Horses For Dummies

Horses For Dummies

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Updated for today’s beginning horse enthusiasts!

If you’re just getting into the world of horses, there’s a lot to learn! Horses For Dummies gets beginning-level riders and aspiring first-time horse owners up to speed on all things equine! From selecting the right horse for you to feeding, grooming, and handling a horse, this book covers it all!

Featuring updates on breeds, boarding, nutrition, equipment, training, and riding—as well as new information on various equine conditions—this resource shows you how to keep your horse happy and take your riding skills to the next level.

  • Features updated safety information
  • Includes more riding disciplines
  • Offers tips for better nutrition for your horse
  • Provides grooming and training recommendations

If you’re crazy about horses, this hands-on guide is all you need to giddy up and go!

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781119589402
Publisher: Wiley
Publication date: 11/19/2019
Series: For Dummies Books
Edition description: 3rd ed.
Pages: 432
Sales rank: 288,814
Product dimensions: 7.30(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Audrey Pavia is the former editor of Horse Illustrated magazine and an award-winning writer of numerous articles on equine subjects. The author of seven books about horses, she has also contributed to Thoroughbred Times, Horse & Rider, and many other animal magazines.

Janice Posnikoff, DVM, is a highly respected equine veterinarian with over 20 years experience. She is a graduate of the Western College of Veterinarian Medicine, University of Saskatchewan, Canada.

Read an Excerpt

Horses For Dummies

By Audrey Pavia

John Wiley & Sons

ISBN: 0-7645-9797-3

Chapter One

Welcome to the World of Horses

In This Chapter

* Understanding the complete horse

* Checking out different breeds

* Finding the best horse for you

* Discovering the realities of horse ownership

* Riding safety and sanely

It's hard to find a person alive and breathing who doesn't have a strong reaction to horses. Most people love their power and grace; some find them soulful and irresistible; others find them scary and intimidating. Regardless of whether their response to horses is positive or negative, most people can't help but have an opinion about these dramatic creatures.

What is it about horses that elicits such intense reactions in people? The more thoughtful among equiphiles have pondered this for ages. Perhaps their combination of power and grace is what intrigues people. Or their sheer mass and speed may attract others. Some - such as Audrey Pavia, your humble, nonvet coauthor - believe the close connection between the human and equine races is an expression of genetic memory. After all, without the horse, many of our human ancestors would not have survived.

Although people no longer need horses to transport them from place to place, plow their fields, and carry them into war, they still need to understand them. Those of us who have chosen to live with these beautiful animals have an obligation to care for them properly and enjoy them forall they are worth. In this chapter, we introduce you to the wonderful world of horses.

Looking at a Horse's Build and Mind

You need to understand a horse's body and brain to appreciate what he is all about. In horses, the same as with other creatures, the two are closely linked. Horse people are obsessed with their horses' bodies because a horse's physical structure determines not only his appearance but also his ability to function with a rider.

Horse people have a lingo all their own when describing horses, and knowing this terminology is important for communicating effectively on the topic of horses. Each part of the horse's body has a name to describe it. Knowing the parts of the horse helps you understand and be understood by your horse's veterinarian, farrier (horseshoer), and horsy friends. People in the equine world also use specific language to describe a horse's measurements, colors, markings, and movements.


Chapter 2 has a diagram showing the parts of the horse. Before you embark on your new hobby, take a look at this diagram and memorize it. You'll be glad you did.

The horse's mind is just as important as his body because the brain controls everything the body does. When you're riding a horse, this reality becomes evident very quickly. Primitive ancestors of today's horses were seen as potential meals by a great many predators, and today's domestic horse has retained that information in his DNA. The consequence is that horses can be flighty, especially when they find themselves in unfamiliar surroundings or faced with an object or situation that makes them uncertain. The motto of just about every horse out there is "Run first, ask questions later." Knowing that motto is extremely important if you choose to sit on the back of one of these half-ton animals.


