Buying a horse is always a very big decision but if you’re making that purchase for a child it can be far harder to know whether or not you should. I’m sure that most children asking for a horse (or pony) will say that there are no drawbacks to horse ownership at all but many owners will tell you that there are just as many disadvantages and there are advantages. The only way to make the right decision is to know both sides of the coin which is why I thought I’d write this article, to give you the facts and then allow you to make a balanced and informed decision about what is right for you and your child.
The pros of buying a horse or pony
When deciding whether or not to buy your child a horse it’s easy to focus on the negatives and overlook the positives but it can be helpful to take time to consider exactly what your child (and you) will gain from owning a horse.
Horses can teach responsibility
Horses (and ponies) require an awful lot of hard work, even if you’re keeping the horse at a boarding yard there’s still a lot of things your child will have to learn to do themselves. They’ll be solely responsible for the horse’s overall health and wellbeing, they will need to know when to call a veterinarian or when to treat the horse themselves (albeit with the help of an adult).
This can be great for teaching children to be responsible as they’ll obviously have to think about the care and happiness of another living creature.
Instils discipline and respect
Horses are creatures of habit that can easily be upset if their routine is changed suddenly so it’s important to keep to a routine as much as possible. This might sound like a bad thing but it can help encourage children to be disciplined which, in my opinion, is a great life lesson that can never be learned too early.
As well as learning to be disciplined your child will also have to work with their horse in order to earn its trust. You can’t just walk up to a horse and expect it to do exactly what you want, it takes time, patience, and mutual respect to gain a horse’s trust.
Horses are great for exercise
Even if your child isn’t riding there’s still an awful lot that will need to be done when caring for a horse, every day the horse will need to be groomed, fed, watered, etc. If the horse is kept at pasture the field will need to be checked for manure and poisonous plants, if, however, the horse is kept indoors, the stall will need to be cleaned. All of this will require a certain amount of effort that will have the added bonus of giving your child plenty of exercise.
Your child will spend more time outside
These days children seem to be spending more and more time away from nature and are permanently glued to their phones, game consoles, or just the latest episode of Stranger Things but having their own horse means that this just isn’t going to happen so much.
Even if you’re boarding the horse away from home there will still be so much to do (aside from riding) that will force your child to spend A LOT more time outside and connecting with nature, in all weathers.
You know where your child is
If you’re the sort of parent that constantly worries about where their children are and if they’re safe, buying a horse can give you some peace of mind. They’ll either be at the yard looking after their horse or will be out riding with their friends.
Horses can be a great confidence booster
I know firsthand how just being around horses can really improve your confidence and self-esteem but when you actually own a horse your confidence is really boosted. Horses are big animals (even more so for children) that have a mind of their own but your child will form a partnership with them that will be beneficial to both parties.
Horses aren’t the most trusting of animals, especially with new people, but gaining their trust can be extremely rewarding. Your child will need to be patient and consistent with their new horse but when they do finally earn their trust they’ll get a real sense of achievement.
Then there’s the positive effect it’ll have on your child’s mental wellbeing, science has shown that interacting with horses (and other animals) can help to lower blood pressure and stress levels. On top of this horses are great for boosting anyone’s mood, no matter how low they’re feeling!
Horses are perfect for making new friends
Even if your child is shy and finds it difficult to make new friends owning a horse will give them an instant connection with so many other like-minded kids that it won’t be long before they’ve got a new friend in practically every stall.
You don’t have to share the horse (unless you choose to)
I know that I’m stating the obvious but having your own horse or pony means that they belong to you and you alone. You’ll never need to book a time to ride them again, nor will you have to pay any extra fees if you want to go on a trail ride or enter a show (other than the show’s entrance fees of course).
Also, you know you’ll get on with the horse because not did you choose the horse yourself but you’ll have time to grow and strengthen the bond you both have. Of course, you can share the horse if you want to but that’ll be your (or your child’s) choice and nobody else’s.
Most importantly of all, you’ll be able to have your own horse which, as any horse owner will tell you, is the best thing in the world.
