Many children become obsessed with horses. For some, the obsession will last a lifetime, but for others it is just a phase. The key is to make sure your child’s love is not just a passing phase before you make the huge commitment of purchasing a horse.

The best way to do this is to sign your child up for riding lessons at a local stable. Even if you do purchase a horse, your child will need to take lessons, be it from a professional or an experienced friend, in order to maximize the safety and enjoyment of having a horse. I highly recommend starting with lessons from a professional for a minimum of six months to a year before even thinking about buying a horse. If you live in a climate that is cold during the winter months, make sure you get through the winter before making a decision. In colder seasons, riding becomes much less desirable, and your child may not want to make horses a day-in, day-out, year-long commitment after experiencing the barn in the winter.

It’s also helpful for your child to get some experience with the non-riding-related labor that comes with horse ownership, especially if you will keep your horse at home instead of boarding it. See if the stable your child takes lessons at will let him or her help muck out stalls, stack hay bales, clean water troughs or buckets, etc. When I was a kid, I happily did these tasks just to be able to spend more time in the barn. If your child is less than enthusiastic about this extra work, you may want to think twice about buying him or her a horse. There’s an old saying that for every hour of riding, there are two hours of work: grooming, cleaning tack, feeding, mucking stalls, and so on. It’s true.

If, after a long period of lessons and barn work, your child still adamantly wants a horse, then it is safer to consider. Regardless, there are many ways to ride and work with horses without actually owning one. Aside from riding lessons, you could consider leasing a horse. The most common types of leases are a full lease and a half lease. In a full lease, the lessee has use of the horse at all times and generally pays for all the expenses and veterinary care. This is a great way to see if you and your child are ready to purchase a horse, without making the ultimate commitment. Leases can span a time period anywhere from a month to several years. Sometimes there is an option to buy the horse at the end of the leasing term. In a half lease, the lessee would have use of the horse only on certain days or times. The schedule and financial responsibilities can vary with this arrangement, depending on what works best for you and the owner.

If you do not have horse experience, you will need to learn some things as well before buying a horse, especially if you will be keeping it at home. While you as the parent may not want or need to actually ride the horse, you should be comfortable handling it and leading it, and have basic horse safety skills and a general knowledge of horse behavior.

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