Call it the “mommy, I want a pony” effect – there are few horse-lovers of any age who don’t wish for a horse or pony of their very own, and many began dreaming of it when they were very young. After all, owning a horse – caring for it, learning and growing with it, and developing the unique bond of a horse and its rider – has been celebrated in countless books and movies as the pinnacle of riding. Yet depending on the rider, sometimes buying a horse isn’t the best course of action, particularly if they’re young or inexperienced. There are both positives and negatives to owning your own horse rather than riding the stable’s horses when you’re still learning, and each must be considered before starting your search for the perfect pony.

“Too Much Horse” Or Not Enough?

Buying an inexperienced horse that can learn with you is a romantic notion up until the point that reality hits; riding a young, under-trained horse takes a certain level of skill, and riders who lack that experience may find the experience difficult or even frightening. Horses also pick up bad habits easily, and the dream of you and your horse teaching each other might end with both of you learning the wrong things. Lesson horses, on the other hand, are familiar with beginners, so that their riders can focus on themselves and their own training. It can also be helpful for new riders to work with several horses while they’re still learning, to avoid indulging in any one horse’s idiosyncrasies or bad habits.

There’s also the possibility of “growing out” of your first horse. This isn’t a bad thing, as it means that you’re progressing and learning, but it can still be a wrench. Young riders may also hit a growth spurt and suddenly need a horse, not a pony, in order to ride comfortably. It’s possible to avoid or delay this prospect by waiting to buy your first horse, as the learning curve is sharpest when first learning to ride. Even a short period of time can make a difference in what kind of horse you want to ride, and whether you’ll still want to ride that horse a few years down the line.

Knowledge And Money

The responsibility of owning their own horse can help young riders understand the value of hard work and the importance of taking good care of other living beings. However, owning a horse requires specialized knowledge that can be difficult to acquire, making it a difficult – if deeply rewarding – experience for everyone from the youngest to the most experienced rider. Horse owners must be familiar with the needs of their animal, from the signs of illness or pain to what kind of feed is required throughout the year. Learning these things can be part of the joy of horse ownership, but it is still something to keep in mind before looking for your first horse.

Although everyone knows that owning a horse is an expensive proposition, it still bears repeating. Budgeting for a horse is more like budgeting for a toddler than a dog; due to their size and purpose, the bills can add up quickly.  Speak to horse owners in your area to get an idea of the costs, and remember that the initial cost of buying your horse is likely to be the smallest amount you’ll pay over the long term. In addition to the obvious costs (such as boarding, feed, shoeing, and veterinary care), owners must also purchase a variety of tack and other supplies, prepare for financial or medical emergencies, and dental care. Insurance can provide a cushion for unexpected costs, but it’s the day-to-day bills which can be overwhelming in the long run. Of course, depending on how often you ride and whether you want to make riding a major part of your life, the costs of ownership can be weighed against the costs of riding stable horses.

Owning a horse can be a rich and rewarding experience, but it’s a responsibility that deserves a great deal of consideration before taking the plunge. By staying aware of the difficulties inherent in horse-ownership, and waiting to find the right horse at the right time, it’s possible to avoid the pitfalls experienced by many first-time horse owners.