Should You Buy Your Child A Pony?

December 17, 2022

Hi, I'm Paige, half of the duo behind Fairway Stables™

This website is the one I've been searching for, for years; a compilation of knowledge on all things horsemanship, including practical advice on how to start an equestrian business.

No matter your experience level with horses or homesteading, I hope this is a place you can get lost in, and learn something along the way - we welcome everyone from vets, to lifelong ranchers, trainer, to nonprofits contributing.


A pony can make a great companion for your child. Not only does their small size appeal to children, but they also serve as a good introduction to horse ownership and horse riding. However, if your little one’s been begging for a pony, there are two important things to know before you go out and buy your child a horse. 

First, you need to know that like people, all horses are individuals. Not every pony is going to be a suitable companion for your child. Another thing to keep in mind, as your child grows, they may grow out of their interest in horses. Horses are a long-term commitment, so you want to make sure your child is genuinely interested in a pony.

We’ve compiled everything you need to know to manage this long-term relationship between your child and a pony. Read on to find out if buying your child a pony is the right thing for your family, schedule, and budget.

Table of Contents:

Should You Buy Your Child a Pony?
Should You Buy Your Child a Pony?

Should you buy your child a pony?

How do you decide if your child’s wish to have a pony is worth the work that goes into caring for one? After all, a pony could become your child’s best friend, or they may quickly lose interest. Here’s some things that can guide your decision.

Ponies are individuals.

First and foremost, all horses are individuals. Just like humans, they each have their own personalities and tendencies. While breeds and age can play a role in demeanor, you need to keep in mind that they may not be compatible with your children. 

So how can you tell if they are right for your kid? When you go to meet a pony, request to walk with it and take a test ride. This will give you a chance to see how the pony behaves inside and outside its normal paddock. While you are interacting for the horse, look for the following red flags:

If the pony is…

  • Under 10 years of age
  • Untrained or “green”
  • Bucking, biting, rearing, or trying to run from you
  • Easily spooked
  • Clearly uncomfortable around kids
  • Hot-headed or stubborn
  • A stallion. (Their temperament is generally not suitable for being around children.)

…then this is probably not the pony you should buy for your child. If possible, bring your trainor or another knowledgeable and neutral party to this meeting. They will help you pick up on these traits. If that’s not possible, ask for their advice and any additional things to avoid.

You will greatly increase your chances of successfully finding the right fit if the prospective pony exhibits the following traits:

  • Older than 10 years
  • Gelding or mare
  • Very well-trained and frequently ridden (test the disciplines the seller says they have training in)
  • Quiet, open, and receptive
  • Physically and mentally healthy (Use the quick pasture check techniques discussed earlier!)
  • Enjoys being around children and is generally friendly

Also think about how the pony’s personality meshes with your child. If your kid is outgoing and excitable around animals, then a shy pony may not be a good fit. However, a shy child could develop a deep bond with a pony that is more quiet and loyal. Determining compatible personalities is another great topic to ask your trainer for input on.

Ask for more information

Look, I have been in the equestrian world since childhood. Call me biased, but horse people are just good people! But, it is an unfortunate reality that some sellers are more worried about getting a horse off their hands than helping you find the perfect equine companion for your child.

How do you make sure you are dealing with a reliable seller when trying to buy your child a pony? Ask questions! Make a list of questions to ask when going to look at a pony. (We’ve listed some good ones below.) Just be respectful when you ask. Most horse owners will be happy to answer your questions; they don’t want you to end up with a horse that’s not right for you any more than you do!

What to ask:

  1. Why are they selling?
  2. How long have they owned the pony? Who did they get it from?
  3. If it’s a rescue (specifically, if it comes from abuse or neglect), does it have any triggers that need special attention from a more experienced owner?
  4. In their opinion, what personality would best compliment the pony’s?
  5. What habits does the pony have? Does it buck, rear, bite, or bolt for no reason?
  6. Does the pony spook easily?
  7. How would they describe the pony’s personality?
  8. Who rides the pony and how often? Are they suitable for beginner riders?
  9. Does the pony enjoy being around children? Have they had negative experiences with children in the past?
  10. Who has trained the pony and for how long? Is it trained in a certain discipline? Can the pony walk, trot, and canter undersaddle and on the ground? Is the pony dominant or submissive?
  11. How does the pony act around other horses and other species? Are they herd-sour? Have they interacted with goats, sheeps, etc? Are they a bully to other animals?
  12. Is the pony up-to-date on all of its shots? What is their health history? Who is the vet? How do they behave during vet visits, grooming, etc.?

