Do you want a pony for Christmas? Not a toy pony but a real live pony you can ride? If you are thinking about asking Santa or your mom and dad for a pony this year there are some things you should think about. You can learn more about ponies and their care by reading books or going on line to research pony care and then you will be better prepared to talk to your mom and dad about getting a pony.
Here are some things you should find out or learn about if you want a pony for Christmas.
Do you really want a pony or should you get a horse?
Ponies live a long time and you will probably outgrow the pony in just a few years. You will probably fall in love with a pony and it will be hard to sell it when you are too big to ride it. If you have a brother or sister you can give the pony to and your family can afford to keep it along with a horse for you this can be fine, but if you can only afford one horse or pony consider getting a horse. A pony looks less scary to ride and take care of, but a gentle horse can be just as much fun.
If you are 4 feet tall or more now or you weigh more than 100 pounds, you may want to consider getting a horse. Ponies come in sizes to about 56 inches tall. A small horse starts at 57 inches tall. You may want a big sized pony or small horse as your first riding animal. That way you can be together for a longer time. Small ponies can be very cute but you may only be able to ride it for a year or so before you become too big for it.
Where will you keep a pony?
It needs to be legal to keep a pony where you live. Even if Santa brings you a pony you won’t be able to keep it if there are laws that say no ponies are allowed in your neighborhood. If you live in an apartment or a house in a city you won’t be able to keep a pony there. Even if it looks like you live in the country some country areas do not allow horses and ponies.
If many people in your neighborhood have ponies or horses it might be all right for you to own one too. Sometimes it depends on how much land your house is on. You can call the township or village or county office and ask if it is all right to own a pony where you live. You will have to give them your address.
Sometimes people who live where they can’t own ponies can rent a stall for their pony on a farm where ponies and horses are allowed. This is called boarding your pony. This is quite expensive however, and you may not be able to see your pony very often.
If it is legal to own a pony where you live you will still need to have a place to keep a pony. You will need an area with a good fence to let your pony run around in and you will need a shelter for the pony. The shelter can be a shed the pony can go into when it needs to get out of the rain or cold or you can use a stall in a barn. A stall is an enclosed area inside a barn that is a home for a horse or pony. For a pony it needs to be about 8 feet square and for a horse about 12 feet square.
You usually need to lead a pony into the stall when the weather is bad or at night. A pony should not spend all of its time inside the stall because it will get bored and develop bad habits. It needs to be outside running around at least part of the day whenever the weather is nice enough. The outside area must have fences the pony cannot get out of so it won’t get hurt or lost.
Can you clean up after a pony?
You will need to clean out the stall or shelter frequently. The more time a pony spends in a stall the more often you will need to clean it. This can be as often as once a day or once a week. If the stall looks dirty or wet it should be cleaned. Most people put wood shavings, sawdust or straw in a pony stall to absorb the pony pee and make the floor softer. This has to be raked and shoveled out of the stall and moved to a pile outside and it can be hard work. But if you are old enough to have a pony you should be able to clean out its stall. You will need to be a responsible pony owner and clean the stall before it gets too dirty and makes the pony sick.
In the summer a pony can spend a lot of time outside and you will have less cleanup work to do. But if the pony has a small outside area you may have to clean that out too from time to time. Some ponies that can come and go from a shed on their own will go outside to poop and pee and you will not have to clean up so often. Some ponies never potty train though and you will need to clean out the shelter.
Can you feed a pony right?
A pony can eat grass for part of the year if you have enough good grass in a fenced area for it. If there is enough good grass a pony won’t need much else. But most people have to feed their pony hay at least part of the year when the grass isn’t growing and some have to feed hay all year. Hay can be expensive and you need a place to store it that is dry. Most ponies do not need a lot of grain or pellets but some ponies require a little grain or pellet feed to stay healthy.
Ponies and horses have delicate digestive systems and you have to be careful what you feed them because the wrong food can make them very sick or kill them. You have to limit their treats and not feed them food that isn’t meant for ponies or horses. Ponies need to be fed at regular times, at least twice a day if they are not outside eating grass. A pony also requires water at all times.
Can you groom a pony?
Ponies need to be brushed frequently. They also need to have their hooves cleaned out. Someone will need to show you how to do these things or you will need to study books and learn how to do it. You will need tools to groom your pony like a curry brush and comb and a hoof pick. You need to be willing and able to spend some time keeping your pony groomed.
Several times each year your pony will need its hooves trimmed or shoes put on. You will need to hire someone called a farrier to come to where your pony is to do this. How often this needs to be done depends on the pony. But this is an expense you need to plan for.
Can you handle a pony?
A pony can be mischievous or stubborn or just plain mean. You have to be the boss from the beginning and make your pony behave. Even a small pony can seriously hurt you too, so you have to learn to be careful around the pony while still making it watch its manners. You will have to be kind but firm with your pony, even if it is very cute and does funny things.
You will need to learn how to lead the pony, how to tie it up properly and how to put a halter, saddle and bridle on the pony. And of course you will need to learn how to get on and off a pony and how to control it while you are riding. It always helps to have riding lessons before you get a pony of your own. It is really helpful if you have a parent or other adult to help and teach you about handling the pony.
If you are afraid of the pony it will know it and some will take advantage of you. If you are a little timid around the pony maybe a parent or older brother or sister will agree to help you handle the pony until you feel confident. Make sure to watch other people handle their ponies and horses, read good books and practice handling your pony and soon you will be good at it.
Can you choose the right pony?
If you are getting the pony as a gift you may have the choosing done by someone else. But sometimes it will be your decision about which pony to choose. This is when you have to use your head. A pretty pony is not always the right pony for you. Color and looks should not be the only things that are important.
Your first pony should be gentle and mature. Ponies that are 10 years or older are usually best for beginners. The pony should be friendly and interested in you and not try to bite or kick you, even if you are a stranger. It should be trained for riding and have good manners. The best horse for a beginner is a female horse called a mare or a neutered horse, called a gelding.
Your pony should be healthy and not too fat or thin. It is often hard for inexperienced people to tell if a pony is healthy. You should try to bring someone with you that knows a lot about horses or ask a vet to check a pony that you are considering buying. But a healthy horse should not limp, should not have sores on its body, and should not have runny, crusty eyes or a snotty nose. It should breathe normally.
Another expense you should count on having is vaccinations for your pony. It needs a rabies vaccination and some other shots, depending on where you live. Shots are generally given by a vet. Your pony will also need to be wormed several times a year but you can learn how to do that.
A pony is a big responsibility
A pony often sounds fun until you get it and find out that there is a lot of hard work and time required to care for it. Ponies and horses are expensive to care for too. You should not expect someone else to help you take care of your pony all of the time. A pony is a living thing and needs good care and kind treatment everyday.
If you or your parents decide that you are not ready for a pony or horse this year maybe you can ask for riding lessons and books about horse care. You can join a 4-H horse club, many let people join who do not have horses or ponies of their own. Then maybe next year you will be ready to get your pony or horse.