Back in the ‘70s and ‘80s, if you were a horse owner, life was pretty straightforward. You fed Prince hay, and if he needed a bit more oomph, some oats. If he got cold, you’d put his jute rug on in the stable (basically like a posh version of sacking, with straw thatched underneath, for anyone who doesn’t remember these) or his New Zealand rug for the field. New Zealand rugs came in a choice of navy blue or khaki green, and that was it.
It was a simpler time.
Oh, how things have changed. Since the advent of the internet, things have got complicated for the horse owner. Very complicated indeed.
Let’s start with feeding your horse. It’s not just a question of grass and hay – don’t be silly. OK, so you might think that horses have survived pretty well on those for centuries – but you’d be wrong, my friend. A quick chat with your yard mates will reveal that for Prince to be in tip-top condition, he needs a hard feed – but not one with molasses or any starches in as they’re very heating, and obviously one made entirely from natural ingredients. With a balancer, unless that’s already built into the hard feed, of course. And you might want to add some linseed to make his coat shine and some green-lipped mussel powder to support his joints. But obviously not oats, because they’re totally passé.
And to think you thought the 5:2 diet was complicated.
As for what to dress Prince in – your horse’s wardrobe is better coordinated and more expensive than your own. You’re riding in six-year old jodhpurs that have gone saggy round the knees, while Prince is prancing along in his matching LeMieux saddlecloth, boots and ears in this season’s hunter green. (Although you’re wondering whether you should actually have gone for the chilli red set. He’s a bay, after all, he can totes pull off vibrant primary colours.)
Rug-wise, you’ve got more of these than a Turkish souk and you’re considering renting another stable just to use as Prince’s walk-in wardrobe. (Wouldn’t that be so cool? But we digress….)
Tack, too, involves a myriad of – extremely expensive – decisions. Take saddles; do you go for a jump saddle, dressage saddle, GP saddle, treeless saddle, saddle with a changeable gullet or a close contact saddle? The obvious option is to just get one of each – the only slight flaw being that this would cost more than your house. But hey, there are other ways of raising that money and making your saddler the happiest person on the planet. You don’t actually need both your kidneys, do you…?
We haven’t even touched on the choices that have to be made about bridles and bits or bitless and barefoot or shod and – well, let’s stop there. Suffice to say, if you’ve got a horse, you’ve got a lot of decisions to make. But the thing is, it’s loads of fun. It’s a really enjoyable part of horse ownership, deciding how you want to keep your horse – and if something doesn’t work out, you can always change it!
Of course, it will cost you. As the saying goes, ‘How did the horse owner become a millionaire? She started off as a billionaire.’ Horses ain’t cheap – but as any horse owner will tell you, they’re worth every penny.