Information for New Horse Owners

Cheryl Spencer, B.A. 


Congratulations, you’ve just bought a horse!  Your horse is a living, breathing animal, and his/her care is now your responsibility.  The following will help to get you started, so that you can get the most enjoyment from your new companion.  Read it before you take your horse home.


Topics covered:

·         Coming home /recommended reading

·         Feeding and care

·         Basic horse terms

·         Handling and riding the first time/ horse safety


Coming  Home

      When your new horse arrives, keep things quiet and without a lot of fuss. Lead him around to see his new surroundings, then make sure he has hay or grass and water. If he is alone in a barn, put a radio on for company.

      If there are other horses where you horse will be living, keep separate from the other horses for several days. Your horse should be able to see the other horse, but not have contact over fences, as this is a sure way to guarantee and injury to horses and fences.  Horses meeting for the first time will normally squeal and strike with a front leg.  Do not stand between two horses meeting for the first time.

After a couple of days, gradually introduce the new horse to the other horses, beginning with the meekest, mild-tempered of the herd.  This is what happens with horses in the wild.  In this way, the new horse will find its place in the pecking order. See below for some tips about riding your horse for the first time.


Recommended Reading:


We strongly suggest that you keep learning about horse care.  Below is a starter recommended reading list.


British Horse Society Pony Club books:

·          The Manual of Horsemanship* A must-have book for any horse owner.

·          Keeping a pony at grass

·          Training the young horse


Threshold Picture Guides:

·          Feeds and Feeding

·          Grooming

·          The Outdoor Pony

·          First Aid

Magazines: (to name a few)

·          Horse and Rider (western)

·          Horse and Country (English)

·          Equus (multi-discipline)

·          Horsepower (English- for children)





Keep this card as a handy reference:



Daily Health check:



In case you suspect that there is something wrong:


DANGER signs:





Your horse will likely need his feet trimmed by a blacksmith every 6-8 weeks in the summer, and every 8-10 weeks in the winter.  Long hooves put undue strain on his tendons.  If your horse has shoes, he will need them reset every 4-6 weeks, as the horse cannot wear his feet normally while wearing shoes.  Make sure to use a hoof pick to clean out your horse’s hooves before and after each ride, taking special care if you have ridden on gravel, which can get caught in hooves, causing lameness. 




Your horse will need to be wormed every 2-3 month depending on the size of his pasture(s), your ability to rotate pastures and break the parasite cycles, and the number of animals on the pasture.  An overload of parasites can lead to weight loss, colic from intestine blockage and/or damage, and death.  A wormer which kills tapeworm should be used in late spring.  A wormer which

kills bots should be used in the fall after the frost has killed flying insects.  Your vet or feed store can advise.


Veterinary care


You will need to get your horse checked by a veterinarian at least once per year.  He/she will check the horse’s heart and lungs, check to see if his teeth need filing “floating”, and give him the shots which are recommended in your area.



It is a good idea not to ride your new horse on the first day.  Let him settle in.  Lead him around the farm to let him become accustomed to the new sights and sounds, especially in the area that you will use for riding.

When you do ride, walk your horse for the first 10 minutes and the last 10 minutes of each ride, to warm up and cool down his muscles. If, at the end of your ride, the horse is still breathing heavily, lead him around until five minutes after breathing is normal. It is the law that children under 18 must ride with a helmet and low-heeled boots.


Make sure that the saddle and bridle fit your horse properly, and do not pinch the mouth, withers, or spine. Your local tack store will likely offer a tack-fitting service if you are not sure how to fit the saddle/bridle. This can sometimes be done with photos and measurements of your horse, unless he is hard to fit.


For your first ride, use an enclosed area so that you can get to know each other.  The area must have smooth, level ground, and be free of debris such as bricks, wire, logs and rocks on which the horse may be injured and consequently the rider, if the horse trips or falls.  Make this first ride short i.e. 15-30 minutes, be firm in your aids (commands) and end on a positive note.





Depending upon your level of experience, there will probably be a time when you will need to have some professional assistance with your horse.  It can take years of formal lessons to become a proficient rider, and even then, it is recommended that you attend lessons and clinics, even as a spectator to further your knowledge.

When consulting a trainer, avoid those who have quick fix “tricks” or techniques which could injure your horse in the name of “mastering” him and “showing him who is boss”.  Horses need a firm hand, but not abuse.  Your horse needs to learn to trust you. A horse who is afraid is dangerous.


    Write down important contact numbers before you need them:


Veterinarian specializing in horses __________________________ _______________________________________________________

(make sure you write down regular and emergency numbers)




Hay /supplier(s)_ ________________________________________   

Feed/Tack supply_________________________________________________



Basic Horse Terminology


    Adult Horses:

·         MARE - Adult female horse (4 years and older).

·         GELDING - Castrated adult male horse (Generally 4 years and older, but can refer to a gelded horse of any age).

·         STALLION - Uncastrated adult male horse (4 years and older).

·         PONY - A full-grown small horse (14.2 hands and under).


   Young Horses:

·         FOAL - A newborn baby horse of either sex (before weaning).

·         WEANLING - A colt or filly who is weaned from his mother (approx. 6 months to a maximum 12 months old.)

·         YEARLING - A horse who has passed January 1 the year following birth.

·         COLT - Male horse (3 years old and under).

·         FILLY - Female horse (3 years old and under).


    The Horse's Body:

·         CONFORMATION - The way a horse is built. ie. straight legs which do not interfere with each other (hit) when the horse moves, well-developed body, well proportioned. A horse with good conformation is stronger and more likely to stay sound.

·         HAND - Measures how tall a horse is (one hand = four inches). Measurement starts at the highest point of the wither.

·         LAME - A "lame horse" has a leg injury that interferes with his performance.  A lame horse will usually show a definite limp when worked at the trot, especially noticeable on a circle.

·         SOUND - A "sound horse" does not have any injuries that interfere with his performance and/or health.

·         POINTS - This word is used when describing the color of a horse. The "points" of horse are his mane, tail, lower legs and the tips of his ears.

·         GAIT - The different speeds a horse can travel. Every horse has four natural "Gaits", the (1) walk- four beats, (2) trot- two beats (3) canter-three beats, and (4) gallop- the fastest, and also four beats.


·         Other Words:

·         POSTING DIAGONAL- When the rider is rising at the trot (“posting”), he/she rises with the outside foreleg.  The leg he/she rises to is called the diagonal.  Posting with the inside leg is being on the “wrong diagonal”.

·         LEAD-  The foreleg which reaches most forward when a horse is cantering.  The inside leg should be the lead when cantering. Cantering on the “wrong” lead means that the horse is bent to the outside.

·         WEANING - The process of separating a foal from its mother so that it no longer nurses.

·         TACK - All equipment used on a horse (bridle, saddle, halter, etc.)

·         LONGING - A way of exercising or training a horse, or training the rider, using a longe line (long rope).  The line is attached to the horse's halter, bridle or a longing cavasson (special halter with an extra ring on the top of the noseband and the sides of the the noseband to accommodate the side reins. The horse moves in a circle around the trainer, who stands in the middle holding the longe line in one hand and a long whip in the other hand.  An ideal way to teach children or beginning riders.

·         LONGE LINE - A very long rein (about 20-40 feet) used to work a horse.


Copyright Cheryl Spencer, Raspberry Ridge Farms 2002 www.RaspberryRidge.com