If any of these answers come up negative, ask a second opinion from a trusted trainer or vet. It’s usually best to err on the side of caution and avoid ponies that don’t seem like a good fit. Especially because you are looking to buy your child a pony.

Even if you find the sweetest, most well-behaved pony, remember that all ponies can pose a risk. While ponies are usually much safer around kids than horses, they are still powerful creatures and unintentional injuries can be serious. This is why due diligence is so important for finding a mature, well-trained pony.

Note: With all this said, don’t rule out rescue ponies! Responsible horse rescue organizations will work with you to find a great match. They are invested in finding a great home for their horses, meaning they won’t just be looking to pawn off a horse on someone who isn’t as suited to them.

Children must be taught how to interact with ponies. This way, they can be informed about what body language cues they are sending and avoid spooking or overwhelming their pony. And, even if your child is trained in appropriate manners around horses, supervision is necessary. Never leave your young children alone with a pony, especially if they’re a recent addition. Always take extra precaution and be present when your child is riding a pony.

Remember the timeline of this commitment

When buying a pony, you are making a long-term commitment, both of your personal time and your finances. This is why you need to do your due diligence outlined above before pulling the trigger on buying your child a pony.  

In addition to thoroughly researching the requirements of owning and buying a pony, think about if your child is ready for this commitment. Make sure that they will not be bored of their new friend as soon as you bring them home.

Ask yourself:

  • Is your child interested in learning more about horses? 
  • Do they ask to be involved with tasks like grooming and tacking when at their lessons? 
  • Have they been going to riding lessons for a year or longer? 
  • How long have they been wanting a pony? What brought about their interest in ponies? Was it a movie or a friend with a new pet? 
  • Have they asked for other pets in the past, only to get bored of them when the chores aren’t so fun anymore? 
  • Do you find yourself repeatedly asking your child to take care of responsibilities related to other pets?

It’s inevitable that your child is going to outgrow their pony. Physically, they will outgrow the horse and they will advance in skill levels. But, ponies average a 25-35 year lifespan. So, when your child has out grown their first pony, what will you do? Will you keep the pony, and add a new horse to the family? Could you lease or sell the pony to someone else? 

Even if your child is no longer riding their pony, they will always be a special companion. But, consider that regardless of your child’s growth, a pony needs regular exercise to stay healthy and not get bored. In other words, it pays to think about the long-term. That way, you are not blindsided when your child outgrows your carefully researched pony in just a few years.

How much time should you spend with your pony?

This is a common question that comes up when purchasing a pony.  Aside from daily care (feedings), how much time should you expect to allocate to your horse every day? 

A common misconception is that ponies can be beautiful yard ornaments- which is true, to some extent. However, ponies aren’t a “passive” pasture animal in the way, say, sheep may be. This will of course be fact-dependent on the horse itself. For example, a highly active pony used to riding will need different attention than a retired pony, of course. 

Ponies need interaction daily. the less time you spend with your horse, the more this reinforces bad behavior, and undoes training. A good rule of thumb? Plan on spending extra time with your pony in the mornings and evenings during feeding times. This is also a great time to do a quick pasture check to try to catch any signs of illness. 

When it comes to “interacting”, your horse’s personality, training, and use will determine how often you should ride. For example, a well-trained leisure pony can get away with riding less frequently. The success of a younger pony, on the other hand, is related to consistency. 

If you feel like your pony needs an additional companion, you could consider adding another animal into the mix. Equines are herd animals, but at the same time, they’re individuals. Some ponies simply don’t get along well with other horses. Often, it can even be dangerous to keep your pony with other horses because  their size difference raises the potential for accidental injury. But, if they don’t have any company, you will begin to see a deterioration in their attitude, depression and mental health as time goes on; the stress of which can directly impact their GI system. 

With that being said, ponies are funny in that they have preferences on other animals they are with. For example, there are stories of some famous racehorses, such as Man O’War, who refused to be in the same pasture with another horse, but adopted a goat or a chicken as a stall companion. 

One of my own horses has been historically difficult with others in his own breed, and has always chosen instead to spend his time with our dogs. In short, your pony shouldn’t be all alone. Even if you don’t have the capacity to bring on another pony, consider giving them access to a companion such as a dog, cat, sheep, etc. They’re herd animals by nature! 

