Horsemanship should be fun.
It’s time consuming (even with a short session, you’re likely to spend an hour with your horse); most active, involved horse owners see their horses 5 -6 days a week and invest a minimum of 20 weekly hours into horse-related care and activity. That’s on top of a full-time job (40 – 50 hours a week, or more) and a family.
It’s also relatively expensive; pasture board generally costs anywhere from $50 to $90 per horse each month and then you have the cost of feed. Do you prefer a boarding stable with on-site riding facilities? On the low-end a stable will charge roughly $200 - $250 per horse. The higher-end more full-service facilities (with daily cleaning, turn out, feeding of supplements, blanketing assistance, etc.) charge anywhere from $300 - $550 (on up). Hoof trims or shoeing are required on the average of every 6 weeks and you’ll have vaccinations twice a year, plus annual vet checks and dental services. The cost of tack adds up, too.
If you’re investing all that time and money, shouldn’t you be having a good time?
The very best way to ensure that you’re enjoying your horsemanship activities is to start out with a horse that you’re compatible with, and that already has the training to do what you really want to do.
Can you start out with a relatively green horse and mold it to your needs and expectations? Absolutely! If you’re an experienced trainer with the skills to teach the horse what it needs to know, in order to do what you need it to do, then yes! If you don’t have those skills, you can of course spend the money (roughly $600 - $700 a month) to put the horse in full time training for a year or so. You’ll want to take lessons with that trainer as well, to make sure you can communicate with your horse and ensure that you’re not undoing all that trainer’s hard work and confusing your horse.
If you (as a trainer) don’t have an area of expertise and the horse has essentially been trained to do nothing, that’s pretty much what you’ll both end up doing. Well, not nothing per se; you’ll still clean the stall and scrub and fill the water bucket and haul hay and feed and put the horse in turnout. You’ll still pay the farrier and buy feed and purchase vaccinations. If the horse can be saddled, you’ll climb aboard and putter about aimlessly. If that all sounds like fun, then have at it.
However; most horse owners want to ride and do something that gives them at least an inkling of accomplishment. Maybe that’s trail riding. Maybe it’s jumping, or running barrels, or competing in local shows. Maybe it’s ascending to higher competitive levels on a regional or national front?
Unless you’ve spent at least a full consecutive year (preferably longer), riding alongside Craig Cameron, Pat Parelli, Utah's own Joe Ruiz, Clinton Anderson, Shamus Haws, Cliff Tipton of Flying T Acres in Erda, or another proven, accomplished, expert horseman (or woman), AND have spent supervised time with them learning not only how to stay in the saddle but also how to train a young horse, you really would do well to invest in a horse that already understands its job.
Never go cheap. Test ride, shop around, get a vet check, enlist the help of trainers who specialize in the discipline in which you wish to ride. After that initial investment, every healthy horse’s costs are the same. Buy the horse that offers the best opportunity for you to have fun NOW.
All the planning, preparation and training for the future cannot guarantee a tomorrow. All you really have is today.
Finding the best horse to match your needs and skill set will go a long way toward making sure you (and the horse) will have a mutually rewarding relationship, and allow you to truly enjoy the time you’ll spend with (and money you’ll need to spend on) that animal.
Make the right investment, take the time to get to know and understand your horse, and you'll increase your odds of having a good time, year round, with your equine partner.