Buying a Pony or Horse: Tips to Help You Make the Best Choice

Buying a Pony or Horse: Tips to Help You Make the Best Choice

By Diane Samson

So, your little girl has been taking riding lessons for a year now and (surprise) she wants her own pony. Here’s how to begin.

First, talk to your child’s trainer. He or she may have an experienced lesson horse they would be willing to lease to you. That’s a good way to get your feet wet before you commit to the full-time obligation of caring for your own pony. Leasing arrangements vary, but usually you pay a monthly fee for riding privileges any time you want, as if it were your pony. You can ride, train and show the pony. You may also have to pay for farrier services (usually a hoof trim and/or reset shoes every six weeks), periodic de-worming and veterinary services.

If you can’t find a suitable leasing arrangement and are still interested in owning a pony, here are some tips and things to consider along the way.

1. What age do you want your pony or horse? An ideal age for a beginner rider horse is 10. You can go a little younger, if you want, but a well-trained 10-year-old horse has already experienced a lot of life. He probably won’t be as frisky as a younger horse and will be less likely to spook or act unpredictably. You are looking for a “bomb-proof” horse, especially for your child’s first mount. Ten years old is great, as well, because as your child grows, the horse will have many healthy years ahead of him for riding and showing.

2. What gender should your pony be? Common experience tells us that geldings are the best beginner mount, however, some mares can be excellent babysitters as well. The main drawback to a mare is that some get moody during their monthly cycles, and can even nip or kick. The other consideration is if you are ever going to have additional horses and plan to turn them out in a pasture together, it’s better not to have one mare and several geldings. Even though they are gelded, the males will still want to fight over the mare. You can avoid that headache by sticking with geldings. However, if you plan to always keep your horse in a stall in a stable with individual turnout, a mare can work out fine. Of course, a first-time owner should never buy a stallion.

3. Do you want a horse or pony? A small horse may be a better option than a pony for several reasons. First, your little one is going to grow up and may be faced in the future with having to sell her beloved pony because she’s outgrown him or her.

Second, horses are a little easier to care for. Ponies are famous for foundering, a condition that occurs especially when a pony overeats rich grass. The safest bet for a pony is to never let him eat grass. Feed hay, a little grain and turn him out on dirt. Horses can founder as well, but not as easily as ponies.

If you have a pasture-only boarding situation, opt for a horse, not a pony. Some stables, however, have many ponies they turn out together on dirt. If your barn is set up to care properly for a pony, go ahead, if not, stick with a horse.

3. Look in the newspaper, on the internet, ask around at horse shows or call other trainers. Many trainers will help you find the perfect horse for a finder’s fee. It can be more expensive, but well worth it in the long run to have professional assistance. Taking along a trainer to look at a horse with you can give you confidence as well as an expert set of eyes and ears in the situation.

4. Once you have a prospect located, find out as much as you can about the horse or pony. What is its training or background? Has it showed and where? Does it have any bad habits or fears? Is it friendly toward other horses? Does it load in a trailer and can I do it myself? Does it or has it ever had any health problems? Why are you selling now?

5. Get a veterinarian check before you buy. This can cost up to $200, if it includes x-rays, but it can be well worth the expense and trouble. Coming home with a horse that immediately is lame can be a big disappointment. Consider the possibility, too, that the current owner may be giving the horse bute (horse aspirin) to hide lameness when you are looking at the horse.

6. Check out the horse unannounced. Show up at the horse’s stables or pasture when you are not expected. Ask to take the horse for a ride or to trot him on the lead rope to check for problems. Unfortunately, some people drug their horses to make them appear more calm than they really are. Arriving unannounced helps you see the pony as he really is.

7. Get ready for expenses. Make sure you understand and budget for all the expenses associated with owning a horse or pony. There are monthly boarding bills, which include food and care. You may also want to supplement your horse or pony with a hoof, coat or joint supplement. Your horse needs its hooves trimmed or shoes reset every six weeks. You also need an annual check from the veterinarian, which at least will include shots, teeth floating and a coggins test. Many owners give their horses twice yearly shots, as well as de-worming at least four times a year.

Of course, now there are expenses for saddles, blankets, bridles, bits, riding clothes, lessons, helmets, riding lessons and showing fees. If your trainer will transport your horse for you, great, if not, add a horse trailer to the list.

Finding the right horse or pony can be a long adventure. Don’t be tempted to pick one out of the paper and surprise your child with it at a birthday party. Considering the investment on your part, you want your child to fall in love with this animal, so his or her opinion needs to count as well. Finding the right equine companion for your child can begin a relationship that will last for years.

Diane Samson is a writer with The Lieurance Group, a freelance writers’ cooperative in Kansas City, Missouri. Samson can provide writing, reporting and editing services for magazines, newspapers, corporate communications and especially animal publications. Find out more about her writing services at or email her at

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