Why I’m Never Getting My Daughter A Pony

Last week, my daughter and I had the pleasure of spending a week in my beloved home state of Colorado. We were visiting my dad and step-mom, two incredible people who own and operate Ruby Ranch Horse Rescue, a non-profit dedicated to bettering the lives of horses in and around El-Paso county. It’s a beautiful ranch, nestled within the rolling hills of the Eastern Colorado plains, where countless horses have been lovingly cared for and nursed back to health after falling victim to circumstances beyond their control.

Being there I am always amazed by the peaceful resiliency of animal spirit, and it has been a true joy to witness the rehabilitation of so many wonderful creatures over the years. Watching these horses transform from shadows of themselves, to full-bodied, full-spirited, whole animals time and time again is nothing short of miraculous. It is also why I can say with 100% certainty, I will never get my daughter a pony.

Don’t get me wrong, I love horses. They are elegant, engaging, smart and kind. They are personable and powerful, quirky and fun. Looking deep into their glossy brown eyes, their velvety muzzle tickling my palm for cookies, I can’t help but feel grounded by the pull of their serene nature. I want this experience for my daughter, I really do. But I will not facilitate it at the cost of another creature’s wellbeing.

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“Give me all the cookies.”

Does that sound dramatic? It should. All too often, horses -and other animals, though that is another soap-box for another time- fall victim to uneducated peoples good intentions. Kid wants a pony? No problem. Until a few years down the road you discover the pony has a ligament problem, or a tooth problem, or an attitude problem. Or maybe the kid goes to school, or decides they like ice skating instead. Then what happens to pony? Does pony sit in a stall, day after day, waiting for someone to let her out? Does pony stay in a paddock somewhere, longing for the company of another horse? Do you give pony to someone who also doesn’t know how to treat pony’s ligament problem, further delaying necessary treatment to keep pony comfortable? Or do you sell pony at auction, where she is shipped to Mexico to spend her last days on the floor of a slaughter-house?

If this seems unrealistic, let me assure you it isn’t. All day, every day, Ruby Ranch receives phone call after phone call from people looking to unload their once treasured pets. Some reasons are understandable- a death in the family, or an illness that has left someone unable to care for their horse. Others seem to fall under what I will kindly call the “accidentally uneducated” category, which is what leads me to this rant.

It is inexcusable to knowingly take on the responsibility of another creatures life, without fully understanding the ins and outs of their day-to-day needs.

It’s that simple. I love horses, but I don’t know how to take care of them. Bringing a horse into our family, regardless of how good our intentions are, would ultimately be terrible for the horse. Love, as it turns out, isn’t enough to keep anything healthy and happy forever.

I’ll be the first to admit, I have a bit of a biased perspective on this. Ruby Ranch, being a horse rescue, more often than not sees the worst of the worst. Horses literally starved to death, or so poorly cared for they require humane euthanasia after a vet visit, and a chance to fill up their empty stomachs. To see this level of abuse with the frequency they do absolutely breaks your heart. But I also know that for every starved, neglected horse out there, there are any number of horses being loved and cared for properly by people of all ages. These people get it. They have made a commitment of their time, money, energy and love, and do their part in creating a proper home for their horse.

Until my daughter can fully grasp this concept and make that commitment, we will remain a horse-free family. In the mean time, to get her horse fix she can volunteer at a stable, or take lessons to learn about how to care for a horse, and use those experiences to decide if she does really want to take on that kind of responsibility further on down the road. And there’s always Papa and Gramma’s ranch, though if she’s anything like me this may just lead her to love them from afar.

