Should You Get A Horse For Your Child?

Many children ask for a horse. Is your child ready for this major responsibility? Here are some things to consider.

Getting a horse may seem like the ultimate pet experience for many kids. But most of them don't realize how costly and time-consuming a horse can be. Sometimes, parents don't understand this, either.

If you are thinking of getting your child a horse, here are some things to keep in mind:

1. Where will you keep it? If you already own a property with a solid barn and pasture, this question may be answered. But keep in mind that the pasture needs to be fenced, and the barn may need to be heated in winter. Loose boards or nails will need to be repaired, and you need a storage place for feed as well as trough for water. If you have just a piece of property, the barn and fencing can cost a great deal, so calculate the actual price before making a commitment. And if you board the horse elsewhere, find out what the board fee covers as well as the extra expenses, both monthly and occasional, that you will need to pay.

2. Who will clean the stall? If you own a barn, your child will probably be expected to clean the stall of manure and change the straw, which can be a significant and time-consuming task. Be sure your child understands this ahead of time, because it needs to be done year round, even when winter temperatures drop.

3. How will you pay for the horse's needs? Straw, feed, shoes, vet bills, and equipment can cost a pretty penny. And if your horse gets injured or sick, you will have to pay more for a vet to come and see your horse if you have no trailer to transport it. A saddle, blanket, harness, bridle, and grooming tools can add to the pet's budget. Plan in advance who will pay these costs, and how. If your child says he will, make sure he prepares a budget and shows how his allowance or a part-time or summer job will cover these costs.

4. When will the horse get exercised? You can't keep the horse in the barn all day, every day. It needs fresh air and exercise. Someone will have to let the horse into the pasture and preferably provide exercise by lunging the animal or riding it. Find out in advance whose job this will be and how it will be handled.

5. What is the horse's purpose? Is it for pleasure riding? Are there trails or paths for riding located nearby? If not, where will you ride? Will the horse be used as a 4-H project? How will you transport it to shows? If you plan to show or breed the animal, there are numerous costs to either enterprise. Work out the details on paper so that everyone understands in advance the price tag, both long- and short-term, for horse ownership.

Having a horse can be tremendous fun, good exercise, and relaxing recreation. But an animal this size also poses special challenges. Discuss these with your child over a period of time so that both of you agree on the time, money, and energy that will be expended in taking on a project of this type.

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