offered and carefully calculate the costs. Also, do you want a competition yard or a lower key place with a more relaxed atmosphere? Out of fairness to your horse, the owner of the yard and other liveries, these issues should be considered well in advance.

Enjoy your lessons: choose an instructor and level of tuition which you are going to enjoy and benefit from. Lessons and your teacher should suit you and your horse. This is entirely a personal matter for you – irrespective of what your friends may be doing.

Beware of holidays: if you are away from your horse for several weeks, satisfy yourself as to what has gone on whilst you were absent. Only accept that your horse has been thoroughly exercised, if you know this has been done. Otherwise be cautious and check it out or test energy by lungeing. In some cases it is safest to give the horse a holiday and bring it back into work on your return. This way you know what you are dealing with and can avoid any dramas on your first outing.

Hacking: most riders consider that hacking should ideally form part of a horse’s routine. Over the last few years, however, roads have become busier and standards of courtesy towards horses ridden on the highway have not improved. It is not weak to refrain from hacking on the public highway if you consider this cannot be done safely in your locality. In such cases riders can try to compensate by varying activity in the school and by transporting the horse to hack in safer areas or off-road.

Select a reliable farrier: and ensure your farrier calls at regular intervals. Anything else is false economy and harmful to your horse.

It’s not always a level playing field: don’t expect always to be competing just against other novices in walk and trot or preliminary dressage tests at your riding club. You will sometimes see people who teach riding or otherwise earn a living from horses walking off with the rosettes in the restricted classes. They are usually “bringing on a young horse” and entitled to join in the class even though they might be good enough to win riding an ironing board. It’s not fair, but get over it. Keep mentioning it to your clubs though; they may eventually get the message and encourage professionals to enter hors concours.

Teeth, backs and saddles: your horse’s teeth should be checked as often as your own. Also, don’t overlook the state of your horse’s back which should be checked periodically. At the same time it’s sensible to consider if any changes in size and shape (of you or your horse) have any implications for the fit of your trusty saddle.

Take responsibility: the horse world is full of opinions. At every stage you will be showered with advice and warnings. If you do venture views of your own, you will probably be contradicted. As was the case with Kevin Winkle, your mistakes will sometimes harm you, as when you’re bucked off the attractive youngster you bought instead of the experienced schoolmaster. It’s even harder when your mistakes harm your horse, as when mud fever becomes infected after too much hosing of legs in the winter. The thing to remember, however, is that ultimately it’s your call, your expense and your responsibility; so take a deep breath and take control.

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