As a final note, just going out to pet your pony for a minute or two each day probably won’t cut it. Every interaction with your pony is, on some level, a negotiation. It’s an opportunity to gently course-correct, and to strengthen manners and training. Maintaining this training is key to keeping your child safe as they interact with their pony.

What basic equipment do you need when you buy your child a pony?

Don’t make it complicated: it’s easy to blur the line between “need” and “want”. Should you buy your child a pony, you need to start with the following bare minimum:

  1. General care: a hoof pick (you must clean your ponies feet daily to prevent avoidable, but dangerous conditions), a halter, a lead rope, and a brush (you should regularly brush your pony, not just for bonding purposes, but to clean out dirt that could result in hot spots under a saddle). No, you don’t actually need the hoof polish, mane and tail brushes, etc that you may think you need. Starting with the bare basics is key. 
  2. Tack: in other words, the equipment you need to ride your pony. First, is your pony trained in the western or English discipline? Its tack will be based accordingly. Plan on buying a saddle pad, saddle, bridle, and girth, as well as boots and helmets for your child.  
  3. Miscellaneous: Again, talk to your vet about this, but if you are in a cold climate, you should absolutely consider having a proper blanket for your pony. Many factors play into when you need to blanket them (i.e., age, breed), but in general, 30 degrees is a good rule of thumb when they do not have a place to shelter from the elements. In addition, consider getting a fly sheet and/or fly mask for your pony.

Where will you keep your child’s pony?

What will your pony call home? Will you board it or house it on your own property? If you are boarding your horse, make sure you are legally protected. 

It is extremely important that you use a boarding contract, so that if anything unforeseen happens while boarding, you are legally protected. Whether you board your pony with a professional or a friend, a boarding contract will determine who is liable when accidents happen. You can read more about what needs to be in your boarding contract here.

What if you want to keep your new horse on your own property? This is a great option if you have the space. Even though ponies are small, they need space to run to maintain both physical and mental health. On a dry lot, we’re looking for a minimum of 72-144 square feet of leg room. 

Remember, just because a pony fits in your backyard, doesn’t mean they will be happy there. If you don’t have space for a pony, you should not get a pony. A word to the wise: bored, cramped ponies may find entertainment breaking out of their pin.

Make sure you have a shelter such as a run-in shed. This is essential for shielding your horse from the elements. Just make sure that your run-ins face east-west instead of north-south. Read What Should You Do with Horses During a Storm? for more shelter advice.

Managing property when your buy your child a pony

If you have adequate space for a pony, make sure you keep it clean and clear, and just generally pleasant for your pony. Follow these management tips for a well-kept paddock.

Your Pony’s Dietary Needs

You first need to decide what feeding method you will be relying on. Are you actively riding, or do you have a horse that needs dietary supplements? You’ll probably need to employ a mixture of both grain/hay and grazing. 

Ponies in particular are more prone to every horse owner’s worst fear: colic, which can be directly tied to overeating. To reduce the chances of overeating, an area with less grass is preferable. Especially for ponies whose child companions have outgrown riding them and are getting less activity. 

In addition, you should work closely with your vet to determine how much time they should have unrestricted access to grazing. The cornerstone of being an adequate horse owner is understanding your horse’s GI needs, as this will drive the majority of decisions you will make regarding their care. 

Management of Manure

Not the most pleasant to think about, but critical nonetheless: how are you going to manage waste? When planning out your horse facility, account for how you will manage manure. If your pony is kept in a smaller area, it will need more attention in this department. You don’t want your pony being forced to graze near or walk in manure if it’s run out of clean space.

What other structures will be on the property? 

To begin, horses should always have some sort of protection from elements, such as a run-in shed. But what about those other structures you may need? Consider where and how you will store hay (out of the elements), as well as space for a barn, if needed. 

Another important infrastructure element? Fencing. Make sure you have a secure fence along all perimeters of the paddock with lockable gates. You have a legal duty to contain your horses. When I was young and we first moved to our property, we weren’t aware that one of our horses was an escape artist who knew how to open gates. But legally, it was our responsibility to keep the horse in the paddock. If you are building a fence, make sure you familiarize yourself with setback laws that dictate where you can build.

