Horses and Ponies as Pets: Things to Consider

We were all shocked by the recent horsemeat scandal in the UK: many of us were disgusted by the idea of having unknowingly eaten animals that are considered pets in this country. We are very fond of ponies and horses and those of us who can afford the time and expense of owning them find them highly rewarding creatures to care for.

Children love to ride and groom ponies and horses, which are intelligent and friendly creatures that love interacting with humans. Unfortunately people do often forget that caring for ponies and horses does not just entail taking them out for rides or brushing down their coats. Owning a horse or a pony is a massive responsibility that should not be undertaken lightly. You must visit them at least twice a day, morning and night, to feed, groom, exercise and clean them. That may not seem too onerous but in winter, on weekends and during holidays, it can be very tempting to just stay in bed instead.

People who buy ponies or horses without thinking about the long-term commitment of caring for them (remember: horses live for around twenty to thirty years). If they buy them mainly as a gift for their child, they may not be prepared to care for the horse once the child has grown up and moved out – and it is unlikely that a child who has just left home would be able to afford to care for their pet on their own.
Sadly many horses and ponies end up in the care of animal sanctuaries like those run by the RSPCA where they are given any necessary veterinary care, food, shelter and company until a new home can be found for them. Some have been handed over by owners unable to continue to care for them (for financial or social reasons) or whose children have developed allergies to horsehair. Others have been mistreated, abused or neglected.

There is an awful lot involved in caring for a horse properly. Their stalls must be kept clean and all wetness and manure removed daily. Bedding needs to be refreshed and clean water given daily. Horses quickly learn when their mealtimes are and become restless and distressed if food does not appear when they expect it to: this can cause injury to their legs and illness through stress.
Veterinary care can be very expensive and owners would need to find a reliable vet who specialises in treating horses in the local area. Unexpected vet bills can therefore crop up rather more often than one might expect. Furthermore, ponies’ and horses’ hooves need to be trimmed every few weeks and may need to be shoed regularly (if they do jumping, or regularly walk on hard ground, for instance) so a good local farrier is essential.

Horses and ponies are costly pets that need a lot of time and attention, and will do so for decades. If you are prepared to offer this level of care then consider adopting one of the many needing rehoming from the RSPCA.

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