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Fantasy VS. Reality Of Owning a Horse In The Real World

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Are horses really just majestic, selfie-posing creatures? Shocking truth: owning a horse is not a constant fairy tale. Discover the grimy, sweaty, but ultimately rewarding reality of horse ownership that Hollywood doesn't show you.

This post is to help you know the reality of owning a horse. A reality check to people’s fantasy about horse ownership, specifically to non-horse people.

Related Post: Disney Horses In Real Life

Fantasy: Only Rich People Own Horses.

The biggest one I hear often is that you have to be rich to own horses.

You know the ones with ginormous houses, luxury cars and designer clothes. The ones that can buy whatever they want just because they feel like it.

Maybe this is because most people only see celebrities or top riders on tv with horses. I really don’t even know where they came up with that idea.

Maybe it is because horses cost a crap ton of money. Which is true.

Or maybe it’s because they have pets of there own, cats, dogs, birds among other animals. They know how expensive it can be having these small animals and can only imagine how much more expensive it is to own a horse. So only rich people must own such an animal.

Okay so they are partly right but far from the whole truth. I’m not saying people with wealth don’t buy horses because oh they do and they can if they so please.

But majority of the people that own horses, sweat blood and tears and make sacrifices of simple luxuries and sometimes necessities just so they can afford to have their horses.

The majority of horse owners are die hard horse lovers who would rather be at the barn mucking stalls and playing with horses than at the mall buying new clothes or getting their nails done.

A lot of horse owners have to figure out ways to make it possible to own a horse. Whether working an extra job, or working off part of the board, or finding a suitable rider to lease and share their horse with.

There are so many bills when it comes to owning a horse . And it is like nails on a chalk board when the next bill arrives.

  • There’s the board bill
  • Vet bills
  • Farrier bills
  • Dentist bills
  • Supplements
  • Treats
  • New equipment when something doesn’t fit, or it rips, or it breaks, or is wearing out.

Riding lessons that’s a laugh , it’s hard enough affording the horse. Riding lessons are a true luxury for most people who own horses because it’s hard enough paying for all the other bills that come with horse ownership.

And we’re not even getting into the expenses of showing and competing horses.

So why do these people continue to slave away to afford to keep their horses? Because they love horses. They love their horses. They are passionate about horses and riding. Sometimes being around their horses is enough to make them happy.

Reality Of Owning A Horse: Most people that own horses are not rich. They are passionate about horses and find a way to make it work.

Fantasy: Owning A Horse Is Like A Princess and Unicorn Experience

I am not sure if this fantasy is actually real or not. 😀 I thought I would include it though because I have seen so many pictures of princesses and white/ grey horses, unicorns, pegasuses, mystical looking pictures.

But it seems like people think owning horses are a fairy tale with all happy endings.

The beautiful Instagram selfies and photos of owners and their horses.

Then there are the YouTube videos horse owners post that make it look like owning a horse is all sparkles and rainbows.

Of course there’s movies like Lord Of The Rings and Narnia which makes horses seems super majestic and other horse movies, tv shows that make owning a horse look like it’s all about riding and the horse magically bonds with there owner.

I just have this feeling, that people see owning a horse as easier than it is and always magical.

Which it is definitely awesome in someways but not so much in other ways.

Yes there is time for horsey selfies, hanging out, bonding time with horsey, some riding here and there, adventures here and there.

BUT majority of the time horse owners are working their butts off to take care of there horse.

If they are lucky enough to afford full board, then they have more time with their horse. Handling and care mostly consists of regular grooming, bathing, keeping horse conditioned and in shape, keeping horse trained with good ground manners , cleaning tack and equipment, scheduling vet and farrier if the barn doesn’t do that for them.

If they are not lucky enough to afford full board, which I think is most horse owners, then there is a lot less magical time with horsey and a lot more poopy time taking care of horsey. Though for the real passionate barn rats they even like the barn work…. me! They may do rough board, keep there horse at home or work off some or all of the board. So all the responsibilities mentioned above plus daily:

  • Turning horses out for the day and in for the night (unless out 24/7)
  • Mucking stalls,
  • Putting shavings in stalls,
  • Pitching back manure pile,
  • Dumping scrubbing filling water buckets,
  • Cleaning feed tubs,
  • Taking blankets on and off in the winter,
  • Setting up grain and supplements,
  • Feeding horses grain 2-3 times a day,
  • Hay 3-5 times a day
  • Setting up supplement baggies.
  • Sweeping barn floor, picking out paddocks.
  • The list can be longer depending on time of year, the facilities the horse is at and the horses specific needs.

Reality Of Owning A Horse: If hard work, most of your free time at the barn, getting dirty and spending all your hard earned money on a horse is magical. Then yes it’s magical!


Fantasy: Horse Owners Get To Ride Everyday

reality of owning a horse is owners don't get to ride everyday

Horse owners must ride all the time. They have there very own horse and they get to decide when and how much they want to ride.

