Ponies are small horses with spunky, feisty, and quirky personalities. What’s not to love? Before you get swept up in the thrills of buying your first pony, you first need to understand how to care for these special equines.
Are ponies easy to care for? Ponies are notorious for being easy to care for and hard. But they do have special dietary and care requirements every owner needs to be aware of. In addition to regular veterinary care, exercise,
Ready to learn more about raising ponies? Keep reading!
Searching for the Right Pony
You’re seeking a pony to fill that empty paddock in your yard, so you jump online and kickstart your search. Before you latch onto the first pony you find, you need to figure out first what it is you’re looking for.
Be as detailed as possible. Make a list of what’s important to you. For instance, your list may look something like this:
- Halter-trained pony
- 7-12 years old
- Easy, quiet personality, fun to be around, super friendly
- Few or no vices
- Healthy, sound condition
- Gelding or mare
- Palomino, chestnut, black, pinto, and bay preferred
On the other hand, my list might look like this:
- Green project pony
- 3-7 years old
- Spunky personality, engaged, eager to learn
- Vices acceptable
- Healthy, sound condition
- Preferably a mare, geldings acceptable, no stallions
- Tobiano, pinto, bay, black, dapple grey, roans, palomino
You can see how both lists are clear about what kind of pony they describe, yet aren’t too precise that they exclude potentially great ponies.
These are a just few areas you should consider:
The Pony’s Temperament
Temperament is such an important aspect to think about whenever you’re purchasing an animal as a pet. Every pony’s temperament and personality will be different. Temperament depends on factors such as past background, genetics, breed, and more. That said, ponies are notorious for being highly intelligent, feisty, spunky, and stubborn.
You may be looking for a nice, quiet pony. In that case, a five-year-old firecracker should definitely be outside your scope.
On the other hand, maybe you have experience with horses and ponies and this kind of pony is exactly what you want. Take some time to write down what kind of temperament you prefer in a pony.
The Correct Age to Buy a Pony
Many people fall in love with raising a pony from a foal, but this is unrealistic in many cases. Foals have extremely special needs and most beginners tire out quickly or fail to provide all of their requirements.
In most cases, you’ll look for a pony around 8-15 years old. However, if you want a project pony to train, you probably want one 3-6 years of age. A child’s pony should be between 10-20+ years old, especially for younger kids.
Weaning Foals Guide: Stress-Free Weaning for Mare and Foal
Pony Training Levels
There are different extents of training. Some ponies have an excellent groundwork foundation but are green undersaddle. Be aware that many ponies are either poorly trained or haven’t received any training. Make sure you ask about the training a pony has had.
If you’re experienced with equines, buying a green pony to train may sound enticing. But if you’re a beginner, try to find a pony that’s at least halter trained. Hopeful owners searching for a lovely riding pony will require a pony that has already been well-trained undersaddle.
Gender: Geldings, Stallions, or Mares
Geldings as a general rule, are less expensive than mares. They’re also preferable for many people. Many geldings break the mold, but most are sweet, easy, open, and love people.
Personally, my preference lies with mares. They have an unfair reputation for being temperamental and moody, but beneath it are incredible equines, too. Mares are a bit more expensive than geldings but less costly than stallions.
That said, be careful with mares. Some may be pregnant with or without the owner’s knowledge. If they’re aware, sometimes they disguise it as a hay belly so you’re more likely to buy her. This is one reason why having a vet examine the pony is so beneficial.
Stallions tend to be difficult to handle and they’re not recommended for beginners – even small ponies! They’re also more expensive and impractical for most paddocks.
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The Cost of Buying and Owning a Pony
How much do ponies cost? Ponies cost on average between $700-$3,000 to buy. Cost depends on factors such as bloodlines, breed, training, age, sex, and more. In addition to the initial purchase price, ponies cost around $1,000-$3,000 per year to care for.
