Critters for Christmas

It’s tempting, isn’t it? Your small child, grandchild, or family friend looks at you with thoseTobyBow14_1 big eyes and says all they want for Christmas is…. A pony. While the plea is endearing, and you do know a guy with a Shetland for sale, time and care must be taken before launching into this decision. Here are just a few of the key points to consider:

Time
All animals require time and attention. If you’re looking at getting a horse for your daughter and she is already spreading herself thin between basketball practice, dance lessons and pep squad, you may want to reconsider. At a minimum, you need to be prepared to have the time to feed and water your horse at least two times each and every day. In addition to that, regular grooming and exercise will take time, as will things like farrier visits, veterinarian check ups, etc.

Space
Let’s face it: a horse is not a backyard animal. They require space to live and space to get exercise. Unless you have a barn and paddock ready to go or are willing to pay for boarding somewhere, buying a horse may not be the best choice for you.

Money
Horses cost money. Not only at the initial time of purchase, but also throughout their life. Dollars can be easily spent on horses in the form of veterinary bills, shoeing, boarding, feed, tack, equipment, supplies, transportation, etc. Make sure you have talked to other horse owners about what to expect for costs (especially those specific to your area – like the price of hay and boarding costs) and that you can afford the hobby before you begin.

Commitment
Almost every little child goes through a phase where they want own a stable full of horses and they swear they’ll ride every day. But when the rubber hits the road, the passion often fizzles. And nothing is sadder than a well-trained, capable horse in the prime of its life, sitting in a pasture with nothing to do and no one to ride it.

Alternatives to horse ownership
So how do you know if horses are going to be a long term enjoyment for you or someone you love? There are several ways to get started in the horse habit without being a full-fledged horse owner. Why not give a gift certificate for riding lessons at a nearby stable? This will whet the appetite of the temporary horse lover, and if they stick with it, it may prove that a long term investment is wise. In addition, many horses are offered for lease instead of sale. This minimizes you exposure to risk in the event that after 2 months the riding habit dies off.

If you decide to move forward with the purchase, well – be ready with wide open arms for the biggest hug you’ll ever receive! Don’t say we didn’t warn you!

What about WEG?

If you subscribe to e-newsletters from any equestrian breed or discipline organizations, or you read any horse publications, chances are that you have seen some talk of the 2010 Alltech World Equestrian Games (WEG) coming to Lexington, KY this fall.

So, what the heck is the big deal?  I mean, people compete in Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) disciplines internationally all the time, right?  Well, yes, but it isn’t very often that the United States hosts this kind of event. 

In fact, for the first time in the history of the WEG, this year’s games are hosted by a country outside of Europe….in our very own horsey hotspot of Lexington, KY.  Here is some info about WEG at a glance:

  1. The Games are held every 4 years,  2 years before the Olympics
  2. The games are administered by the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) which has affiliations with over 130 national organizations
  3. The disciplines represented consist of eight (8) FEI internationally governed events over 16 days: Dressage, Jumping, Eventing, Vaulting, Combined Driving, Endurance, Reining, and for the first time in 2010, Para-Dressage
  4. This year’s games have attracted entries from 60 countries
  5. Organizers are expecting 600,000 people will flock to Lexington during the 16 day event

Is this a big deal?  As a rider and fan of one of the disciplines represented, I happen to think so.  To be honest, I’m not sure I’ll have another opportunity to see the caliber of horses and athletes with my own eyes, this close to home (that is to say, NOT after a 12+ hour flight). 

Will it be expensive to attend?  Well, compared to heading to my regional championships, you bet it will be expensive.  But will the experience become more fuel for reaching my dreams?  I have no doubt I’ll be saddling up the day I land back home…..well, maybe the day after.

If you are heading to Lexington, KY during the games, be sure to stop by and say ‘hi’ at the Nutrena booth inside the International Equestrian Festival.