Training and experience can override much of the horse's instincts to flee perceived danger, which is why it's so important to ride a horse that has had both - especially when you're a newcomer to horses. It's also imperative that you learn how to ride before you embark on any horseback sojourns, regardless of whether it's on a local trail or through the mountains of Mongolia. Knowing how to handle a horse can mean the difference between a wonderful, relaxing experience and one you'll spend your lifetime trying to forget.

To find out more about how the horse thinks, see Chapter 2.

Checking Out Various Horse Breeds

Horses, like dogs, come in a wide variety of breeds. Some breeds have existed for centuries, while others were developed only during the last 20 years or so. Each breed has its own characteristics that make it unique, leaving horse people with a healthy selection of breeds to admire. Knowing a thing or two about the various breeds of horses helps you choose the right horse when the time comes for you to join the ranks of horse owners.

Although most horse breeds were developed in Europe and other parts of the world, a number of breeds are uniquely American. Among these is the world's most populous breed, the American Quarter Horse. In the nearly 70 years since this versatile breed officially was established in the U.S., it has spread to a number of other nations. The second most popular breed in the U.S. is the Paint Horse. A spinoff of the Quarter Horse, the colorful Paint's popularity has shot up to high numbers in the past 15 years.

Other breeds in the top 10 include the Appaloosa, Arabian, Miniature Horse, Morgan, Saddlebred, Standardbred, Tennessee Walking Horse, and Thoroughbred. Each breed has a distinct history and appearance and appeals to a vast number of horse lovers.

For more details on the top 10 breeds, see Chapter 3. That same chapter also provides information on some lesser-kept breeds such as the Peruvian Paso, the Friesian, the warmblood, and draft-horse and pony breeds.

Making a Match with the Perfect Horse

The choice you make in a horse to ride can make a huge difference in whether you come to love this hobby or dislike it. Choosing a horse is much like choosing a mate: If you pick the wrong one, you won't be happy.

Asking a few questions before you buy

REMEMBER Before you embark on the tremendous responsibility of horse ownership, make certain owning a horse is really what you want. Ask yourself some questions before you take the plunge:

  • Why do I want a horse?

  • Do I have the time and money for a horse?

  • How do I want to ride (English, Western, shows, on trail), and how do I want to learn the riding style of my choice?

  • Who will take care of the horse on a daily basis?

  • Might leasing be a better option than buying?

    For more guidance on what to ask yourself and on other issues to consider before buying a horse, see Chapter 4.

    Locating the right horse for you


    The single most crucial aspect to finding the right horse is getting the help of someone with experience. Without expert help, as a novice horse person, you're likely to make the wrong decisions about which horse is best suited for you.

    Ideally, the person who helps you with your decision will be a horse trainer, someone who makes a living riding, training, and evaluating horses. If you can't find a horse trainer to help you, a riding instructor, an equine veterinarian, a farrier, or someone with years of horse experience under his or her belt is your best bet.

    You'll find available horses in any number of outlets, including:

  • Classified ads from individuals in equine publications

  • On the Internet

  • Through trainers and breeders

  • Via horse adoption groups

    For more details about shopping for a horse, see Chapter 5.

    Purchasing horse supplies


    After you purchase your own horse, you'll need all the accoutrements to go with him. There is no shortage of stuff out there that you can buy for your horse. For starters, you'll need these basics:

  • Saddle and pad

  • Bridle (the headgear used on a horse during riding)

  • Halter and lead rope (which provide control when you're working with your horse on the ground)

  • Grooming supplies


    You'll also need some stuff for yourself:

  • Riding boots or shoes

  • Riding pants and shirt

  • A helmet (if you're smart and want to continue to be that way)

    All these items can be purchased in your local tack and feed store, through mail-order catalogs or over the Internet, among other options. For more details on these and other items for you and your horse, see Chapter 6.

    Housing your horse

    Where to keep your horse is a primary concern. If you're like thousands of horse owners around the country who live in an urban or suburban community, a boarding stable is your only option. Choosing the right boarding stable for your horse is important because the place where he's kept will determine his health, his safety, and how much you enjoy of him.