The cons of buying a horse or pony
While there are many bonuses to owning a horse there are also just as many downsides that all need to be considered before making the final decision.
Less time for homework
Nobody can deny that horses require a lot of work which can be a great way for your child to learn some important life lessons but it can also have a detrimental effect too. Caring for a horse takes a lot of time which means that your child may not have much time for other important things, such as homework or house chores.
Most children will probably argue that having less time for homework is a good thing but having a horse shouldn’t be used as an excuse not to do it. Your child will have to learn how to budget their time properly so that they’re able to study and do their homework as well as spend time with their horse.
Harder to have a vacation
Going on vacation (even just for the weekend) won’t be as easy as it was before, you’ll need to find somebody you can trust to look after the horse while you’re away. If, however, you’re planning on taking the horse with you you’ll have to find somewhere that either has board nearby or allows horses.
If you plan to vacation with the horse then you’ll have to consider how might affect the horse, some horses will be more than happy traveling while others can get very stressed by the experience.
Horses can suffer from a multitude of health issues
You might think that you’ve read and learned about all of the different health issues a horse can have but horses have an uncanny ability of suffering from a range of ailments that perplex you and that you’ll only discover when you actually own a horse.
Then there are the chronic issues (such as arthritis, navicular disease, or Equine Cushing’s Disease) that can only be managed. Hopefully, your horse will never suffer from any of those conditions but it’s important to be prepared just in case.
Owning a horse takes a lot of responsibility
While looking after a horse can be great for teaching children about responsibility it can also be a little overwhelming for some, especially if they’re really young and have to do a lot of the work themselves. For some children, this can be enough to put them off of horses completely. This is why it’s so important to make sure your child is ready for horse ownership before you consider buying them a horse.
Horses can be expensive
Probably the biggest drawback to owning a horse for many people is the sheer costs involved, even if you’re lucky enough to be given a horse the monthly cost of keeping one is still very high. You’ll have to pay for board (unless you’re keeping the horse at home), feed, bedding, fencing, and insurance. Then there are the unknown costs of vet bills and other emergencies such as a farrier if the horse throws a shoe. Don’t forget about riding clothes, grooming kits, first aid kits as well as any show fees if you want to show the horse.
While there are things that you can do to reduce the cost of keeping a horse it will always be ongoing so you’ll need to make sure you can afford the upkeep before deciding to purchase a horse.
Children can get bored
Children can sometimes be very fickle and lose interest in things pretty quickly. Hopefully, this won’t happen but if it does you need to be prepared, what will happen to the horse?
Obviously, nobody buys a horse thinking that one day they’ll have to give it up but we never know what’s around the corner (especially when kids are concerned) but it’s important for the horse’s happiness and wellbeing that you at least have an idea of what you would do.
You may have to do some of the work yourself
There will always be times when your child just isn’t able to look after their horse, maybe because they’ve got a big exam and need to revise or because they’re not well. If and when this happens it’ll probably be you that will have to look after the horse so it’s important to ask yourself if this is something you’d be willing (or able) to do.
Attachments can be difficult for children to break
Obviously, it’s not a bad thing for kids to become attached to their horses but more often than not this attachment will have to be broken at some point. Either because your child has outgrown the horse and you’re having to sell it or because the horse has passed away. While this is a sad fact of life it can also be very difficult for some children to accept (or even understand).
You may have to make the ultimate decision
One of the hardest aspects of owning a horse (and the biggest reason for not having one) is that there is every possibility you’ll have to make the distressing and heartbreaking decision to have them put down. Your veterinarian will help advise if you should consider this but ultimately the final decision is yours, which, despite knowing it’s in your horse’s best interest, can be extremely difficult and tough.
What are the alternatives to buying your child a horse?
If, after weighing up the pros and cons of owning a horse, you’ve decided not to buy one but still want your child to experience ownership then there are a few options you have.
Leasing a horse can be a great introduction into horse ownership for many, depending on the leasing agreement you have you’ll be fully responsible for the horse but are able to give it back if, for whatever reason, things don’t work out.
