Owning a horse is an experience unlike anything else. Cats and dogs may offer lots of love, but try riding or dragging a plow with one. Like smaller four-legged friends, horses make wonderful companions, however these gentle giants also offer owners recreation, rehabilitation and even transportation. With more than 9 million horses in America, equine interest is strong. If you are considering galloping into the gleeful world of horse ownership, here are three ways to make the most out of your experience.

Prepare A Budget

Owning a horse is a big investment. Purchase prices alone run $800 to $4,000 for the average horse, and show horses or racehorses could be ten or twenty times greater. Other one-time costs could include a saddle, trailer or riding lessons and apparel. Monthly expenses like boarding fees, bedding, food, vet visits and shoe maintenance also add up. In fact, average annual ownership costs come in around several thousand dollars.

Protect Your Investment

Insurance is a must when owning a horse. These graceful animals are known for strength and stamina, but when injuries occur it can set back owners by thousands of dollars. Medical insurance provides piece of mind knowing your horse will get the top-notch treatment it needs should an emergency arise. Owners also should shop for equine liability insurance for added protection in case of property damage or personal injury to riders, handlers or spectators.

Promote Good Health

You’ve made a significant financial and emotional investment in your horse, so don’t forget to invest in its health. Wellness exams and dental maintenance are critical and should be scheduled at least annually. Make sure your horse gets plenty of exercise and only feed it high-quality hay and grasses. Hooves should be cleaned daily and trimmed by an experienced farrier every one to two months, while shoeing is another option. Parasites are problematic in horses so maintain a regular deworming schedule.

Don’t horse around when it comes to your steed. Try these tips to fully enjoy your prizewinner or prized pet.