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Is Your Child Ready for A Horse?

Should You Buy Your Child a Horse or Pony?

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A Well Matched Pony and Child

There was no question my daughter would have a first pony, and many more after that. Her responsible attitude and willingness to learn are an indication of her dedication.

2005 K. Blocksdorf

When Is Your Child Ready for A Horse?

I remember watching the Disney movie, Justin Morgan Had a Horse and deciding I must have a Morgan horse. My mother told me I could have one if I saved up $200 ( a lot of money way back then). I saved birthday money, collected bottles for exchange and searched the couch cushions until my bank account reached the right amount. My mother then found a palomino Welsh pony mare in foal to a Morgan stallion. I didn't quite get a Morgan horse, but a Morgan-Welsh cross. Of course, it helped that my mother's passion was horses, and we lived on a farm already. There was no question of whether I was ready for a horse or not. This pony was, in fact, my third or fourth. But not every child who wants a horse can get one so easily. What do you do when your child is begging for a horse or pony?

Make Sure It is Not a Passing Phase

How many little girls watched the movie 'Dreamer' or 'Black Stallion' and decided they must have a horse. A child may become inspired by a book, equine performance or movie, and suddenly they are 'galloping' everywhere whinnying when you call them. For some, this may spawn a life-long passion, for others the excitement may cool. Wait it out and a new passion may develop.

Is It Your Child Who Wants a Horse?

Many adults have dreamed of owning their own horse and project that dream on to their children. Then the parents are disappointed because the child is not fulfilling those dreams — whether in the show ring or at home. Make sure it is really the child who wants the horse, not the parent.

Are You Ready for a Horse?

Even though my daughter is now in her late teens and very responsible it is still up to me to source and pick up hay, drive to the feed mill, and be there to look after her horses when she is at school or her part-time job. I take this on willingly, because I'm looking after my own horse at the same time. I also spend quite a few weekends lugging buckets, fixing braids and calming butterflies at competitions. I enjoy it for the most part. But if your child is the only one really interested do you want the extra responsibility?

Not everyone can afford to buy a horse, or has the time horse care takes. As a parent, a good deal of the expenses and time horse care requires will fall to you. Are you willing to learn about horse care? Some parents take this on happily. For others, it's not a consideration for many reasons.

How Old Should Your Child Be?

I know of parents who will not let their children ride until they are 12 because they believe you must be a physical presence on a horse. I know children who are much younger that are excited to help look after their pony or horse and cry when they have to go home or get off. I think a child should be old enough to 'help' groom, feed, water and muck out and do so willingly. The exact age will depend on the child. Consider how your child helps look after any of your pets at home. If you have to beg and cajole your child to look after a dog or hamster, you may find yourself doing the same thing with a horse.

Try Before You Buy

If buying a horse is a consideration your child should be taking riding lessons first. A good sign of your child's dedication is the eagerness with which the lessons are anticipated and the amount of time your child spends caring for the horse before and after the lesson. Your child should eagerly participate in all aspects of the horse's care, not just time in the saddle. If month after month you have to tear your child away from the stable that's a good indication your child is dedicated. You can also ask the barn owner or coach if they think your child is ready for their own horse or pony.

Can You Provide Alternatives to Ownership?

If the answer is no, we can't buy a horse, there may still be inexpensive and less time consuming ways to feed your child's passion for horses. Discuss alternatives. Can you afford twice weekly, weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly lessons? Can you take them to trail rides and camps? Can you part-board or lease if buying is not an option? Can your child work at a stable or help out a horse-owning friend? There are lots of ways to be involved with horses without actually owning one.
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