    When considering a boarding stable, look for the following:

  • Safe, sturdy accommodations

  • Clean, safe surroundings

  • Security

  • Water and quality feed

  • Good care

  • Health requirements

  • Riding facilities

  • Tack storage

  • Professional demeanor

    But if you live on property zoned for horses and have or plan to build horse facilities, the answer is easy: You can keep your horse at home. You have the choice of housing your horse outdoors or indoors. In either case, you need to provide him with a safe enclosure and shelter from the elements. You're also responsible for feeding him every day and cleaning up after him.


    If you don't have room on your property for a riding arena, you need access to a community arena or one belonging to a neighbor. Finding room to ride is especially important when you're new to horses because you need a place to ride where you feel safe and comfortable before you head out onto the trail.

    For more details about boarding your horse or keeping him at home, see Chapter 7.

    Taking Great Care of Your Horse

    Cowboys in the movies make horse care look easy. After a long gallop, they jump off their horses and leave them standing in the street while they head to the saloon for some refreshments. In reality, horses need plenty of care to stay happy and healthy, and as a horse owner, you're the one to provide it.

    Handling daily tasks


    If you keep your horse at home, you'll be caring for him on a daily basis. Your most important duties include feeding, providing fresh water, and picking up manure.


    If your horse is in a large pasture, he won't need to get out for exercise every day. But if he is confined to a stall or paddock, part of your job will be to ride him, walk him, or provide him with exercise in some other way, preferably on a daily basis.

    Chapter 8 provides intricate details on caring for your horse's daily needs.

    Grooming your horse


    An important part of horse care is grooming. A well-groomed horse looks good and usually feels good too. Grooming gives you a chance to spend quality time with your horse and keep an eye on his body for any changes that can indicate disease.

    Grooming involves both caring for your horse's body and managing his mane and tail. Hoof care is an essential part of grooming that requires you to clean out your horse's feet on a daily basis. In addition, it's a good idea to bathe your horse on a regular basis. You may also want to clip his hair during the winter if you live in a warm climate.

    For details about how to groom your horse, see Chapter 9.

    Treating your horse's illnesses


    Despite their size and imposing presence, horses are fragile creatures that often become sick or injured. Preventive care is important for horses, and it includes:

  • Routine vaccinations against a variety of equine ailments

  • Deworming to get rid of harmful parasites

  • Regular dental care to ensure that teeth are in good health

  • Proper hoof care

  • Quality feed

  • Regular exercise


    As a horse owner, your job is being able to recognize signs of illness in your horse and calling a vet immediately whenever your horse is ill. Some signs that you need to call the vet include:

  • Diarrhea

  • Inability to stand

  • Indications of pain in your horse's abdomen, known as colic

  • Labored breathing

  • Limping (known as lameness)

  • Refusal to eat

  • Straining to urinate or defecate

  • Swollen, painful eyes

    For more information on preventive care for your horse, see Chapter 10. For details on common equine ailments, see Chapter 11.

    Knowing when to part with your horse

    It may be hard to imagine now, but the time may come when you want or need to say goodbye to your horse. You may need to part ways because you've outgrown him and need a mount more suited to your current skill level, because your financial situation has changed and you can no longer afford him, or (worse yet) because he has a terminal illness that can't be cured.


    If you need to sell your horse, do it in a way that ensures he will have a good home, and won't end up in the slaughterhouse - a fate that befalls many unwanted horses. Some of your options for your horse include

  • Selling

  • Leasing

  • Donating to a program

  • Gifting to a family member

  • Retiring

    If your horse is sick, in pain, and can no longer be helped by veterinary medicine, consider euthanasia. This humane way of ending a horse's life is the kindest thing you can do for your old friend.

    For more details on giving up your horse, see Chapter 12.