You’ll need to factor in the cost of feed, hay, and shavings. A bag of feed usually costs between $10-$50, hay bales cost around $2-$15 each, and shavings often cost $15 per bag. Most ponies don’t require supplements, but you’ll need to include this in your budget if yours does. Ponies should also be dewormed twice per year, which costs $45.
Don’t forget about veterinary expenses. A simple yearly checkup can cost around $100. Vaccinations cost $100-$300, and a dental floating costs around $100-$200. You’ll also need a farrier to trim your pony’s hooves every six to eight weeks, which costs $35-$75 per visit.
Then there’s tack. While many ponies will require a simple halter ($40-$100) and lead rope ($15-$25), others may need a saddle ($100-$500) or even a harness ($150-$250) to pull a cart with. You’ll also need a complete grooming kit, which costs about $25-$45.
Cost of a Horse to Buy, Own in 2022-10 Cheap Horse Breeds
Your Pony’s Accommodations
Ponies must have adequate protection from the rain, snow, wind, and sun in all four seasons. You can build a simple run-in shelter or a barn to accommodate your pony. It doesn’t need to be elaborate, but it does need to be functional.
Ponies should never spend an extended amount of time in a stall without medical cause (such as an injury or pregnancy that requires stall rest). This can lead to boredom, anxiety, and even colic.
Many ponies prefer staying outside full-time over spending nights in a box stall. However, you need to ensure your fence is reliable and secure – and that your pony is protected from predators. This is even more important if you leave your pony out at night when predators such as coyotes and wolves are most active.
Wooden and electric fences are two of the most common options to section off a paddock. Despite their small size, ponies should still have a sizable space. Your pony should have a minimum of half an acre to a full acre to run and play in.
Keeping Horses in a Small-Scale Pasture or Acreage
Pony Diet Requirements: It’s Different Than Horses
While yes, ponies are horses under the height of 14.2 hands, they still do differ a bit in their dietary requirements.
Our ponies excel on a balanced ration of fat and fiber pellets. We also include small amounts of sunflower seeds, whole corn, and flax seeds mixed in their feed to benefit their health and coats.
Your veterinarian can help you choose the best formulated for your individual pony. Some ponies do fine without any pellets or grain at all. Steer clear of sweet feed for ponies, since it can lead to colic, obesity, and other issues.
Ponies should be fed 2.5% of their weight in quality, dust-free hay per day. For most ponies, this means they’ll consume between two and four flakes of hay daily. Locate a reliable source of hay before you get a pony.
Keeping your pony on pasture is a tricky area. This is where many new owners confuse ponies and horses. After all, most horses can subsist quite well on grass, so why shouldn’t ponies be able to? Well, ponies are especially prone to overgrazing, which can easily cause obesity.
Many owners even joke that their ponies get overweight simply by looking at grass! While not to be taken literally, it does highlight the point that ponies need a carefully regulated diet. It’s overall better to keep your pony on a dry lot with hay.
If you keep your pony on pasture, use a grazing muzzle or moderate how much time your pony spends grazing. You can also alternate between a dry lot for primary use and a pasture for a maximum of three or four hours. Reduce the amount of hay your pony consumes if she’s on grass.
Use treats in moderation. These include commercial treats, apples, peppermints, and more. Ponies, like all equines, shouldn’t consume much sugar. So instead of giving your pony a treat as a matter of course, try using treats as an occasional reward.
Your pony also needs constant access to fresh water. Here’s a helpful guide on the hydration needs of equines.
Ponies Need Companionship
Ever see that lonely pony in a small paddock, head lowered, clearly in the dumps? All equines require companionship. Without it, they’re susceptible to depression, increased health issues, and boredom.
Large pony breeds can happily coexist with horses, mules, or large donkeys. Smaller ponies should be kept with a similarly-sized pony, miniature horse, or donkey. Keeping the sizes similar is important to avoid injuries and related veterinary fees.
