Pleeeeaaase Buy Me a Pony!
The cost of becoming a horse owner ....
An acquaintance popped into the shop last week to ask for advice. Her granddaughter – with no equestrian experience – was keen to “get a pony and learn to ride”, and her parents, who have just acquired a plot of land adjacent to their garden, were seriously considering the idea.
Owning a pony is, of course, a romantic notion entertained by most little girls (and plenty of little boys too) at some stage, and the fortunate and very determined among us are able to make the dream come true.
I’m all for encouraging youngsters to take up riding, but I’m also aware that many people just don’t consider the implications of taking on a pony or horse, and most especially how much it costs not only to buy a suitable mount, but also to take care of it.
The uninitiated imagine it’s just a case of keeping a pony happily grazing in a grassy field and perhaps knocking up some sort of shelter.
So I thought I’d look into the costs associated with being an equestrian, just in case any of our blog readers know someone who is weighing up the pros and cons.
TIP: It would be extremely unwise for a total equestrian novice to plunge into buying a horse or pony without first spending a great deal of time on a yard, indulging in some hands-on learning and experience, and this doesn’t mean just having a few riding lessons!
THE INFRASTRUCTURE REQUIRED TO HOME A HORSE/PONY
You’ll need at least 1.5 to 2 acres of paddock land to keep a well-managed horse happy. It should be well fenced and gated (post and rail is best but whatever you choose should be safe from any protrusions that can injure the animal – definitely no mesh or barbed wire).
The grazing area needs to have good quality pasture, and be cleared of any obstructions or debris (like old nails and sharp rocks), and make sure there are no weeds that are toxic to horses.
The paddock needs to have a shed that the pony/horse can access for shelter. If you invest in building such a structure consider adding in an airy but comfortable stable, and a tack/feed room with a loft will be extremely useful for storage.
Horses drink up to 10 gallons of water a day, so you’ll need easy access to water and a smooth-edged, sturdy and deep bucket or tank to keep it in, always topped up and available for the horse to drink at will.
TIP: Something to seriously consider is having a companion horse/pony. Equines are gregarious animals and can become lonely and depressed when left alone for extended periods. A mini might be suitable.
EQUIPPING YOUR HORSE/PONY (AND YOURSELF!)
If you thought bringing a new born baby home from hospital requires a host of preparation and expensive equipment, that’s nothing compared to what you need to have in place to care for your new equine friend!
There are hundreds of things you’ll need to have at hand, including feed (appropriately stored hay, haylage, or grain), tack (from a saddle and bridle to a halter and tethers), grooming equipment, bedding, tools for mucking out, a manger,hay-nets, feed buckets etc. etc.
For yourself you’ll need to outfit yourself for riding (including a helmet, high-viz jacket and good boots), have a set of work clothes, “wellies” or yard boots, and so on.
Hopefully you will be familiar with what’s required if you’ve spent time working with horses before you take on your own.
TIP: You can get an idea of how much horse-riding and keeping equipment costs by browsing through our online store: totally-tack.co.uk.
THE PRICE OF A HORSE/PONY
There are a myriad of factors that make it difficult to give the average price of a sound horse/pony in the UK today. You could pay anything from £500 to £20,000 depending on breed, size, age, pedigree, experience, provenance etc.
You could consider approaching an equine rescue charity for an animal to suit you. For this you will pay an adoption fee of around £500 for a healthy, ridden horse.
TIP: It’s wise to take a seasoned equestrian with you when viewing a potential horse/pony to purchase, and to have the animal checked out by a vet before you commit.
MAINTAINING A HAPPY, HEALTHY HORSE/PONY
The monthly costs of keeping a horse/pony add up quickly. Firstly the horse needs to be fed, and you may need supplements to keep him/her healthy. Bedding (shavings, straw or wood pellets) add to the monthly bill. Then there are things like rugsand fly masks, which wear out relatively quickly and always seem to need professional cleaning, and the animal will need regular worming (most important).
“Toiletries” – grooming products – for your horse (things like shampoo and bug spray) are also necessary.
Shoed horses and ponies need the attendance of a farrier every six to eight weeks, and an equine dentist should check teeth regularly. Veterinary care for horses is increasingly expensive, and you have to be prepared to pay out for treatment and therapy for any injuries or conditions that may strike.
If you plan to compete with your pony/horse you’ll need to be able to transport him/her in a trailer or horse box, pay for advanced training and ongoing riding lessons, and pay entry fees for shows and/or competitions.
TIP: The British Horse Society has a good leaflet explaining the approximate monthly costs involved in keeping a horse.
Never fear if reading all this has put you off! Many of us manage to enjoy our horses at home and still afford to eat, but if these costs really scare you then you could consider boarding your horse or pony at a livery in your local area, where you can visit often and pay a monthly fee for the pleasure!
Those of us who keep horses believe it is certainly worth the cost!