    Riding Your Horse Safely and Easily

    Horse handling is a skill perfected with training and experience. Receiving the right kind of training and instruction from a qualified expert is important for getting the most from the time you spend with horses. After you have some knowledge under your belt, you can safely handle your horse in a variety of situations. Remember that horses are large animals, and it takes some know-how to deal with them.

    Working with your horse from the ground

    Before you can ride your horse, you need to handle him from the ground. Given that your horse outweighs you by something like 10 times, it's a good idea to know how to properly deal with him when you're standing at his side.

    If you pay close attention to the info we provide about buying a horse in Chapter 5, you can acquire an animal that has what horse people call good ground manners. A horse with good ground manners maintains a proper distance from you - doesn't crowd your space - and respects you as the authority when you're leading him or working around him. In turn, you need to know how to handle your horse properly so you don't confuse him or inadvertently put yourself in harm's way. Make sure you know to succeed at:

  • Approaching your horse in a stall or pasture

  • Haltering your horse

  • Leading your horse

  • Tying your horse

  • Longeing your horse

    Flip to Chapter 13 for full details on handling your horse on the ground.

    Looking at riding basics

    Getting up on a horse's back can be exciting. It can also be frustrating and scary if you don't know what you're doing. Learning to ride in a formal setting is crucial, because qualified instructors know how to properly teach you riding basics.

    Your first decision is determining in which riding discipline you'd like to learn; Chapter 14 has complete information on different riding disciplines. English style riding is made up of several subtypes, including dressage, hunt seat, and saddle seat.

  • Hunt seat is used by people who want to jump their horses, although plenty of hunt-seat riders don't jump - they simply enjoy this style of riding.

  • Dressage is an ancient discipline that's growing in popularity among English riders in the U.S. It emphasizes grace and athleticism in the horse.

  • Saddle-seat riders tend to ride a certain type of horse, one that tends to have high leg action. Many saddle-seat riders show their horses.

  • Western riding, the most popular of all the disciplines, is often the style of choice for beginning riders, because Western saddles provide the most security. Western riding is popular with casual trail riders, as well as those working with cattle.


    Part of your equine education will include learning to saddle and bridle your horse; see Chapter 15 for more details. When you have hoisted yourself into the saddle, you are ready to start riding. For most people, this is what being around horses is all about. Of course, doing it right takes education and practice. You can get an idea of the basics of mounting and riding in the different disciplines by reading Chapter 16.


    Excerpted from Horses For Dummies by Audrey Pavia Excerpted by permission.
    All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
    Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

  • Table of Contents


    Part I: Beginning with Horse Basics.

    Chapter 1: Welcome to the World of Horses.

    Chapter 2: Understanding Horses from Head to Hoof.

    Chapter 3: Perusing Popular Horse Breeds.

    Part II: Selecting a Horse and the Stuff that Goes with Him.

    Chapter 4: Preparing to Make Your Purchase.

    Chapter 5: Making the Big Buy.

    Chapter 6: Getting into Gear with Horse Equipment.

    Chapter 7: Housing Your Horse Comfortably.

    Part III: Taking Care of Your Horse.

    Chapter 8: Establishing an Everyday Routine.

    Chapter 9: Keeping Your Horse Clean and Pretty.

    Chapter 10: Preventing Equine Health Problems.

    Chapter 11: Examining and Treating Equine Health Troubles.

    Chapter 12: Giving Up Your Horse.

    Part IV: Handling Your Horse with Ease.

    Chapter 13: Working with Your Horse from the Ground.

    Chapter 14: Selecting a Riding Discipline.

    Chapter 15: Getting Ready Before You Mount.

    Chapter 16: Taking Control in the Saddle.

    Chapter 17: Staying Safe on (and around) Your Horse.

    Chapter 18: Competing on Horseback.

    Chapter 19: Riding for the Fun of It.

    Part V: The Part of Tens.

    Chapter 20: Ten Horse Myths.

    Chapter 21: Ten Great Movies about Horses.

    Appendix: Equine Resources.


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