"Mom, can I get a pony for my birthday?" The words that millions of parents are going to hear this year. You've got a child that's into horses, now what? For many children, it's just a phase that will end within a few years, but for many, it's a lifetime passion.
Many parents are faced with a decision to invest in time and money for a pet and a hobby that they don't know what will look like in the future. First things first, a horse or pony is a lot of money to board, so for many parents it's not an option. For some lucky ones, it is. If a horse is in your price range, how will you know what to do?
Well, the first and most important thing is to expose the child to the horses. Don't just get them a pet because it's "cute". A horse that is bought like that will end up becoming outgrown quickly and will be left alone in a stall with no attention or will be sold around often. Start the child in riding lessons and also make sure the child is learning to feed and clean up after the horses. If the child continues to show interest, have them volunteer around the barn to help learn the animal's body language and behavior. It also teaches responsibility and self discipline.
If you do decide to go for a horse, a lease could be a great choice if you are unsure how long your child will stick to riding. Make sure the horse you find matches the skill level. Don't buy an untrained horse for a child who has only been riding for a few months. Another thing to consider is that ponies will be outgrown eventually, so if the pony is being bought to be ridden long term, it may not be the best option. Remember that every horse and every child is different.
My personal opinion is to wait until the child is older to see if the passion for the hobby sticks with them. Many kids outgrow the phase of obsessing over horses. But, remember that you know your child best, you have to feel how much the child loves the animals and the sport. Never get a child a horse or pony just because they are cute. A horse is a lifetime investment and should be taken upon by a rider of proper skill level and experience.