You found a free horse on Craigslist (or wherever), awesome! But; horses with good training and manners with the ability to perform well, have money invested in them and no one is just willing to throw away that money.
In most cases there are REASONS why a horse is being given away free. It is lame, it is too old to do what the original owner wants it for, it is mean, it has dangerous habits under saddle, and I am sure there are other reasons I am missing. This is not to say that there aren’t great free horses out there that will fit your needs, we just want to help you go into this with enough education to make an informed decision.
I hate to say this; but never trust someone selling you a horse (or anything), to be honest with you. Do your due diligence to make sure you are getting what you are looking for and don’t just take someone’s word for good.
So what now?
- First; get a pre-purchase exam. At minimum do a flex test for noticeable lameness and an overall wellness check. Have the vet give you an age estimate too. Use a vet of your choosing, not the seller’s vet. If issues show up, have the vet give you a realistic assessment on the maintenance costs to keep the horse healthy for what you intend to use it for.
- Never ever buy a horse if the owner will not let you go out in the field (or wherever the horse lives) and get it yourself and get it ready for riding or grooming. If the horse is already tied up and saddled; the owner could be hiding some sort of bad behavior the horse has. If the horse is already sweaty, RUN THE OTHER WAY! This means they most likely already worked it to get the “crazy” out. If the horse has some behavioral issues you will possibly need a trainer’s help to get the horse over the issues. This is an added expense.
- Now the regular care for the horse. Sometimes people get so excited over the idea they can get a horse “For Free” that they don’t look into all the other costs that come along with it. Unless you have your own horse property, you will need to pay for board. I won’t get into too many details but this is typically a few hundred dollars a month. Some horses need extra food to keep them at a healthy weight above and beyond what your barn will provide. Or joint supplements to keep them comfortable if they are a little older.
- Then there is the hoof care, some horses need to wear shoes and some don’t (and the cost varies between the care for both). But plan on spending anywhere from $50 to $200 every 6-8 weeks depending on the care the feet need.
- Add on to that the routine veterinary care. Most areas you need to worm your horse every other month for about $8 per time. You need spring and fall shots to cover flu, tetanus, rabies, west nile and other diseases dependent on location. This adds up to a few hundred dollars per year.
- This isn’t even covering the tack, grooming supplies, possible emergencies, transportation and other items for your horse to the tune of a few thousand dollars.
So before you decide taking a free horse is a good idea, do the research on what you will need to actually care for that horse in your specific area first and figure out if it is within your budget!
If a horse of your own isn’t the way to go (or you want to see if you really want to invest the effort into one), see if a local barn will let you help do some of the work in exchange for lessons.