Yea not really. Owners usually give there horses a break from riding once or twice a week.

Sometimes owners don’t have much time to ride because they are so busy working to keep the horse. They try to ride at least 2-3 times a week if they can.

Sometimes when the owner has a chance to ride they are so tired from their long days that they lose the motivation to ride.

Many owners don’t have an indoor arena to ride in and are reliant of the whims of mother nature. If the weather, environment or footing is no good. Then probably no riding.

Horses tend to be accident prone, some more than others. An owner is super lucky if they have a horse that never gets hurt. If their horse does end up with an injury that needs rest they won’t be riding till Mr. Horse is cleared and good to go.

Horses get sick. Like injuries if an owner’s horse gets sick, the horse needs to be treated and have time to rest and get better. Unless the vet says hes okay to be ridden there won’t be no riding.

Owners sometimes fall off their horse. Body aching, sore, pulled muscles, strained ligament, maybe concussion, broken bone. They won’t be riding for a while. Unless they are crazy. I know some that would still ride. You know who you are!

Reality of Owning A Horse: Horse owners don’t typically ride everyday and there may be periods of time where they won’t ride their horse at all.

Fantasy: There Was An Instant Magical Connection

The horse chose me. We had this instant connection and he was perfect to handle and under saddle plus he was amazing and right at my price point. That’s a load of you know what. You chose the horse because it was a dapple grey!!!!

Sad to say but there are times when horse owners buy a horse not because of a connection or because they are really all that suitable, but because of how the horses looks, the breed or because of the price.

I would say more times than not horse and owner don’t always connect right away. There are horse owners even after quite a while has gone by are still not clicking with their horse.

Sometimes the horse is not suitable for what the owner wants to do either.

They may keep the horse and try to work through the issues or they may decide to sell the horse. So they can get a horse they do click with or is suitable for what they want to do.

Another thing to note is that horses have different personalities and one personality may not be right for one person but works for another person.

Same with the horses level of training. Riders do best when they have a horse that has more experience than they are. Green horses should be left to the very experienced riders that can properly train them and not confuse them.

You definitely tell there is a missing connection when the owner goes out to the paddock to bring there horse in and their horse spins around and runs away from them. They spend a half hour trying to catch them until they do actually catch them or give up.

To all those who’s horses run to them when you call them. I am happy for you. I have been on both ends of that spectrum.

Reality of Owning A Horse: Connection takes time and commitment and earning the horses trust and respect. Sometimes a connection never develops, horse and rider don’t click or horse may be unsuitable for what the owner wants to do. And they stick with the horse or sell them.

Fantasy: Owners Can Fully Trust Their Horses

Owners can’t always fully trust their horse. Horses have the ability to

  • Bite their owner if they get annoyed, frustrated or dominant.
  • Kick there owner if they feel threatened.
  • Trample their owner if they are in a panic.
  • Throw their owners off if they are uncomfortable or don’t want to do something.
  • Take off with there owner if something spooks them.
  • Even the quietest horses can trip or lose there their footing.
  • A horse with an itchy face can bonk their owner in the face while they try to rub on them like a scratching post

Reality of Owning A Horse: Owners should always have safety in mind working around their horse and never fully let their guard down. Even the best horses can have an there moments. Accidents happen.

Fantasy: Horses Always Trust Their Owners

I would like to think horses trust there owners. It would be because the owner earned their horses trust. But I know it is not true in all cases.

Horses don’t fully trust there owners when they don’t do what’s best for them.

  • Bad fitting saddle or bridle, breastplate.
  • Forcing frame with draw reins or tie downs, or other uncomfortable equipment
  • Severe Bits
  • Pulling, jerking and see-sawing on the reins.
  • Kicking, using spurs harshly, repeatedly whipping.
  • Losing their balance and banging down into the saddle.
  • Screaming and yelling at their horse.
  • Jumping a horse too much, jumping a horse too high for there condition or ability, jumping a horse before they are ready.
  • Ulcers causing pain in there bellies and they are pushed to continue to work.
  • Making a horse work when they are in pain.
  • When owners get frustrated and lose there temper at their horse because the horse got scared or doesn’t understand what the owner is asking.
  • Smacking their horses face or beating them repeatedly with a crop or whip.
  • Working the horse to utter exhaustion.
  • Sometimes being indecisive and not a clear leader can cause a horse to mistrust you and makes the horse feel like they need to be the leader.

These are just a handful of things that cause a horse to mistrust their owners and create unwillingness.

I think many times the owner has the horses best interest in mind. But they lack the knowledge or skill and does things unknowing it’s bad that gets the horse to mistrust them. But sometimes owners do know they are doing something not right and do it anyway for whatever reason.

