Joining the Christmas Pony Club - Points to consider if a pony is top of your child's Christmas list
"Please, mummy... "I will look after him, I promise; he can live in my bedroom..." How many parents have heard this on the run -up to Christmas from a pony - mad child desperate for a pony for Christmas?
At any time, buying a pony for a child requires a great deal of thought. Can you afford not only the pony, but all the consequent costs - livery fees, feed, shoes, wormer, vaccinations, vet's fees, travel and any number of things that are not essential, but fun, such as "bling" browbands, competition entries, Pony Club Camp and the like? Are you convinced that your child does have the necessary long term commitment and realistic views of pony owning? Some have it at age 6; some never get it. Have you the time and energy to be involved and to pick up where a tired child has left off on a cold winter day?
Even if you can tick those boxes, Christmas is not an ideal time to be buying a pony (or any animal). There are not so many for sale, for the very reason that their owners don't want them to go as Christmas gifts, so there is less choice. Grazing is often restricted due to the weather and so the pony will start off being stabled and thus have more energy than you need for a child's first pony. The dark days limit the amount of time you can spend with the pony and can restrict riding time at the weekend. The child itself may be overwhelmed by everything else going on at Christmas and not be able to pay attention to the pony. Short tempers all round!
Although in law, equines are treated as "goods", it's not so easy to return these "goods" when they turn out not to be what you need - there is usually no 28 day return policy. But do note that there are more legal rights against a commercial seller than a private one, though even these can be hard to enforce. If you are buying privately, then do remember it is usually "caveat emptor" - in English, let the buyer beware.
It does pay to do your homework before buying and decide what your child really NEEDS, not wants. If he or she is having lessons, discuss their capabilities with their instructor and get an honest picture. Basic things like are they at a growth spurt stage, such that the pony that is suitable now will be outgrown in six months? Would the pony be saleable if the child lost interest quickly? Could you loan a pony rather than buy?
Suggest to your child that they might like to concentrate on their lessons for a while, or send them on a pony holiday. See if their riding school hires out ponies for a Pony Club rally, or does Pony Days. Then perhaps -just perhaps- if they can show they are ready for a pony of their own - well, who knows........
This blog post first appeared in the December 2014 edition of Lincolnshire Todaymagazine.