Some owners will also allow you to have a horse on a temporary lease before you decide whether or not you want to buy that particular horse. If you’d prefer to buy but aren’t sure if the horse is right for you this can be a good way of finding out.
If you want to know more about leasing a horse and what it involves then you might find this recent article helpful.
As you can probably guess this involves you and at least one other person owning a horse together. It can be great if you’re not sure whether or not you have the time (or budget) to dedicate to a horse on your own. You and the other owners will share everything from the costs, daily chores, and even riding.
Working in a yard
Most stables are always in need of an extra pair of hands so volunteering at a local yard can be a great way for your child to learn about horses as well as how to care for them. All yards are different but they will probably be expected to carry out duties such as feeding, cleaning stalls, grooming, and may even get free rides.
What’s the best horse for your child?
If you’ve weighed everything up and have decided that you are ready to take the plunge and buy your child their first horse the next dilemma is what sort of horse should you go for, should you buy a grade horse (or pony) or should you opt for a particular breed? This choice can be made much easier if you already know what you’re looking for but if you don’t you need to consider what sort of riding your child enjoys (as well as what their future goals are) and how experienced they are.
If you’re still not sure then you might be interested in the recent article I wrote about the most suitable breeds for children.
- How to buy the right horse for you
- What to do after buying a horse
- How often can you ride a horse?
- 30 fun things to do without riding
- Why do horses follow people?
- How to keep a horse on a budget
- Life hacks for horse owners
- Keeping a horse in your backyard
- The worlds coolest barns
- How long do horses live for?
I hope you found this article helpful. If you did I’d be grateful if you could share it please as it would really help me.
Over the years I have tried hundreds of different horsey products, from various blankets and halters to different treats. Some I’ve loved, others I’ve hated but I thought I’d share with you my top all-time favorite products, the ones I never leave the yard without. I’ve included links to the products (which are in no particular order) that I really think are great.
- Horse Knots by Reference Ready – If you’re like me and enjoy pocket reference guides then you’ll love this knot tying guide. These handy cards can easily fit in your pocket or attach to the saddle for quick reference. They’re waterproof, durable and are color coded to make them easy to follow.
- Mane ’n Tail Detangler – Even if you never show your horse you’ll need to detangle his tail from time to time (and possibly his mane too) which is always a challenging chore! I’ve found that if I run a little bit of detangler through my horse’s tails every few days it stops them from getting matted up and makes combing them easy, even if they’re coated in mud. I don’t know if I should admit to this or not but it also works wonders on my hair.
- TAKEKIT Pro clippers – Over the years I’ve tried a lot of different clippers and while some were obviously better than others I found these to be by far the best. They are heavier than a lot of other clippers but for me, that’s a good thing, it makes them feel more sturdy and hardwearing. On top of that they have a range of speeds so are just as good for clipping your horse’s back as they are his face. I also like the fact that they come in a handy carry case but that’s not for everybody. The company that makes them is super good and incredibly helpful too, a real bonus these days. The only thing I wasn’t keen on was the fact that it doesn’t come with any oil, but that’s not a major problem as it’s not difficult to buy lubricant.
- Shire’s ball feeder – There are so many boredom buster toys out there but I like to use these every day, regardless of whether or not my horses are bored. I find that it helps to encourage my horses to problem solve by rewarding them with treats (or pieces of fruit) but it also mimics their natural grazing behavior which helps to keep them calm and de-stressed.
- Horse safe mirror – This is a strange one that many people are surprised about but I like to put horse safe mirrors in the trailers as well as in the quarantine stalls. It helps to prevent the feeling of isolation by giving the impression of other horses being around. Being herd animals horses can get extremely stressed when they feel that they’re on their own but with these stick-on mirrors, they believe that at least one other horse is with them.
- Rectal thermometer – I know this isn’t glamourous at all but it’s vital for your horse’s well-being to be able to check their temperature and a rectal thermometer is the easiest way of doing this which is why I’ve added it to the list.
I’ve also put together a few shopping lists of essential items that I’ve found helpful over the years. I’ve broken the lists down into different categories rather than put everything in one massive list 😉