Perry Estelle..Tells it like it is.
So you want a pony?
By Perry Estelle.
As pictured, you can see a horse of course! My daughter owns Rocki. A Welsh cob. Black as your hat. A handsome beast. He is a lovely lad with a ‘kind eye’. There was a magical bond between them as soon as they met. He is a clever lad, but like all horses he has his issues.
Keeping a pony… The issues.
He can spook. But, at the all things you would think were non-spookable. A lorry could rumble pass him and he would not bat an eye. Boy-racers with blaring music, can charge at him and he would barely flinch! A tractor with arms and legs and spikes, rattles and clatter, could thunder up behind him and he would just casually look over his shoulder. A pheasant shooting from a bush nearby squawking, or a dog barking and trying to nip his legs is all in a day’s hack.
What really freaks him out is the most innocent ‘entities’ that most other horses take in their stride.
He will ‘plant’ (stop in his tracks and freeze) if somewhere in the next field there is a bale of hay wrapped in loose polythene and flapping in the breeze. “Is that a mountain lion?” The worst thing liable to make him side-wind into a ditch or oncoming traffic is a carrier bag caught in a thornbush.
“Arrrghh! That sweetie wrapper has teeth!”
Ok, he is a wimp! But we love him. He has become the baby of the family. That is virtually the level of care needed. That beast at a ton and half of unpredictable muscle, is as dependent as a babe in arms. Fact.
What about the cost of that intimate care?
Costs to Keep a Pony
It will cost up to £100 a week to keep your pony. So let’s see what your money buys to get you riding that horse.
Well livery whether you DIY or otherwise is at least £100 a week in the UK unless you know a very generous horsey friend! There is usually extra ‘turnout and feed ’ charges.
Hay is up to £7 a bale. Hey, they eat like a horse! Up to 2 bales a week usually.
Feed and supplements. Around £12 a week.
Farrier every 8 weeks £50-70 depending on how good they are.
Chiropractor/Dentist £100 per annum
Vet boosters/worming/insurance £300-£500 a year
Tack £1000 to get started and upkeep (saddle, bridle, whips/lunges/buckets &bins, grooming kit barrow and stable implements)
Then you want to ride? That means weekly instruction at around £35 an hour.
So keeping a pony is an emotional commitment as well as a financial one.
It’s good to remember too, that your pony will need activity. A bored pony, is a destructive pony! Your new bosom pal will need regular stimulation, by means of physical and mental exercise. If you want to train for events or dressage it means a great deal of constant structure and input.
The UK weather particularly can be harsh in the winter. Hacking out in rough elements needs a plucky rider not one that would prefer to stay in bed. Mucking out in the rain is no picnic, either. If you have a problem with the hating the cold and working hard outdoors for hours with no let up, then you have to think seriously about keeping a pony at all. Pony care, is a tough environment but the rewards immense. You will get and keep fit. You will get used to the outdoors and keep healthier, and keeping busy will warm you up.
Conversely, on a hot day, its smelly, sticky work. Drink lots of fluids. You, and the horse.
Pony and You
Let’s forget about the money and hard graft involved in caring for horse or pony for a minute.
Ok, here are the ‘warts and all’ of keeping a pony.
Having a relationship ties with a horse means an impact on your human ties and the reverse is true. If you have a supportive partner /family who help you with the chores and costs without moaning about it, all, well and good. But if you are about to embark on a romantic interlude and your latest conquest is either indifferent or even jealous? You may have to choose between your new pony, or, new love. Are you strong enough to deal with that? Believe me when all your mates want to go to a club or a pub, and you are broke because you had to pay for your livery, and there is nobody else to muck your horse out, be prepared to lose a chunk of social life and maybe a friend or two.
Pony comes first every time! Or, forget getting one right now!
You will become that creature’s, Mum, Dad , sister, brother and teddybear. Never forget that!
What do you want more? Nightclub, or Pony Club?
It’s that simple. Or, difficult depending on your priorities.
It takes a heap of energy to keep a pony.