Annie, my mare, is large enough to safely share a paddock with Indy, our senior Quarterhorse gelding. Shiloh, however, is too small to join them, so he resides with our two miniature horses for companions.
I have heard far too many cases where a pony (or miniature horse) was kept with a larger horse, who spooked and kicked or trampled the smaller equine. In many scenarios, the pony needed immediate care and survived, but euthanasia was the only option in others. It’s incredibly tragic for everyone involved.
You can’t prevent every horrible thing from befalling your furry friends, but you can think of potential scenarios in advance and do your best to avoid them.
Geldings can share a paddock with mares, other geldings, and stallions. Mares often coexist quite well, but it may depend on the individual temperaments of both mares. Mares and stallions shouldn’t live together. Two stallions are also likely prone to fighting, so try to avoid this as well.
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Enjoying the Four Seasons With Ponies
General care might be easy, but what about when the first winter storm rages or a heatwave sweeps over your area? Here are some tips to help you keep your pony safe and healthy during the conditions of all four seasons!
Caring for Ponies in Winter
Most ponies love winter and enjoy frolicking in the snow. Many also do not need a blanket during the colder months. Ponies develop a thick winter coat that holds their body heat. In fact, this is one of the many differences between ponies and horses.
Adequate shelter is a must for ponies. Ensure your pony has shelter from the temperatures, snow, freezing rain, and other weather conditions that accompany the winter season. Keep your pony in the barn when the temperatures plunge or, the paddock becomes an ice rink.
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Spring Pony Care
With winter melting away, the grass begins to newly sprout up. And ponies, of course, get excited at the sight of the green goodness on the other side of the fence. However, for the first few weeks of spring, you should incrementally introduce your pony to grass. If you let him graze all at once, you’ll find yourself with a bloated pony and a potential for laminitis.
You also need to pay special care to your pony’s coat as he sheds in the springtime. I swear that in addition to their thicker coats, my ponies shed before the horses do. Try to groom your pony daily or every other day while she’s shedding.
Pony Care in Summer
Summer brings the scorching heat to ponies. Make sure your pony has 24/7 access to water. This is especially critical during the summer months when there’s a risk of heat exposure. Ponies also require ample shade from the harsh sun. Try to plan multiple points in the paddock that can provide shade.
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Autumn Pony Care
Autumn is a beautiful time of year, but it comes with its challenges for ponies. Mainly, the falling leaves on certain trees contain cyanide, which exposes ponies to cyanide poisoning. I know someone whose horse died from consuming fallen red maple leaves. It can happen to anyone! Take precautions when you’re planning your paddock.
Exercising and Riding Ponies
Newbies to the equine world often mistakenly assume ponies require less exercise than horses. Some articles online may even give you the impression that ponies are essentially pasture potatoes who need little to no training or activity.
This isn’t true! Ponies need daily exercise and regular mental stimulation to keep them in the best health – just like horses do. Regular exercise is vital to avoiding muscle atrophy, obesity, health issues, and behavioral vices that stem from boredom. Even if you cannot ride your pony, there are other fun training activities you can do with her.
Your Pony’s Exercise Needs
Ponies need the same amount of exercise as horses. You should exercise your pony between three to five times per week.
If your pony is out of shape or isn’t accustomed to activity, gradually introduce new exercises in increments. So you might spend ten minutes walking, doing groundwork, or working on another exercise. Repeat the following day, and skip the third day. On the fourth day try fifteen minutes. If that’s working well, then try twenty minutes on the fifth day. You get the idea.
Your pony can get sufficient exercise from:
- Walking in hand: Take your pony for walks! They love the stimulation from experiencing different surroundings, and you’ll both enjoy it. You can take your pony for a stroll around your property, on trails, or by the road. Some beaches even allow equines. Shiloh adores his walks down the road, especially when he’s able to prance and canter. I’m currently working on taking Annie for roadside walks, as well. Always practice safety on the road and stay on the lookout for vehicles, including speeding drivers. Ensure your pony’s lead rope and halter are both secure.
