Thursday, January 22, 2015

Pony verses Horse: What's better for my child?

Finding a hobby that the entire family enjoys can be difficult.

And no, staring at the television does not count.

Brock would love it if the entire family spent our free time at SASS (Single Action Shooting Society) events. I vetoed that immediately. I don't think spending my Saturdays hanging out with old, handle-bar mustached men dressed in old west garb, shooting guns around my kids sounds like a dreamy day. CALL ME CRAZY. (Sorry to all my SASS readers, I'm sure you're not actually as old as you appear.)

Thing 1 would love it if the entire family traveled by airplane to all of the amusement parks in the U.S. and bought every toy ever made! Sorry buddy. No.

Thing 2 would love our hobby to be playdates, playdates and more playdates with his buddies. So sweet, that one. All I can say is that there is a reason I only had two children and never became a teacher- it's because two children is my maximum for a drug-free existence.

And since no one shares my desire to spend all of their free time sitting quietly, sipping antioxidants and reading, I picked horses.

So we have decided that our family "hobby" is horses!

In all seriousness, Brock and I initially bonded over our mutual love of horses. He owned two spoiled, sour things (one couldn't be bridled and the other couldn't be ridden- SUPER NEAT) and I had a perfect, 3 year old named Gus. Did I mention he was perfect? And handsome.

Gus-being handsome- and me in South Dakota.

Now that the kids are out of diapers and into learning and doing stuff without the need for 435 bulky baby accouterments, we have definitely picked back up on the horses.

Last summer, after riding three times every week, both boys progressed considerably with their horsemanship. We ended the summer by taking a family horse camping vacation in South Dakota. While we all had a really good time, I couldn't help but think that it would have been better (as in, we could have kept up with the group instead of falling behind and keeping pace with snails) if the boys would have been riding full sized horses instead of short-legged ponies. With the next summer coming up, Brock and I need to make some big decisions about what our family hobby looks like. By that, I mean, do we buy the boys horses or keep them on ponies?

What is a better fit for my children?
What is the best fit for our family?

Any horse parent has been confronted with this question. Horses? Or ponies?
When in doubt, make a list. Here are my lists of general* pros and cons for ponies verses horses.

* Of course every animal is unique and different, but I am generalizing for the sake of ease. Plus, stereotyping is fun and a real time-saver! 


  1. Considerably cheaper to feed. Horses need to consume 2-5% of their body weight in forage. Our 16hh horses weigh approximately 1,200 pounds, requiring a minimum of 24 pounds of  hay per day, per horse. My horses are not easy keepers and require more than that to look healthy. In essence, we feed 1.5 bales of hay total per day to the two horses (the currents bales we buy weigh approximately 55 pounds and cost $8.50 PER BALE= ~$383/month in hay alone for two horses). This does not include grain, supplements, medicine, veterinary or farrier costs. Ponies weigh half of that, and the feed is substantially less because they are the ultimate "easy keepers"- in fact, we have to be careful not to overfeed our ponies because they both have a history of founder. 
  2. Less expensive to keep in general (vet and farrier expenses- Brock does all their hoof work).
  3. Less manure to clean= less trips I take to the chiropractor!
  4. Lower height puts children closer to the ground when, not if, the child falls.
  5. Ridiculously adorable, can be sweet (DUKE) and easy to groom.
  6. Builds child's confidence with grooming, saddling and mounting. Thing 1 can catch, groom and saddle his pony all by himself.
  7. Fluffy. So very fluffy!
  8. Those tiny ears. Super cute! OMG! THEY'RE SO ITTY BITTY!
  9. Live long time. Very long time. We had two ponies in their 40's. Duke is 28. 
Duke after he rubbed his face into the snow.


  1. Slower walk- difficult to keep them paced with horses.
  2. Bumpier trot (Thing 2 always complains of tummy aches when he rides).
  3. Low height puts children at higher risk of being kicked by other horses.
  4. Burro-like stubbornness.
  5. Hard to lead, Hard to rein.
  6. Bad pony-tude (CLYDE).
  7. Can be frustrating for kids.


  1. Often well-mannered.
  2. Easy to rein.
  3. Walks at a pace of other horses.
  4. High off ground, better for trail riding through creeks and over rough terrain.
  5. Smoother gaits.
  6. Safer around other horses.
  7. Can loan out to my adult friends.
  8. Can personally ride and correct attitude, if needed.

  1. Eats more.
  2. Poops more.
  3. Costs more in every way.
  4. Higher off ground, making inevitable falls more dangerous.
  5. Not as adorable as a pony.
  6. Bigger, which can be more dangerous for little people.
  7. Bombproof, proven trustworthy kid horses are often elderly, requiring expensive specialty care and feed.

I think the answer is clear: I still have no freaking idea.

I like to include the kids on our big discussions and decisions, so I asked Thing 2 for his opinion. He said he wants to ride Duke around the backyard and a big horse on the trail. So it seems the solution is clear: HAVE ALL OF THE THINGS!

It's the same answer to all of my problems in life. MORE MONEY. Then we can keep ponies for fun in the backyard and for petting and adoring purposes, and get horses for trail riding. Bam! Thing 2 is so smart. I'm totally letting him do my taxes this year.

What would you do?

Those of you who say "Get a different hobby" are disqualified. Horses are in our blood- there's no changing that fact. It's like me insisting that I'm not a mouthy smartass.

For those of you in the same boat, good luck with your decision!

Peace, Love and Money Trees,


  1. Compromise between the two...get a large pony. Mine is the easiest, cheapest, keeper ever, and easily keeps up with/passes bigger horses. She prefers being a mile ahead, actually.

    1. Clyde (the Palomino) is a large pony. I can actually ride him (and have) when he is being a turd ball. He's slow though! And rough. So rough. But we love him!

  2. Seriously, I want to come live with you. Is 48 too old to be adopted by a loving family with horsies?? I've told you this before and I'll say it again, I love your writing.

    1. I'll totally adopt you! You have to move to Colorado though. Deal?
      And thank you. I love your writing as well and I think you're swell. :)