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Buying, loaning or sharing a Pony
Buying a pony
Before you start looking at the adverts and especially before you go to see that first pony, be absolutely clear in your own mind:
What is an honest assessment of your child's riding ability?
What does your child want to do with a pony? e.g. showjumping
What is your budget?
When you start going out to see ponies bear in mind that you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince!
Finding your child's ideal partner for the next few years will take time and cannot be rushed. Make sure you are totally honest and keep the answers to the questions in your mind - many a person has been led astray by falling in love with a totally unsuitable mount. Remember, it is not fair on either your child or the pony if you end up with an animal your child cannot control if your child's dream is showjiumping and the pony has a total aversion to it!
And remember, keeping a pony is an expensive business - there is no point overstretching yourself to buy him if you are going to need to buy tack as well.
When buying a pony for a child remember that your child will grow. It is not a good idea to buy a pony that is too large, as this may well be dangerous. Not only does your child have to control the pony when riding, but also be able to safely bring it in from the field, put the tack on etc. The pony should fit the child.
Keep a clear head - and let it rule your heart!
Buying a second pony
When a child owns a pony they have a different problem to adults - children grow, ponies do not. Even if the child does not outgrow the pony, as their riding skills increase they may wish to progress in a certain riding discipline and may need a pony or horse with more potential in that area. In these circumstances you will have to help your child understand that they need to say goodbye to an old friend, and let them go to a home where they can help another child who is perhaps beginning to ride.
What about loaning or sharing a pony?
The most vital thing to remember when considering loaning or sharing a pony is that the pony will not be your own. Most people consider loaning or sharing as it cuts down the cost. In some circumstances it can work very well, but there are pitfalls. The points below are not meant to put you off, but just there so you can enter into an arrangement with your eyes open so you will not be disappointed. If you chose to loan or share a horse you should try to make sure you have a proper written agreement setting out the terms of the agreement.
Loaning a pony
Loaning a pony will save you the initial cost of buying him. However, you will be responsible for paying for his keep (livery/stabling costs, food etc.). You may need to buy tack for him. You will probably be responsible for paying vet bills and for insuring your pony. You may need to keep him at a certain livery yard.
Ponies are often put on loan when their owners can no longer (temporarily or permanently) afford to look after them, if the owner can no longer ride (possibly due to injury or work commitments), or when a child's pony is outgrown. In these cases the owner cannot bear the thought of parting with their pony, and loaning is a good second option.
In some cases the horse or pony is too forward for the owner at present, and they may use a period of loan to a more experienced rider to help train the horse better. To ensure that your child and the pony are well matched ask to have the pony on loan for a trial period of say a month. A good owner will probably encourage this as they should want to ensure you are the right person to care for their pony for them.
If you are entering into a loan agreement make sure that you try out the pony in exactly the same way as you would if you were buying it. Even though you are not paying out the purchase price, the pony will still make a large hole in your pocket just with everyday keep! You need to make sure you will enjoy riding him, and acting as proxy owner.
Of paramount importance is to make sure that you and the owner understand precisely what you will be responsible for. If the owner wishes to retain a say in anything you should ask them to make this clear from the very start!
You should ensure that you have a written and signed loan agreement - a template is available on the BHS website.
Sharing a pony
Pony owning is expensive - you can't really be warned enough! So buying a pony with a friend, or even two, can help a lot.
Pony sharing can work - but you do need to go into it with your eyes open aware of all the potential problems. The positives are that it is not just you who has to bear the finanical and physical burden of looking after a horse and keeping it exercised. But you have to be very careful who you are sharing this new love of your life with. You and your sharer (or sharers) need to be at the same level of riding ability, and have the same aspirations. If one of you is a more advanced rider than the other the result will be that one person has to compromise - although this will seem alright to begin with, over time it could be the root cause of many arguments.
You will need to establish clear rules up front, and consider such situations as:
Which days are you each going to ride and care for the pony?
How are you going to split payment for new tack (especially if they want to buy a new bridle, but you can't afford it)
There's a dressage test you want to go to - but it's on your sharer's day.
What happens if one of you is unable to continue with the arrangement?
However well you think you have it sorted out at the start, you may find issues start to blow up over things which are harder to formalise:
You're very supportive to them - but are they as supportive to you?
Can you use the new numnah they paid for?
You don't agree with their training methods!
They shout at your pony- you like to be quiet around him.
Your pony is very forward in winter - they don't like riding in the cold and wet so he goes unexercised.
It is obviously critical to choose the right person to share with, and that you can live with them, and their ways.
Make sure you have considered all the questions above and have talked them through with your potential sharer. Best of all, try and share with someone you already know, and respect.