This is just my quick guide on how to look after a pony for kids. I have often come across articles online claiming that ponies’ are very expensive to keep and need lots of care and attention and in a way that statement might be true in some cases but it really is as the saying goes horses for courses. What I mean by that is it all depends on the individual person and what pony they pick. If you have some poorer type land and you pick a quiet breed of mountain and moorland breed of pony such as a Dartmoor exmoor or welsh pony they can cost very little as they could do fine outside over winter and will graze poorer type grazing
The only problem with some mountain and moorland breeds is they can get overweight when put on good grassland. If on the other hand you went out and brought home a young Arabian or thoroughbred horse and had to pay stable fees then the costs could add up very quickly and also those breeds might be better suited for more experienced jumpers and not as a beginners childs pony.
What to buy
Pick a quiet breed of pony and if you get them young as a foal they can develop a deeper bond with their owner. The only problem with that is you might have to halter train them and break them if you want to ride them. The other option is to buy an older quiet pony that is well-used of being ridden and hacked out by people. The problem with that is that what seems to be very quiet at the point of sale can turn out to be very nasty when you bring it home.
If you don’t know the ponies’ history then you won’t know how that animal has been treated in the past or how it will react around people. We have one mare for instance that is great around kids and my wife but doesn’t like me. I have never done anything to make her dislike me but we just assumed that she might have been mistreated by some man in the past and therefore just hates all men.
Other ponies’ might not like kids or think they are not going to be controlled by them and that’s what I mean by getting a foal and rearing it yourself. If you don’t want to go to the trouble of all that and want to get something to ride now then maybe contact some riding stables as they could have some old quiet ponies’ from time to time that they are replacing for one reason or another and would be well-used to being hacked out every day.
Before you rush out and buy a pony in Ireland all equine premises should be registered by the department of agriculture and all animals should be microchiped with passports. You can read more about this on the departments website You will also need a place to keep it and some stable or building to house it if the weather gets bad or if it ever gets sick and you need to keep it inside for a while.
Looking after your pony
Ponies should be rewarded for good behavior this could be with a treat like chopped apple or carrots or I have one pony who loves refresher sweets. They should also be scolded for bad behavior you don’t need to go nuts and beat them with a stick but a firm pull on the rope or tap on the nose just to let them know you are in charge is they start to misbehave.
They should also have some company and if possible a companion pony or even donkey as they are social animals and it is better for them to have some company. Being on its own can also lead to bad habits like cribbing especially if the pony is kept in a stable for long periods with no company.
A foal should be trained to a head collar as soon as you can and lifting up its legs at a young age is good practice too as it is easier handle and train them while they are small and they will never forget once trained.breaking a pony to ride it does take a bit more time and I would prefer to give that job to someone who is used to it for the price it would cost.
If you are keeping your pony outside it would be good practice to bring something for it whenever you call to see it as if you keep the ponies’ coming to you it makes handling them a lot easier when you do need to catch them and put a head collar on.
You don’t really want them getting the habit of running away whenever you are trying to catch them. You don’t have to give them treats every day either but just something to reinforce good behavior whenever you are going into the field with them. The more hands on you are with them the easier it will be to handle them going forward
Like all equines they will need to have their hooves trimmed by a farrier every year possibly more depending on the breed and how quickly their hooves grow. It would be good practice to lift a foals legs while they are still very young to get them prepared for the day when their hooves will have to be trimmed. Other than that they should get a worm dose which can be got in the form of a paste that you squirt into the animals mouth and a treatment for lice which comes in the form of a liquid that is poured onto their back.
Both are very easy to do and you won’t require a vet. Just read the instructions and stick to the required dosage. Most don’t have any problems with their health but there are some things you should watch out for like laminates or colic when feeding on rich spring grass and to be aware of poisonous plants growing on the land like ragwort etc. Although they generally won’t eat fresh poisonous plants unless they are hungry as the plants are bitter but tend to become more palatable when they are cut or dying.
While some breeds like Icelandic, Shetlands or Kerry bog ponies’ can be kept outside over the winter most would be better off inside in a shed or stable especially short hair breeds. If you don’t have any other suitable sheds you might still be better off buying timber stables and hay rather than paying livery costs every week. While lot of people who don’t own any land buy ponies’ it will be a lot cheaper to keep them if you do own a patch of your own where you can keep them.
If you have any questions or comments leave a message in the comment box below or you can read more about caring for an equine here
For anyone is interested in keeping a small to medium size pony I have some Kerry bog ponies’ for sale they are good with children and make great companion ponies’. Contact me for more information on 087 1753706 on twitter @mcauliffedj or leave a message below