- Lunging: Lunging has many benefits for equines of all ages and sizes. These include settling an excited or nervous horse, improving horse/human communication, building muscles, developing balance, and working off unspent energy. It’s an excellent form of cardio exercise for ponies if done correctly.
- Riding: Regular riding can help your pony stay fit. Hacking in particular is an easy, no-agenda way to keep ponies in shape physically and mentally. However, practicing drills in the arena is also excellent for both the pony and rider.
- Groundwork: Groundwork is a great way to spend time with your pony while increasing his fitness level. You can practice many different activities and exercises from the ground that benefit your pony’s skill undersaddle, too. Liberty training is my favorite method with ponies. You can teach tricks, do free-jumping, and in general have fun from the ground.
- Allowing free movement: The easiest way to exercise your pony is simply to provide free movement space. Ponies love running and playing in their paddocks, especially if you have more than one pony! However, this may not completely fulfill your pony’s daily exercise requirements, so use it in conjunction with other exercises.
Riding Your Pony
You may be looking to buy your child a pony to ride. Ponies are super versatile and can be trained in a variety of equestrian disciplines. These include pleasure, hunter jumping, showjumping, barrel racing, gymkhana, and more! The right pony can be great for providing a solid foundation for your budding equestrian.
Can adults ride ponies? Most large pony breeds around 13-14 hands can safely carry an adult rider below 150lbs without risk. Weight limits are extremely vital to remember! An oversized rider can inadvertently do damage to a pony’s musculoskeletal system and cause other issues. Consult your vet, instructor, or trainer for an individually-tailored opinion.
I can ride my mare Annie – but only bareback. A saddle would add extra weight; my weight alone is just under what she can carry at maximum. I also limit the duration to fifteen-twenty minutes and space rides out across a week to avoid straining her back and muscles. I prioritize her health and safety above riding her.
In most cases, adult riders seeking an equine to ride should choose a horse over a pony. If a horse’s size intimidates you, try a breed such as a Morgan, Icelandic, Gypsy Vanner, or Norwegian Fjord. These horse breeds are compact but strong enough to accommodate many adult riders. Even so, all horses have a maximum weight capacity to carry on their backs, so keep this in mind.
What is the Ideal Horse Riding Weight: By Breed
Health Needs and Common Issues In Ponies
Ponies are often quite hardy, but they are susceptible to several conditions – more than horses and other equines. They also require special care and regular exercise to keep them fit.
One of the most valuable ways to keep your pony in excellent health is to moderate his weight. Ponies that are obese are more likely to experience serious health conditions. You need to carefully regulate her diet and exercise her regularly.
Regular veterinary care is vital, too. A veterinarian can spot and treat issues before they develop into something more serious.
Here are a few of the best ways to keep your pony in the best health:
- Schedule annual checkups with your vet
- Vaccinate your pony
- Deworm every six months
- Provide care from a farrier every six to eight weeks
- Have your pony’s teeth floated every year
- Exercise your pony at least three times per week
There’s a precarious balance to maintaining the right weight. On one hand, you may need to bulk up your pony’s weight, especially for older or rescue ponies. But all too often ponies are alarmingly overweight.
Obesity is nothing to dismiss! It poses several serious health risks, and ponies seem to be particularly prone to obesity. They gain weight easily due to a combination of low metabolism, high food consumption, and a low-exercise lifestyle.
Remember, prevention is always the best strategy. Here are a few ways to prevent your pony from becoming overweight:
- Exercise your pony regularly
- Provide space for free movement
- Regulate your pony’s diet
- Reduce your pony’s grain intake if necessary
- Regularly measure and record your pony’s girth
- Employ a grazing muzzle
- Don’t give your pony sweet feed
- Keep your pony on a dry lot
How to Manage a Fat Horse and Help Him or Her Lose Weight
Unlike in the past, many equines can live comfortably with Cushing’s as long as they’re provided with the right care. Signs of Cushing’s include: thick coats that take too long to shed, lethargy, excessive sweating, muscle loss, and increased drinking and subsequent urination.
