BLOGS Ask the Animal Expert Ask Annie – Dec. 2015

Dear Annie,
Our daughter wants a pony for Christmas. I’ve said no way, but my husband seems to be leaning towards indulging her. What do you think?

Sincerely,
Currently Outnumbered!

Dear Outnumbered,

My initial thought is, “I wanted a pony for Christmas when I was a child!” quickly followed by all of the reasons that I didn’t get a pony for Christmas. I tried to convince my father that by getting me a horse, he wouldn’t have to mow the lawn. He wouldn’t have to buy any more lawn fertilizer, either. I thought that with those benefits, leaving his car on the driveway so the horse could live in the garage would be a small price to pay. Unfortunately, he was not in agreement. Fast-forward a couple decades and our daughter wanted a pony. The difference was, we had a house in the country complete with a barn and pasture, ready-made for horse ownership. So our journey with pony pals began at that time.

Horse ownership requires a great deal of time. Horse care entails a lot more than sticking a horse in a barn and letting him out to eat grass. Unless you have a large pasture and small number of horses, the grass will more than likely need to be supplemented with good quality hay and grain, especially during the winter months.

Horses are herd animals and prefer to be around other horses, but if that’s out of the question, a goat for companionship may help. Clean, fresh water must be available at all times. Horses produce much more excrement than house pets, or pocket pets, so the horse’s stall must be cleaned daily. Good grooming contributes to good health so brushing and hoof cleaning are must-do chores as well. Picking the muck out of the hooves isn’t adequate for proper foot care for a horse. A well-trained farrier must trim the hooves on a regular basis. The farrier is a non-negotiable cost of horse ownership since untrimmed, or improperly trimmed, hooves can cause pain, lameness, and even debilitating skeletal damage. A farrier also provides the horse with properly fitted shoes, or replaces lost shoes, when needed. Healthcare only begins with proper grooming. An equine veterinarian will be needed to provide proper deworming, blood tests, vaccines, and other preventative care. The money needed for care continues to add up after the initial purchase of the horse. Other costs may include boarding the horse at a stable if you don’t live on a farm, as well as equipment such as saddle, bridle, blankets, buckets, brushes, and more. If the horse needs to be transported, a horse trailer must be rented or purchased.

While pet ownership can be a wonderful way to teach responsibility, empathy, and even management of time and money, you may want to consider beginning with a smaller pet. Another thing to consider, if she gets a horse this year, what will she be asking for next year?

Sincerely,
Annie

P.S. Please wait until after the holidays to bring home a new pet. Holiday times are hectic enough even for people, and it will be a much easier adjustment for the animal when routine activities have been resumed.


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