When you think of horses, you probably think of them grazing on an open pasture right? Well, it might be surprising to know that this isn’t always the ideal environment for a pony. Your pony’s individual GI needs should be evaluated by a veterinarian to help you make informed decisions about your horse’s grazing. This is because the nutritional value of grass changes with grass types, time of year, and even the amount of sunshine on a given day. Check out our article about safe grazing to learn more.

If you are welcoming a new pony to your property, it’s very important that you check these areas for plants that could be toxic to your new companion. Not only will you need to check your pasture for these harmful plants, but you may want to consider freeing your entire property of especially noxious species. 

If you end up with a horse that’s an escape artist like mine, you’ll have more peace of mind knowing that they won’t find a toxic snack if (or more like when) they wander out of their fenced area and onto the rest of your property… Read up on what plants to watch out for as a first-time horse owner here.

The horse industry is seriously affected by  zoning laws. City-dwellers moving to the country to escape city life are not usually familiar with horses and other farm animals, and they don’t always appreciate having them as neighbors. This is typically where zoning conflicts begin and it can end up as a dispute at the local government level. 

To avoid these zoning conflicts and to be prepared if they do happen, anyone with farm animals on their property should get familiar with zoning laws. This might seem like a tall order, but we have broken down everything you need to know in this article

You will also need warning signs on your property to reduce the risk of injury and associated liability. Ponies are such cute animals, especially to children. So, don’t be surprised if  you have some curious kiddos wandering up to pet your pony. If you have done your research, your pony is probably well-tempered around children. However, not all children are trained in proper etiquette around horses and accidents can happen.

If your horses are near a lot of people, like in a neighborhood, it is smart to have signs telling people, especially children, that they can’t enter your property and ride your horse. These signs need to be in a prominent place, clearly visible, and easy to read. More tips for warning signs can be found here.

What Should You Feed Your Pony?

As stated, the cornerstone of equine health is proper management of their GI needs. Equine ulcers and colic are serious conditions that can arise quickly. Even if you are an experienced horse owner, do your due diligence to ensure you’re aware of how ponies’ needs differ from horses. For example, the alfalfa hay a heavy-performance horse may require to appropriately keep its energy levels up may very well colic your backyard friend.

The best course of action is to always discuss your pony’s best care with your veterinarian, as the needs of each one will vary. Many ponies, if ridden moderately, require a mixture of grain and hay (along with supplements). The majority of your pony’s nutritional needs will come from “roughage” (grass or hay), rather than the grain, as their digestive system is designed to utilize this form of nutrition. 

Allowing your pony to get too skinny or too overweight can quickly result in more serious problems, such as gastric ulcers, colic, and navicular problems. In general, keep the following rules of thumb in mind:

  1. Ensure that your pony has “roughage” to eat- grass, hay, etc.
  2. Do not feed immediately before or after exercise. When blood flow is diverted from the GI system, your risk of colic rises.
  3. If you’re giving your pony grain, don’t give a day’s worth at once. Remember, wild horses get their nutrients from a day’s worth of grazing; your horse is the same, in a way. Giving your pony too much grain at once can inhibit their digestive system. 
  4. Keep seasonal factors in mind: in the winter, you may need to supplement more hay, as your pony will naturally not have as much grass to graze on. 
  5. If you need to change a food schedule/type, do so gradually. If switching grain, begin by switching 25% of the new grain with old every few days, so that your pony’s GI system has time to adjust. 
  6. Horses love routine. You’ll quickly find that your pony’s internal body clock is spot-on, and they will adopt regular daily routines. Try to feed within the same window of time each morning and night. While there’s no hard and fast rule on how much variance that window provides for, know that colic-prone horses like ponies won’t be able to handle sporadic feeding schedules.

Finding the right community and professionals for your pony

Surrounding yourself with a knowledgeable community will be incredibly useful to you, should you buy your child a pony. Even if your child isn’t actively riding their pony, their horse will still require daily attention….and they’re prone to test you from time to time. Finding a strong community can help you.

Finding a veterinarian when you buy your child a pony

How do you find a good vet? If you have an instructor, ask him/her first, and then reach out to other horse owners you know. A knowledgeable vet will be your best friend as a horse owner, and the first person you should hire. 

