It's time you had a stable relationship.
1. First, find your place
Unless you're going to keep horses on your land, you'll need a place to lodge your New Paint. The price of stable boarding varies wildly, but $600 to $1,200 a month is common near larger cities. Ask if the price involves grooming and shoeing.
2. Locate service providers and lock down fees
You'll need a nearby equine veterinarian, a farrier, and a hay supplier — horses eat up to 2% of their weight in hay daily, and that can add up to $100 a month. A farrier will trim the horse's hooves every few months; with shoeing, that'll add $50 a month. Horses need five yearly vaccinations against ailments such as West Nile and encephalitis; those can cost $100 to $200 each, and a vet may charge $100 to $200 for just showing up. If you need riding lessons, those run $60 to $200 an hour, on average.
3. Research breeds
Equisearch.com, which collates content from the magazines Horse & Rider, Equus and American Cowboy, is a good place to start. The most popular horse breed are the all-purpose American Quarter Horse and athletic Throughbred. If you're planning to get into showing horses, that's a whole different animal, of course: America's Horse Daily has a ton of tips on showing and breeding.
4. Rent? Lease? Share? Adopt?
Just as there are shelter dogs, there are shelter horses. If adoption appeals to you, in many areas, the local ASPCA can point you in the right direction. Equamore and EquineAdoption.com list horses that have been rescued or once raced and are past their prime. If you're planning to show or breed horses, they can be leased, and shares are available in many areas. Your best bet is to inquire at individual stables.
5. Shop around
Equine.com and Equine Now has a huge database of available horses that's searchable by city and breed. But your best bet is probably to contact a local breeder directly. To determine if your breeder is reputable, vet them with a local equine vet or a trainer.
6. Ask questions
Don't be afraid to interrogate the breeder or current owner about the horse's health history, level of training and mood. Ask if the horse would suitable for whomever you see riding it: You, your children and/or your obese uncle. Equine.com's listings contain a helpful temperament ranking, from "bombproof" to "hot." Visit the horse more than once to assess its mood, and bring a trainer with you to examine it before you seal the deal.
7. Want to make money?
You're pretty much out of luck. Even mega-millionaires who go big on their investments in race-ready throughbreds see infamously small returns. "A largely fruitless investment" is how Forbes magazine describes it. So take the pressure off your purchase and make riding your new companion one of these 25 Ways to Be Happier Now.