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Within the last two years, I have moved from Austin, Texas, to a small country farm town. My wife and I got a really good deal on six acres of land. I have been given considerable thought about purchasing a horse or two for recreation purposes. My wife and I both love horses, and believe that we could give them a wonderful home. However, having said that, I now have to face reality in that I know totally nothing about horses and how to keep them. I have always been the kind of person that if I want to learn how to do something I just go out and do it until I am good at it. A good example, is that since childhood, I have been fascinated about scuba diving. Recently, my wife and I went and took a familiarization course about literally how to put the gear on and get under the water. We are now enrolled in a scuba certification course at the end of this month to be certified scuba divers.

My question is actually two fold: Is it advisable for one who knows nothing of a horse to outright purchase one? And I realize the breeds of horse vary in prices; what is a decent price for a horse?

M. S.


You've handed me a tough question, because I know so little of your -- and your wife's -- background. Have you ever ridden horseback? If so, how much? Do either of you have any sort of agricultural background? How old are you? What's your financial situation? What's that six acre hobby farm like? How high is your pain threshold? ...And the list goes on.

Assuming that you have zero background -- that the only horses you've ever seen were on a TV screen or a merry-go-round -- I'll suggest that your approach to scuba diving may work here as well. That is, read everything you can and take advantage of any hands-on training that's available to you. Obviously, you'll pick up a lot of insights simply by reading through my entire site (Even the Trophy Case and newspaper columns have bits of helpful information). You'll also find some excellent books in the Trading Post.

Some training may cost you sweat rather than cash. If you can find an experienced horse owner in your area who is willing to take you under his or her wing, offer to do "grunt work" around their place... hauling hay, filling stock tanks, cleaning stalls, helping to tack up the animals, assisting with training, worming and giving shots, etc.

As for prices of horses; they range from free to over a million dollars. (Willy's sire had a full brother that sold for $1,003,000.00.) You will want to look for a pair of seasoned horses that won't have to go through training at the same time you do. Sometimes, you'll find older folks who can no longer care for them and will give their horses to folks who guarantee them a good, loving home. (I ran across one such situation just a couple of weeks ago.) Also, for new horse owners I tend to favor older schooling horses -- they are usually more forgiving of rider error. If you wind up buying your riding stock, you should be prepared to pay $1,000.00 or more each. In any event, be sure to have one or more experienced horse people help you make the selection, and make any purchase contingent on a successful vet check.

Unlike scuba diving, unfortunately, there's no program to make you a "certified" horse owner. That diploma comes from the School of Hard Knocks!

I hope this gives you a bit of guidance -- and that you'll keep me posted on your progress.

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