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A Pony for Christmas…or Not

The British Horse Society is encouraging parents to think twice before giving the gift of horses this season.

November 30, 2012

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Christmas Pony The notion of giving a child a pony for Christmas is such an enduring one that it’s almost a cliché. It’s not hard to understand why the idea persists. What kid wouldn’t want to wake up Christmas morning to a fuzzy new friend in a big red bow by the Christmas tree? But the British Horse Society (BHS) is warning would-be horse buyers to rethink the idea of making this fantasy a reality.

In a news release on its website, the BHS criticizes the, a British equine classifieds site, for promoting inexpensive horses as ideal Christmas gifts in an email to their subscribers.

"We were so disappointed to see such an irresponsible email coming from Horsemart,” said BHS Senior Welfare Executive Lee Hackett. "A horse is for life, not just for Christmas.”

In recent years, horses have been neglected or abandoned in the countryside in the United Kingdom due to the uncertain economy and irresponsible breeders who can’t or won’t take care of the equines they’ve bred.

This story will resonate with horse lovers in North America who have heard the same thing for the past several years. With equine neglect a persistent problem and most rescue organizations operating at or over capacity, responsible owners understand that a horse is not a purchase to be made on a whim.

The email in question promoted horses under £500 (approximately $800) as "great Christmas presents,” but the purchase price is not the most important financial question when deciding to purchase a horse or pony. With a lifespan of 30 years and expensive food, shelter, health care and shoeing needs, even a free horse becomes an expensive purchase. Furthermore, Horsemart received criticism for including ads for young, untrained colts in the email, suggesting that such horses would be a good gift for children.

"Particularly reprehensible is that the horses shown in the email are all young animals designed to pull at the emotions of unsuspecting buyers,” said Hackett. "These horses would need careful handling from experienced people to develop and prepare for their future. They are most certainly not to be exploited for Christmas.”

For parents wishing to make holiday dreams come true, there are several options more responsible and sustainable than becoming a horse owner.

  • Riding lessons are an ideal gift for any aspiring equestrian. Children (and novice adults) should learn proper horse care and develop solid riding basics before having a horse of their own, and riding lessons are a good first step.

  • For a rider with a few years of lessons under her belt, leasing or half-leasing a horse is a good introduction to ownership, but without the lifelong commitment. A lease allows for more saddle time and offers a taste of the work involved in horse ownership. If the child decides that it’s not for her, the parents won’t be stuck with a pony to unload.

  • Many families have opted to make charitable donations instead of giving tangible gifts. Consider making a donation to a local equine rescue. Visiting the rescue later will help illustrate the value of charitable giving while demonstrating why it’s so important to be a responsible horse owner.

The BHS encourages those with the resources and knowledge to properly care for a horse to contact a reputable rescue to help find the right equine partner.

Further Reading
The Hidden Costs of Horse Ownership
Horse Cost Calculator

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A Pony for Christmas…or Not

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Reader Comments

April    International

2/4/2013 7:33:27 PM

I totally agree with "NOT" giving a horse for Christmas. Because they are as they say:"For Life!" Whether it be yours or the horses, they both can AND will be a financial and emotional challenge! ALWAYS-ALWAYS-ALWAYS DO YOUR HOMEWORK-DO "ALOT" OF RESEARCH of whats out there "BEFORE" investing in a "LIFE TIME" of devotion of your whole being(physically-mentally-emotionally-financially)- . Horse Neglect/Abuse/Abandonment is "NOT A JOKE"--"ITS VERY VERY REAL." I'm a horse lover and I cry very hard when I see what the simplest of common sense could've done to save many of them from suffering! My suggestion for those people would be for them to go out and find a "PET ROCK!" At least there's no punishable crime for discarding a "pet rock" and a "pet rock" won't die from malnurishment or maltreatment.

K    North Florida, FL

12/19/2012 12:51:52 PM

I totally agree, most people think that having a horse is like having a dog or cat. but real truth is that they are alot more expensive to take care of and when the time comes for a vet call or extra hay and feed, they cant afford the cost AND the Horse suffers.

Someone    Someplace, MN

11/30/2012 3:43:55 PM

Good article. It's true that a lot of people don't understand what they are in for when getting a horse, sadly.

kygal    rural, KY

11/30/2012 12:49:33 PM

good advice the price of buying a horse is minimal to the cost of keeping the horse happy and healthy and some are just not ready for the responsiblilty good article

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