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Dear Bob, (may I call you Bob?)

I came upon your web-site while looking for information on horses. It is an excellent site. I would like to ask for your help, please, sir. May I first provide you with some back ground information so as to enable you to understand my situation and provide me with some direction?

I am 45 years old. I have 2 daughters, ages 18 and 10. They have more love for animals, the farm life, and especially horses than anyone I have ever seen. They would be very happy sleeping in the barn with horses if they could.

I was raised on a farm. My family had our own horses. We also had lots of other animals. I grew up experiencing the farm life, and some of my fondest memories are all associated with the farm life.

But of course I grew up, left that life, and moved to the big city. Now I am married and have my two daughters. I now live in a small area, Port Angeles, Washington. Lots of mountains, forests, farms, rivers, lakes, and of course horses. I would love nothing more than to have my girls experience the kind of life that I grew up with, and sadly left.

I want them to experience farm life, the joy and responsibility of having horses and all that goes along with that. Recently I had the opportunity to start that kind of life. A friend of mine presented me with the opportunity to buy three horses. Two quarters and a Morgan. All females. All registered. Ages 12, 6, 2. We were not only going to get these for my daughters, but we were also going to breed them and sell the babies. My friend had also grown up all her life with horses and had much more experience than I did. She just could not do this on her own. I thought that between the two of us we could really make this work. So I felt comfortable going into this with her.

Then, for certain reasons, after we had purchased two of the horses and most of the tack, she decided that she could no longer do it. So if I choose to go on, I am left with one horse, very little experience, as I have forgotten most of what I grew up with and two girls who don't know any of this yet. I really do not want to break their hearts, take their dreams away, and hurt them. I would really want them to experience this kind of life. I want them to have horses, and enjoy the simple, quiet, less stressful, farm life. I want them to experience the kind of joy and have the fond memories that I do.

But to be very honest I am very scared! I would be attempting this alone. So that is the background.

What kind of advice, suggestions, direction and encouragement could you provide for me, basically a first time horse owner again? What teaching, training, and help can you offer to me and my girls? Also do you offer like a summer camp, or dude ranch during the summer that people can go to and learn from you?

Any and all help that you could provide would be most appreciated. I would like to take this opportunity to thank you in advance for your kind help.

D. B.


You are more than welcome to call me Bob! This problem must really be bothering you to, to have you up writing an e-mail at three in the morning!

First, let me clarify the economics of the situation for you. Between the production of PMU (Pregnant Mare Urine) foals and the success of the recent (and to my mind ill-conceived) anti horse slaughter movement, there is very little left of the horse market. Well-trained, registered, high-quality horses are now dying from neglect or simply being turned out into the wild (often to be ripped apart and eaten alive by predators) because the breeders and trainers rarely get back enough to cover their costs. As I write this (2007), in my neck of the woods, it's not unusual to see good horses sold for $50 or less -- or even given away. So, if you're thinking of making lots of money with horses, forget it. Or at least forget it until a lot of politicians come to their senses. (As you fine-tune your own skills, you may find that you can offset some of your costs by boarding other horses and/or giving lessons.)

Does that mean that you shouldn't undertake this project? Not if you remember that there are many rewards other than money. Some of the biggest ones are, as you mention, providing your daughters with "the joy and responsibility of having horses." A while back, I attended a workshop on "Girls and Adolescence" conducted by our local community college. During the session, the presenter made this off-hand comment: "For some unknown reason, horses seem to be important to a girl's spiritual development." I've thought about that remark often since then, and I have to say I agree.

At the risk of bringing up unpleasant situations, may I ask if your parents are still alive (and if you have a reasonably good relationship with them)? If they are -- or you have neighbors from the farming community -- it would seem to me that they would be your greatest asset. I can't imagine anyone who wouldn't be delighted to share their life experiences with their grandkids (or other youngsters). Also, I think you will find that your own background is like riding the proverbial bicycle. A lot of your former experience with horses will come back to you once you start doing it again. (At least that's what I found when I decided to start riding again after being away from horses for some 20 years.) I'm afraid I'm not in a position to take you under my wing directly at present, but I'd be surprised if there aren't horse people near you who would be delighted to help you out. And don't be shy about taking some riding lessons. I've picked up some excellent ideas that way.

Also, do as much reading on the subject as possible. Horse training methods have made some significant progress in the last 30 or 40 years. Many of the common approaches of the "old days" now look downright foolhearty. (Just climbing on the back of an untrained horse and "breaking" it by riding it to a standstill is one example that comes to mind.) Whenever you find yourself in front of a computer (at 3:00 a.m. or otherwise) prowl through more of my website (not just the Q&A pages). I've sprinkled little insights all over the place. For hardcopy helps, my "Trading Post" section has several excellent books on a number of subjects.

We haven't discussed your situation regarding land, fencing, buildings, trails, etc., but I assume you've already looked at those issues and are comfortable with the physical layout.

All of this is a round-about way of saying, "If you can afford to do it, go for it!" Keep me posted on your progress, and if you run into more questions along the way, I'll try my best to help.

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