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We’ve got some time before we really need to have this chat…

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24 comments

  1. Looked at the heading on this & thought oh oh! But its a really well-written, intelligent comment on the whole “lets get our kid a horse” thing. I agree – I also have seen many people who think it would be “cool” to have a horse and they had not a single clue as to the care of that animal. If they were fortunate enough to have other people (experienced horse people) that they listened & learned from – things turned out well – for them & the horse. But then there are the other kind who don’t listen – and the horse suffers for it.
    Good idea to let your kid learn what it takes to really care for a horse – or any other animal – and don’t make a gift of an animal to anyone without the experience to care for it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey thanks! I appreciate you taking the time to read it, and saying the kind things you said. It’s a fine line, trying to advocate for healthy horse ownership, but not scaring away a novice who has good intentions but no education. I agree with what you said about people being around the right people, and eventually becoming great owners. It can absolutely happen that way. Here’s to hoping this piece reaches even one person, and makes a tiny difference in someone’s life.

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  2. There are so many people, with good intentions, who take on horse ownership. I can’t help but think that your daughter is smart enough to quickly learn the basics of horse responsibility. I refer to it as horsemanship 101. She would probably be a great horse owner. There are so many unwanted horses out there due to irresponsible breeding, and a horse racing industry pumping out about 50,000 foals per year to fill races for $2 bets then dispose of them. That said, because our government will not put a moratorium on breeding, and it would be impossible to implement there will always be unwanted horses. I’m sure that any unwanted horse would be better cared for by your daughter than the situation it finds itself in now. There is a plethora of information on the internet outlining feed programs for horses. A local vet would also recommend a decent feed program based on your horses individual needs. Although I agreed with your post, I also feel like you are taunted by the task – don’t be. The relationship between a horse, and a girl is a very special one.

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    1. Thank you for your thoughtful response. The points you bring up are absolutely valid, and you are probably right- if we were to get a horse, we’d figure it out in an appropriate way. There are plenty of resources available, and we’d be smart enough to know we need to use them. The issue at hand seems to be (at least) a two pronged problem. 1. People not taking the responsibility of horse ownership seriously, and 2. As you pointed out, too many horses being bred with no regulation, and no solution for their long-term care. Though I am not a “horse person” I have worked in the animal field long enough to see the same pattern with our other furry friends. Too many dogs, too many cats, not enough good homes. It often makes for an extremely difficult decision- put the animal in a so-so home, and hope for the best, or, as it happens all to frequently (but understandably) humanly euthanize after all other resources are exhausted. I think until there is legislation passed that helps reduce the numbers of our four legged friends (via spaying/neutering or breeding restrictions as you said), education is key. Get the horse (or dog or cat or ferret etc.), but get educated about what it needs first. Even good people can make for bad homes where the animal ultimately suffers when they don’t know what they are doing. Thanks again for saying what you said. I appreciate you providing another side to the story.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s true, and you’re smart to think of it as such. How knows, maybe down the line you will find yourself find yourself in a place where it makes sense for you and your family, but until then, it’s good to err on the side of chickenless caution 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I agree 100% I love animals and I think it is great for kids to grow up with animals, etc. But if they are not ready to take care of the animal then it is not the best idea to get one. So many animals suffer because of people that think it is a great idea to get them and then don’t have or take the time to care for them. Great post!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your intelligent words, and your support. I never knew this would be such a hotly debated topic, but I’m glad to come across likeminded people when I do. Someday perhaps we will need to actually have this conversation with our daughter, but it’s a long way off! At least now I know multiple sides of the debate!

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  4. As someone who grew up with a pony my knee jerk response is “what?” but after reading your article I completely agree! My parents knew nothing about horses when we first started, but linked up with a local trainer who boarded our horses until we knew how to care for them. Too many people feel that buying the pony is the biggest commitment and they can then step back and “allow the child to learn by doing”. This is a nice theory, but rarely works in practice.

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    1. I appreciate your comment, and the fact you read through the whole thing before making your final judgement. Obviously I agree with you, and if my daughter (who is currently 19 months) decides when she is older she’d like to have a horse experience, we will more than happily pay for lessons, or even lease a horse if it’s appropriate. That wasn’t made clear enough in the original article, and boy did I pay the price! Thanks for stopping by, reading it, and taking the time to comment. I appreciate it!