Aside from the GI concerns mentioned above, your pony will inevitably encounter injuries at some point, and you should have a go-to contact in those scenarios. In addition, your pony is going to require annual vaccinations and regular dental care from your veterinarian

Do not buy a pony without performing a vet check first. This is an absolutely crucial step in ensuring you’re making a prudent decision.  Unfortunately, it’s all too common for some less than adequate horse owners to sell a pony, knowingly hiding health conditions. 

A vet will be able to detect health conditions that could manifest to bigger issues in the future, take care of necessary procedures such as your horse’s Coggins, and more. If you’re located in NE Oklahoma, I cannot recommend Tulsa Equine highly enough. 

An additional note: if you have a purebred pony, ask your veterinarian about getting them registered on their breed register. 

Finding a farrier when you buy your child a pony

Ponies’ hooves grow much like a human’s fingernails. In the wild, hooves are naturally filed down by running across rocks, etc, but in captivity, your pony will need regular hoof care. This will include regular trimmings (typically, every 6 weeks), and in some cases, shoes (required most often in ponies who are being ridden actively, have sensitive feet, etc). 

If GI problems are the #1 concern of horse care, hoof care is a close second. A pony’s hoof is much more delicate than one would expect. Proper long term care of their feet will have a direct effect on their longevity. For example, in horses with navicular issues, ensuring that his/her heels are properly lifted could be the difference between them being able to walk, or becoming crippled.

Finding a trainer when you buy your child a pony

I’ve saved this professional for last simply because you must have a veterinarian and farrier in order to keep your pony healthy. But in order for you to maintain your equine knowledge, I cannot stress the importance of finding a trainer enough. Being a horse owner means you are constantly learning, and you should always attempt to widen your own knowledge; particularly if your child is a beginner rider. Your trainer will become an invaluable resource not just for your child’s riding skills, but for horse ownership in general.

When looking for a good trainer, safety should always be the first priority. Ask equestrians in your community for recommendations, but don’t take the easy way out. For example, if you have a young child that wants to ride, finding a trainer who is willing to “overlook” laws regarding how young a child may start riding is an indicator that they are willing to cut corners. When it comes to owning horses, safety is paramount, and a wise trainer will be one of the best investments you can make. 

Estimating professional care cost when you buy your child a horse

Note: all prices listed below are estimates based upon general market rates in Oklahoma

General costs:General vaccinations:

Farm calls:

Suggested “rainy day” fund: 
General care: Will require trimming every 6-8 weeks (dependent upon how quickly hooves grow)
Trimming alone: appx. $30-$50 per horse.
Shoes: not necessary for every horse; more usual in performance horses, or those with sensitive feet.
Cost: appx. $50-$100 (for specialty shoes)
Expect lessons to cost anywhere from $50-$100 per lessons (not including boarding costs, or horse shows). Group lessons will typically be on the lower end ($50), while private lessons are typically double. Note: these prices will of course be extremely geographically dependent.
Total:Appx. _____Appx. based on 6 weeks:
Trimming: appx. $260-$430 annually per horse
Shoes: $430-$860 annually per horse
Total: $690-$1290 annually 
Weekly:  $2600-$5200 annually 
Bi-weekly: $5200-$10,400
Numbers based upon general lessons (not speciality); not inclusive of  horse show, etc

Equine Insurance

Speaking of health concerns, highly consider equine insurance. For a small amount a year, you will be insured against those scenarios where your pony accidentally hurts someone. Accidents are bound to happen and a strong insurance policy can protect you from having to pay out of pocket in the case of lawsuits or when an affected party’s insurance comes calling. 

Your pony will inevitably get hurt or sick. Even first-time horse owners know that horse injuries can get expensive quickly. Insurance companies who deal primarily with equestrians are skilled in knowing exactly what to provide. This will provide incredibly important protection for you, your pony, and your family. Connaway & Associates, Inc., is a wonderful company I’ve used for years. Read Do You Need Equine Insurance For Your Horse? to find out what to look for in an equine insurance policy.


If you are wondering should you buy your child a pony, and feeling overwhelmed with the information here, take your time. The biggest takeaway is that you should not rush into this decision. Take the time to  make sure you have the right space. Do you have the budget for regular grooming and vet visits? Does your child have a lasting interest in a pony that will be around long after they’ve outgrown riding it? 

Slowing down to consider all these factors is so important. When you are ready to buy your child a pony, know that Fairway Stables is here to offer a wealth of information on horsemanship and countless articles to prepare you for what’s to come. 

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