It is at this time of year when we are up to our necks in mud, riding is just a distant memory and the muck heap is threatening to take over the yard that we very often question why we have horses. Whilst heaving a water container across a muddy field in the pitch black and frost, this was exactly what our Equine Category Manager, Verity, was thinking last week!
So, for 5 minutes let's forget the cons and focus purely on the pros of owning a horse (and there are plenty!) We've also asked some of our customers to tell us how horse ownership benefits them.
- Fresh air and exercise – perhaps the most obvious benefit of horse ownership is that it gets you outside in the fresh air and helps you to maintain an active lifestyle. But it isn’t just riding that will get your heart racing – tacking and un-tacking, mucking out, grooming and carrying heavy items back and forth will all help you build muscle and burn calories. These days it is too easy to lead a sedentary lifestyle, but not when you have a horse! "You get to experience the great outdoors from a unique viewpoint. The exhilaration you feel when galloping along blows away any cobwebs and cannot fail to lift your spirits" - Charlotte Edgar.
- Develops confidence and self-esteem – horse riding is an independent rather than team sport and relies on you working hard to achieve a strong partnership with your horse. A large part of how your horse performs and behaves is down to you and you alone. It is one thing training your dog to sit and stay, and another teaching a 1,000 pound horse to move an inch to the left or an inch to the right. When your horse starts listening to you and doing as you ask, there is surely no greater feeling of accomplishment. "My beautiful 22yo TB has been my sanctuary through some tough times in life. My best friend always knows when I need cheering up" - Hannah Boast.
- Social aspect – having a horse opens up a world of opportunities for you, with the chance to pursue different disciplines, compete at various events and join any number of horse clubs and associations. You are also introduced to many different people with the same passion and interests as you. This shared love of horses is a great conversation starter in itself and will help you form strong bonds of friendship. Who doesn’t love a good natter at the yard over a cuppa and a biscuit? "I've met lots of great people (which is not so easy for me ) who share the same passion - horses" - Kamila Messer.
- Teaches good sportsmanship - showing dedication and respect is part-and-parcel of being a good horseman (and sportsman in general). Having a horse will teach these qualities and make you well armed for other sporting disciplines. Being a better sportsman may also make you a better person as passion and compassion are key qualities in so many areas of life.
- Develops responsibility and commitment - all pets require commitment, but none more so than the horse. Whereas a dog is an addition to home and family life and can easily be integrated into celebrations, holidays and days out, horses require independent care that takes you out of the house once or twice daily, and demands even greater time management and planning. The responsibility of care for a dog usually falls to the family as a whole, whereas horse care is often down to just the one person. Being there for your horse come-rain-or-shine is a huge commitment and will teach you the importance of prioritising and investing in something for the long-haul. Similarly, horse ownership will teach you the value of routine and good habits.
- Teaches the value of money - there is no denying the substantial costs associated with having a horse. Not everyone who owns horses has the land to graze them, so part or full livery is usually their best option. Depending on where you go, this can set you back a small fortune every month, and that's forgetting all the additional costs that come with owning a horse. Gaining a better understanding of the value of money is inevitable, which can only be a good thing.
- Teaches better time-management - owning a horse forces you to prioritise your time and put the most important aspects of your horse's care first. If you need to walk your dog but want to go into town with your friends, you can easily combine the two. Unfortunately, the same doesn't really apply for horses and time must be dedicated to each independently. There will be many times when your horse life and social life collide i.e. when you go hacking with friends, take your horses to shows, and attend social events for your clubs and associations, but there will also be times when they don't and you have to decide how your time is better spent.
These are just some of the great benefits of owning a horse, although there are guaranteed to be more! If you can think of any, please share them with us. Alternatively, email me directly and I will try to add them: [email protected]
Written by: Hannah Dyball