What are the basic requirements for keeping a horse at home? To ensure the safety, comfort, and happiness of your adopted horse, here are some important guidelines to consider:
- Each horse must have an equine companion at their new home to be turned out with. Horses are herd animals who feel safer and happier with a buddy.
- The horse should have 24/7 access to a barn, or a three-sided run-in shed to block the prevailing winds and protect them from the weather. The shelter must be large enough to house all the animals in the turn out area in bad weather.
- The horse must always have access to a clean water trough that is heated in the winter.
- You must have safe and sturdy fencing. Barbed wire is not a safe option, and fiberglass posts may not be approved by some rescues. T-posts are acceptable but should have plastic caps. Plastic step-in fence posts are not tall enough or sturdy enough to be used on their own. Livestock fencing that has 2”x 4” holes is ok. Anything with larger holes is not safe as they can get their legs or feet caught in them. Some of our favorite fencing includes (but is not limited to) wood fence posts with 3-5 wooden rails, or ElectroBraid fencing with wooden posts.
- You must be physically able to handle the adopted horse for their basic care, to include safely catching, haltering, leading and picking up all four feet.
- You must have horse experience. Most rescues are hesitant to adopt out to first time horse owners unless they are boarding the horse at a full-care boarding facility, or are working closely with a trainer and are receiving regular lessons. This is for the safety of the horse and the adopter. You don’t have to board your horse forever, but it is always a good idea until you are very familiar with basic horse care and become a more confident horse handler and/or rider.
- Most rescues require that the adopted horse stay up to date on these basic vaccines: Eastern/Western Encephalitis, Tetanus, Rabies, Influenza and Rhino.
- All adopted horses leave with a strict NO BREEDING policy. Why? Because there is a large overpopulation of horses and overbreeding is a major cause of horse slaughter.
- You must have a veterinarian and farrier lined up who will care for your horse. Most rescues will also require references from both vet and farrier. Your horse must stay up to date with regular feet trimming (6-10 weeks depending on the time of year), deworming and annual dental care.
- Although it might not always be possible depending on the facility, in general your adopted horse should have a minimum of 8 hours of turn out time daily.
- As a general guideline, the minimum turnout requirement for two full size horses is 1/2 acre. For each additional horse, the minimum space requirement will increase by an additional 1/8 acre per horse. Miniature horses and small ponies require less space. The minimum turnout requirement for two mini horses is 5,000 square feet. For each additional mini, the minimum space requirement will increase by 500 square feet per mini. You must have a dry lot (no grass) available to put the minis in as needed. Too much grass can cause health issues in minis such as founder, metabolic issues and obesity. Occasionally there are exceptions to the turnout size requirements depending on the specific horse’s needs. A sense of freedom to move is extremely important to a horse’s mental state and we are adamant that all our horses get that daily.
- We STRONGLY recommend having an ‘end of life’ plan in place for your horse. This may not seem necessary if you own a young, healthy horse, but it is critical as accidents can happen without warning. We advise having a plan for burial, a vet who could get to your farm quickly if necessary, and the funds set aside to deal with an unexpected emergency. Many owners also include plans for their horses’ care in their wills, which is an excellent idea.
COSTS TO CONSIDER:
These will vary greatly depending on the type of horse and where you live, but currently a horse kept at home in Maine will cost a minimum of $6,000 per year for hay, grain, basic veterinary and farrier care. Due to recent weather patterns, the cost of hay has gone up in New England and so it is important to make sure that you have a reliable and affordable source for hay.
If you plan to board your horse, again rates vary but full board could easily cost between $800- $1,200 per month, for an average of $12,000 per year. This would not include basic veterinary and farrier care.