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  5. No doubt this is a complex subject
    with many different viewpoints.
    I’ve often said we shouldn’t have children until & unless we can successfully care for a pet.
    Whatever the viewpoint,
    thank you for reminding us to be
    mindful of important decisions
    in regards to caring for living
    creatures. I think you’re daughter might turn OK without a pony. Besides
    you can’t be too perfect & deprive
    her of her “weirdo mother” tales, plus
    I think it’s good to leave some of
    choices for our children to make
    all by themselves!!!

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    1. I TOLD MY DAUGHTER “NO” … “YOU CAN’T CARE FOR A ZEBRA PROPERLY IN AN APARTMENT”! Go ahead call me names and don’t let me play reindeer games!

      Call me cuckoo … Am I missing something?? Your daughter has grandparents with a Horse Rescue Ranch, apparently compassion for animals runs deep in your family’s veins. You’ve recently returned from visiting animals that have truly suffered, but are now receiving care at the mercy of Ruby Ranch. Seems to me she already has lots of horses and/or ponies to interact with during her visits there. As she matures she will be exposed to what has imprinted your value system regarding this issue. I can’t help but think that she, like her mother, will be a wonderful ambassador for animal kindness and advocate responsible care.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Oh … yes! Though I don’t know a thing about your circumstances. Going to Cairo with your child does not in itself make you a BAD mother, it might make you an unpopular one with someone that doesn’t share your viewpoint about adventure etc… or that doesn’t want you to go?? Godspeed …

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  6. Thanks for this. There is a nearby zoo with about 400 animals and one of the keepers told us that about 80% of their animals were rescued as “unwanted or illegal” pets. People didn’t understand the commitment. Buy a horse? I haven’t caved to the “can we get a dog?” yet. Though we do have a parrot. I heartily agree kids need pets and can learn a get deal from them, but not without being properly educated about them first. Good on you for not bending to every wish! 🙂

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    1. People absolutely don’t understand the commitment. Maybe some day, after some lessons, we can lease a horse, or something along those lines so she can learn. But only if she wants to… she’s only 19 months now, so I think we have some time 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I admit after reading your post about the “Bad Mother’s Club” curiosity sent me here to see just what could inspire such hatred from other moms. I have to admit I laughed by the end of the article. Not at you or your decisions for your child, but at the sheer insanity of how someone can be offended by an article as well written and clearly stated as this. Internet peeps be crazy! I have a young daughter as well, and I completely agree with you. Animals of any kind are a huge responsibility, especially large animals! I guess my kiddo will just have to be deprived, because she’s not getting a pony either. When do I get my membership card?? 🙂

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    1. Yeah, I was laughing at first too, but then they really started laying it on and saying HORRIBLE things. It was so bizarre! Lesson learned: USE CAUTION when creating a title, because some people won’t read past it! Welcome to the club 😉

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  8. A very well-written article that many parents should read. Too often spontaneity and a wish to please reigns over a thoughtfully made decision. You are indeed a very good mother who clearly can analyze and think through the issues before responding. I will soon be moving my daughter to Cairo where I will teach and she will learn at the same school. Recently I have been called a bad mother for that decision as well. Anything outside of the box sets you up for other’s opinions. Take care and happy parenting (regardless of what others think), Cheryl

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  9. I’m an equine professional and work with rescues. I was the kid who grew up with more animals than friends. It’s still true, and the point missed here is the big picture of taking lessons. She will have the horse time, but also friends and an instructor… Barn life is a big, soul-growing experience from all directions. Beyond that, horses are always so much more expensive than anyone admits. These lesson barns do a service for horses, kids, and parents. No one in that industry gets rich, supporting them does a world of good, beyond being a kid alone with a horse. As a trainer, I always remind folks of the big picture, and that is what this blog talks about. It was shared with horse advocate groups who cheered you loud and long. Thanks for showing some sense, Mom. Horse appreciate that.

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