Sometimes owners think they need to be really sweet and nice to a horse to grain their trust. But instead they are being a push over, teaching the horse bad habits that can turn dangerous, basically teaching the horse to be dominant over the owner.

Reality of Owning A Horse: Horses may mistrust there owners if they have had harsh, uneducated, unskilled handling and care. Whether from there current owner or from their past. Horses need educated, skilled owners who are empathetic and always seek the horses best interest.

Fantasy: Horses Appreciate What Their Owners Do For Them

I would like to think horses appreciate all there owners do for them. But the truth is, I don’t think they really think about it at all.

They are not like humans in that way. We think about the past and the future but horses are more in the present.

They think about what they want or need right now and when they need or want they are happy for that present time. Kind of like a baby or toddler.

Reality of Owning A Horse: Sorry horse owners you horse is probably not going to write you a thank you letter for all the times you mucked their stall, fed them or paid for all their bills. They probably will nudge you for more treats though.

Fantasy: Horses Love Cozy Stalls And Warm Blankets Their Owners Give Them

Also horses were designed for large open spaces where they can graze continuously and move long distances throughout the day.

Your horse doesn’t see stalls as cozy as you do. Some would even prefer to be out in the cold and rain than be in there stall.

Horses that really don’t like to be cooped up tend to develop neurotic tendencies, like cribbing, weaving, stall walking, biting or scraping teeth up and down stall bars, pawing and stall kicking.

These are the obvious signs the horse is anxious inside. I had an exrace horse thoroughbred that would weave and stall walk inside, but he was perfectly happy out in a field 24/7.

Warm blankets are nice for horses with a short, clipped coats or horses with thin skin. But there are quite a few horses that grow warm furry coats that would rather not wear a sheet or blanket.

Some horses even go to lengths to try to roll and rub the blankets off. I knew a quarter horse named Zippy that could wiggle out of one.

Reality of Owning a Horse: Your horse doesn’t care about his fancy fluffy bedded stall you spend so much money on and that gets cleaned everyday. He would rather be out and roll in the mud. And he would do it with that brand new blanket you got him, maybe try to wiggle out of it as well but end up ripping it apart instead.

Honestly I can go on and on with more fantasy and reality scenarios but I am going to stop here… for now.

So Why Do People Own Horses?

After reading all this you must be wondering okay why are there even horse owners. If it’s this labor intensive, difficult, expensive, dangerous, unappreciated, seemingly unrewarding.

Well to the horse owner it is rewarding. Very rewarding.

To many owners their horses are a pick me up and make them feel like more productive people. I believe horses keep there owners healthier mentally and physically.

Except for the horses that are constantly getting into trouble and are accident prone. They just drive their owners bonkers.

Owning a horse allows the person to take the time to really develop a strong bond unlike riding lessons where you will be riding many different horses. Or leasing which usually has restrictions and only lasts as long as the owner is willing to let the lease go on.

Owning horses, properly caring for them, progressing with riding and training, developing a connection can offer a sense of accomplishment and boosts ones self esteem.

Having an animal that is so big and powerful, yet so willing to try for them is an amazing thing to be a part of.

Where most are told what to do, don’t have much of a say, and are stuck in the daily grind horses teach there owners how to be leaders.

To have the responsibility of owning horse is an honor. Most owners feel proud to say they own their very own horse.

Their horse provides an outlet from the crazy world. A place to focus on something other than anxieties of everyday life.

Horse owners live and breath horses whether on the ground or in the saddle. Hugging ones horse and taking a deep inhale with their nose buried in their horses warm coat brings a sense of calming and coziness.

There horse is always there for them to talk to in times of struggle, a big fluffy neck to hug and lean on. Their horse won’t judge them on what they say.

An owners horse is usually one of their best friends.

Most people that own horses are horse lovers or horse crazy.

But mostly horses feed their soul. For everyone there is a space in the soul only able to be filled by God. But for horse people it seems God put an extra empty space in the soul only horses can fill.

For some owners their horses feels like a part of their purpose.

I think this post is funny. It compares marriage to buying a horse. It’s called So You Think You Want To Buy A Horse?

Cheers, Kacey

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Disclaimer Notice: Please be aware that horseback riding and related equestrian activities carry inherent risks. The advice and experiences shared on this blog are for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for professional training or advice. Ensure your safety and that of your horse by wearing appropriate gear, practicing safe horse handling, and consulting with certified equestrian professionals. Remember, each horse is unique, and techniques may vary accordingly. Always prioritize safety, respect, and patience in your equestrian endeavors.

Kacey Cleary Administrator
Kacey has been an equestrian since 1998. She was a working student at several eventing and dressage barns. She has owned horses, leased horses, and trained horses. Kacey received an A.S. in Equine Industries from UMass Amherst, where she rode on the dressage team. She was certified with the ARIA and is licensed to teach riding in MA. She has been a barn manager and has run her own horse farm.
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