Your pony will know if you are exhausted, hung-over, listless or plain bored. Pony will pick up on your lethargy and not respond to you. If you are grumpy. He will be grumpy. On the other hand, if you are feeling refreshed and vital and fully in charge, with vim and vigour, pony will think….
“Wow, my master is so full of energy. That makes me feel so full of energy. That is so cool!!“
A pony is like a radar system for your moods. Imagine. They are a pack animal. They think you are the herd alpha pony. They constantly look for signs and clues from you through eye contact and body language. These beasts needs these signals in the wild, so not to be separated from the rest of the herd, and to be aware of dangerous predators. A pony will give you the hardest time if you are not in the right frame of mind.
Horses need cohesion. Bondship. They connect with your psyche. They tap into your thought patterns. Yep, they are not that dumb as we humans think!
Also, pony needs to know who is boss. He will respond with familiar voice commands and praise. But he will push his luck and if you let him get away with the smallest naughty action… he will exploit that sign of weakness from you. Dominate your horse or be dominated. There are traditional, rather cruel ways to do this, which I do not advise. To the contrary, there are many more effective ways, or holistic approaches to discipline your pony.
Rewards are better than violence. Ponies respond better to kindness than the whip but you must be firm and not give in at any stage to bad behaviour. Find out what motivates your horse without necessarily thrashing him. Horse instruction methods, like Parelli, for obedience are like fun party games for the horse to get him motivated and his brain sharp. Here is a link
What do you and your Pony want from each other..ultimately!
The real area of deeper thought is what it is, you and your pony plan to do together? To find this out and come up with a progressive day to day routine will need you to discover what your Pony is up for. Get all the information you can from the previous owner on the horses strengths and weaknesses. Look at the skills you could exploit that you both have. A horse instructor will trial your horse and give you sound advice.
If you have to stable your horse then its home is very important. Scout the yards locally and do some tours of them. Talk to the proprietor check out if there are proper health and safety measures in place. Observe the horses and get feedback from the owners. Is it a happy yard? If you talk to owners who moan about the place, be wary. Find out about facilities and resources available. Do they grow or buy in hay? Is there an outdoor and indoor school? Is it floodlit? What are the conditions and how much better the advantages? Do they ‘turn out’ (take the horse to the fields in the morning), if so, what does that cost extra? Are the fields big enough and fencing sound? Who is the farrier? Is there any other services available? Are they affiliated with any other riding organisations? Check their website. Have they a loo or rest facilities? Is there events held, or a pony club timetable? What about a rug-cleaning operation? Is rubber matting included? Is there parking, a place to park your box or trailer, if you have one? Do they have hacking options nearby? Is the stable clean and in good repair? North or South facing? (Is driving rain or snow going to fill the stable?) What about worming? Do they take regularly take soil samples to check for worms?
These are some of the questions you must ask when searching for an ideal home for your pony.
OK you have the information. This is just an opinion. Talk to other horse owners far more knowledgeable than I. You will hear conflicting advice so be discretionary as lots of people think they know better than the experts. Read about equine health preventative strategies. There are a lot of valuable titbits you can glean from your vet. The farrier. The Internet.
A pony, when it trusts you completely will give you many times the pleasure you could wish for, whether you want to train it to event, or if you simply just want the animals companionship. There is no other bond you could feel that gives the same excitement and learning experiences. By owning your pony it will open many doors for you. Equine interest is almost a religion. The enthusiasm for it is immense and worldwide. It can carry your future to great heights.
My daughter wants to be a ‘horse whisperer’ and is learning the Parelli’ Natural horsemanship games. She is a Monty Roberts believer. But the opportunities are a constant, and whether you want to be a horse vet, or a horse psychologist, trainer, jockey, groom, yard owner, ‘eventer’, dressage coach, or join the mounted Police or Queens Guard the world is your oyster!
You could run a tack shop or paint horses! My daughter painted this abstract of her Rocki! it is yet?
On the other hand, you may just want a four-legged friend. But whatever you do, be safe and keep your pony safe.