If you have a little bit of land and a love for horses, you can add some real live horsepower to your homestead. Horses are often allowed in smaller suburbs and even some upscale areas because they are not classified as “livestock” but are considered a pet. If you think your area may allow horses, a simple call to your local zoning office will give you the low down on if you can have them, how many you can have and if there is an acreage limitation.
Just about any horse can add value to your homestead. It is easy to train horses to drive in a harness. Once you get accustomed to the art of driving your horse, you can get them to help you plow garden plots or just tool around town in a buggy. Some areas may even allow you to take your horse to the store. Driving a horse and buggy is fun and makes a great conversation starter along with saving a lot of money in gas.
What You Need
Horses do best when they have shelter from the wind and elements. You don’t have to have an elaborate barn, although they’re nice. All you really need is a solid lean-to or shed to give your horse a place to get in out of the rain, snow, or to use as a windbreak.
You’ll need a source of hay. The amount you need will depend on the size of your horse, but figure on between twenty to forty pounds of hay per day for each horse you own. Grain is an important part of your horse’s diet, especially if you are working him. Be careful with grain, because too much can cause many health problems and even cause lameness. Follow the directions on your chosen feed. They usually go by the horse’s weight to determine how much is necessary, but take into consideration how heavily you work with your horse as well.
Fresh water is absolutely necessary, and you will need an appropriate size bucket or a water trough in a pasture. Make sure you fill the water at least once a day—more if it is hot.
Another thing you will need is secure fencing for your pasture or paddock. Even if it is only a small outdoor area, you should have someplace where your horse can get out and enjoy the fresh air when he’s not working. There are many kinds of fencing that work well for horses from the traditional post and rail to easy-to-install electric fences. What you choose will depend on your budget, the amount of fencing needed, and your preference.
Best Breeds for Homesteading
While you can enjoy the benefits of having a horse or two on your homestead with any breed, there are some that are more beneficial than others. Typically, the large draft breeds are the obvious choice for doing farm work. However, since small homesteads have much smaller areas to work, those big, bulky breeds can actually be more of a hindrance than a help.
The Haflinger makes a great middle ground between muscle-bound draft horse and small, maneuverable family horse. Haflingers can be both driven and ridden comfortably and are strong enough for any small homestead chores. Haflingers are attractive and resemble small Belgians. They are highly intelligent and easy to handle with mild temperaments.
Quarter horses are one of the best of the riding breeds for homestead activities because of their ranching background. They are strong and very nimble. There are two basic types of quarter horse: stock (working) and racing. When choosing a homestead horse, look for the stock lines to get the stronger, more work-oriented animal. Racing quarter horses are taller and lankier, and while they can be very strong, they often have a more energetic outlook on life and can be harder to handle. Working quarter horses come in many colors and are typically mild tempered.
Appaloosas, palominos, and other “color” breeds can also be beautiful additions to the homestead. Take their overall physical appearance into consideration when choosing one of these horses, because they come in many physical types.
Miniature horses are another unusual, but very attractive type of horse to consider for a very small homestead. Pound for pound, these little pony-sized horses have a lot of power and are great in a harness. What makes them even more attractive for the self-reliant family is that they don’t take as much space, feed, or size to handle. Even young children can help out once they learn the basics of handling their miniature stable friends. While miniature horses aren’t good riding horses for any but the very, very smallest of children, they can pull their own body weight, are often hooked up to buggies and carriages to drive around town, and will put their shoulders into a harness to plow a small garden plot with gusto.
Morgans are an all-American horse that was developed for the very purpose you would be using them for—to work the family farm and also look smart under saddle or in front of the buggy on the way to town. Beware of the more modern Morgan that is bred for extreme action in the show ring.
These are just a few of the many breeds that would find themselves quite at home in harness or under saddle. Always remember the type of the horse you are considering, and make sure their personal temperament matches your needs regardless of the breed you choose.
©2011 Off the Grid News