It’s difficult to prevent Cushing’s, but you can lower the likelihood of it developing:
- Reduce your pony’s sugar intake
- Moderate your pony’s diet
- Keep your pony at a healthy weight
Colic is a frightening condition, and all equines are susceptible to it. There are varying degrees of severity, from mild to extreme. Some horses experience a little colic that sorts itself out without veterinary intervention. That said, colic is often serious and you should seek veterinary care for your pony immediately if you suspect your pony has colic.
How do you tell? The classic signs of colic include: persistent rolling; looking, scratching, biting, or kicking at the belly and flank area; reduced appetite; and refusal to stand from lying down. It’s always a good idea to learn as much as you can about horse colic so you’re well-prepared to help your pony in case it occurs.
Here are a few ways to prevent colic:
- Exercise your pony regularly
- Provide space for your pony to move freely
- Avoid keeping your pony in a stall
- Don’t feed your pony on sandy ground
- Always provide fresh and clean water for your pony
- Avoid sweet feed
Laminitis is frequently observed in draft horses, smaller and compact horse breeds, and ponies. If you notice that your pony is lame, hesitant to walk, and has inflammation in his feet, you should suspect laminitis. Take your pony to the vet immediately for diagnosis and treatment.
Here are a few tips to help prevent laminitis:
- Avoid overfeeding your pony
- Let your pony adapt slowly to grass
- Store all feed, grain, and hay in a secure place your pony can’t access
- Provide regular hoof care
- Keep your pony at a moderate, healthy weight
Frequently Asked Questions
How much do ponies weigh? Ponies weigh as little as a 300lb Shetland to an 800lb Exmoor. Weight varies greatly in ponies due to different breeds and standards within a breed. For example, a Welsh Section A is smaller than a Welsh Section C.
How long do ponies live? Ponies can live anywhere from 25-45 years! They’re known to frequently exceed the lifespan of most horse breeds. You’ll have many wonderful years with your pony. You can help prolong your pony’s life by providing regular veterinary care and ensuring all of their needs are met.
Are ponies easier than horses to train? In general, ponies are about the same as horses to train but tend to be a bit more stubborn. However, since most ponies aren’t trained for special disciplines, they may have less intensive and thorough training than horses.
Are ponies safer than horses? Don’t assume that a pony’s smaller size makes her completely safe to be around compared to a horse! Ponies can still rear, buck, kick, and bite. Be mindful of your pony’s body language to avoid potential issues, and work on determining the root cause of the behavior. If your pony is engaging in any of the above vices, it’s a good idea to schedule an exam with your vet to rule out preliminary health problems.
What’s the difference between horses and ponies? The main difference between horses and ponies is height. To classify as a pony, a horse must be under 14.2 hands. There are exceptions to this, such as miniature horses. Aside from height, ponies have thicker coats, tend to live longer, have stockier and stronger bodies, and are more likely to experience laminitis, obesity, colic, and Cushing’s.
Can ponies and horses mate? Horses and ponies are capable of crossbreeding and producing fertile offspring. The resulting foal may be classified as a horse or a pony depending on what height he or she grows into.
Are ponies good for beginners? Newbies in the equine world may find ponies easier to care for than horses due to their smaller size and general hardiness. However, ponies require just as much of a commitment as horses do, and they’re still a big responsibility in a small package.
Is a pony a baby horse? Ponies are adult equines, not baby horses. Both baby ponies and horses are called foals.
Ponies are rewarding little equines with big personalities. Adults and children can readily fall in love with them, and ponies offer tremendous benefits to humans, including reduced stress, higher activity, social bonding, and more.
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