A licence for horse ownership?


By Sue Palmer

I’ve long said that there should be some kind of exam taken before anyone is allowed to own a horse, or at least laws that a first time horse owner should keep their horse on some kind of recognised livery yard that keeps an eye on them and supports them in their learning.  This recent post from a FB group has reinforced this opinion.  Horses are completely dependent on us, and I find it quite scary that you can buy one so easily, without even a basic knowledge of feed and other care.


A few years ago I stopped to help a young girl who had fallen off.  She was with her mum out riding, and they’d been for a canter across the field when her pony took off.  I caught the pony and got the girl back on.  The bit was hanging down in the horse’s mouth, and so I went to adjust it to a better height.  The buckles on the bridle were so rusted that there was no way I could do it.  Thankfully they kept their horses just half a mile down the road so I led the girl home safely.  It continues to greatly concern me though that the tack was in such bad condition.  These two horses were kept in a paddock rented by the mum, as opposed to on a livery yard, and I’m sure that had they been surrounded by other, more knowledgeable owners, that someone would have advised them earlier of the dangers that tack posed.


I know it’s not always great being on a yard with all the politics involved, but at least there is some kind of over seeing with regards to the welfare of the horses.  Having said that, I treated a horse a while ago who still bears the scars of the whip marks to his quarters, where he was tied up and whipped – and that was on a livery yard.


The British Horse Society has a great scheme called the Essential Horse Knowledge Certificate which would help in many of these situation.  In the grand scheme of things though, I still believe that first time horse owners should have some kind of supervision for at least the first year.  I know this is never likely to be a reality, but I’m interested to hear your thoughts on the subject?


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6 thoughts on “A licence for horse ownership?

  1. Katie Dawson Reply

    Hi Sue.
    You know us, with Gunny and Scottie (and now Biscuit), that you have treated.

    I know what you are suggesting may seem like a good idea but you should not seek to make it mandatory in all cases as it may not work well in practice.

    We tried to get the kind of help you are suggesting by sharing a yard with experienced people at the start when we had no horse experience. We found it a nightmare and soon had to move away as the experienced person had very definite views that we did not agree with.

    We got on much better with a field of our own and IH help. We got the individual knowledgeable help we could trust rather than some horsey person’s batty notions.

    Everybody does need help at the start but I would argue a livery yard may not be the best place to get it, given the strange ideas of some of the horsey fraternity.

    Best wishes

  2. Tanya Waterhouse Reply

    I thought someone had quoted me when I saw your first sentence!! The number of times I have expressed that very sentiment boring people to death I know, but for the horses’ sakes it really should be mandatory for any new owner to have some basic knowledge of horse care. This applies equally to the owner as well – on more than one occasion I have seen someone (often a young person) go into a field with a large herd carrying a bucket of feed in an effort to catch their pony or tie it up to a stable door only for the pony to pull back and take the door around the yard terrified of this thing chasing him. Both of which could have caused terrible human injuries. We can all recall all manner of dangerous and unfair behaviour we have witnessed especially when you have been around horses for so long and been taught often by the horse themselves, how to behave and care for them. Many years ago I learned that there are very few, if any, bad horses but an awful lot of bad owners. Mostly thank goodness, these owners do not wish to harm their horses and only want them to be loved, but are often killing them with well meaning kindness through ignorance. How wonderful for all concerned if both us and our four legged friends could be happy and secure rather than allowing bad manners and insecurity to surface often resulting in the horse or pony being sold on and on as unmanageable. When the horse understands that he can trust his owner to protect and care for him, then he can feel secure.

  3. Caroline Reply

    I agree that it would be a great idea for prospective horse owners to have had some training and gained experience of horse care and handling. Though do not necessarily believe that horses should only be kept at a livery yard. There are many good trainers and instructors that will go to peoples homes and if a few friends get together it can be great fun. I am not knocking keeping at livery yards but have seen good and bad. However I will say that for the nervous rider a stables where there are a number of knowledgeable owners can be a great help

  4. Chrissy Wisken Reply

    A little late, but a bit more feedback. Some kind of basic horse owner certificate would be fantastic, but the problem is of availability for testing. I bought my first horse only a couple of years ago, although I had been studying and looking after other people’s horses for many years. He is kept on a private yard with no advice readily available. I soon realised that it all becomes more difficult when you have to make the decisions rather than follow somebody else’s routine (whether you agree with them or not). I needed a bit of a confidence boost really. I would have welcomed a short course and test before I bought him, to ensure that what I thought I knew was OK and I was not going to do him any harm, but, although I found a couple, they were too far away or not at a time I could commit to. Perhaps this is something riding schools could offer?

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