For how many years have children been putting “a pony” on their Christmas lists? Thankfully, I didn’t get my wish until just over a year ago, but many kids do. Don’t get me wrong. Horses and ponies do wonderful things for kids; kids learn responsibility, build confidence, learn trust and patience, as well as the importance of preparation, goal-setting, and follow-through. Plus, they are outside and away from phone screens, TV screens, and computer screens getting fresh air and exercise. There is indisputable evidence that horses can be good for kids.
But, owning a pony is a big responsibility, literally and figuratively. Consider these questions: What happens to the pony if the child loses interest? What happens to the pony when your child goes to college? What happens if the pony gets injured and is no longer rideable? Even if we could have afforded a pony, my parents would have never kept it after I left for school.
If you believe that your child is ready for a Christmas Pony, please pledge to be responsible owners.
First, do your homework and ask for professional help to find the right pony for your child’s experience. Purchasing a pony that isn’t a good match for your child’s goals and experience usually ends up with an unwanted pony. They don’t come with gift receipts and 180-day return policies (although many reputable sellers will agree to take a horse back after a short trial period).
Second, understand the costs of ownership. To help you consider all costs, including some you may not have thought of, the UHC has created a Cost of Ownership resource sheet, which is available on the website.
Third, plan to work with a trainer or experienced horse person if this is your first horse. It is worth the investment. Finally, have plans in place to deal with specific circumstances such as the questions posed above. Expect the unexpected to guarantee the welfare of your new equine partner.
In an ideal world, owners would keep (or at least provide for) their horses until they cross the rainbow bridge, but it may not be realistic to keep a pony for 30 years. Let’s face it, things happen. Responsible owners, however, know what options exist for their horses before they become unwanted.
So, are you absolutely, positively sure you are ready to jump in so your young one can jump on?
You might consider having your child unwrap some other options first to ensure his/her interest is long-term. Great gifts include riding lessons or monthly trail rides. Partial and full leases are also excellent options to learn the responsibility of ownership without the long term commitment. Volunteering at a local stable or rescue is another option, which can be a gift to both your child and the rescue.
Thinking back on my childhood, volunteering at a rental stable was the best thing I could have done. I had fun, I was out of my parents’ hair, it didn’t cost us anything except some good laundry detergent, and I learned all those things that I mentioned above. Plus, it kept me out of trouble!
It might have taken 25 years, but I was finally ready for my Christmas pony.