Horse and Pony Ownership & Responsibility Part 1


Horse and Pony Ownership & Responsibility

Is Owning Or keeping A Horse The Right Decision For You?

Owning or keeping a horse, pony, donkey or any other equine can be very rewarding, but it is a huge responsibility, is expensive and very hard work

You need time, money, commitment and access to suitable land with shelter

Every responsible equine owner and handler will need to keep themselves updated on all aspects of horse care and information in order to ensure their animals live a long, happy and healthy life

There is also a legal responsibility to ensure proper care is given to any horse or pony

What Does The Law Actually Say Regarding Keeping A Horse?

Section 9 of the Animal Welfare Act places a duty of care on people to ensure they take reasonable steps in all the circumstances to meet the welfare needs of their animals to the extent required by good practice

What Does This Mean For Those Responsible For Animals?

In short it means they must take positive steps to ensure they care for their animals properly and in particular must provide for the five welfare needs, which are:

The need for a suitable environment
The need for a suitable diet
The need to be able to exhibit normal behaviour patterns
The need to be housed with, or apart, from other animals
The need to be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease

It should not be understated that equines require a high level of care, including exercise, grooming and vaccinations, keeping or owning any horse is expensive and very time consuming

Equines belong to the family Equidae, which comprises horses, ponies, donkeys, asses, hinnys, zebras, and mules

Depending on where you live and keep your horse, as the law is different in Ireland than in the Uk, you may need to have a licence to keep a Horse, Pony or Donkey

When you get your horse you must get them micro-chipped and registered on a database. The micro-chip is injected into the horses neck and should not cause him any discomfort

You must also get an equine passport. It is illegal to sell or buy a horse without a passport and if you are the person owning or keeping the horse then you should retain possession of it’s passport

Most horses and ponies can live for over 20 years and some often live into their 30’s, so owning a horse is very much a long term commitment and not for the faint hearted

Another thing to consider when you get your horse is horse and rider insurance, this can be another expensive factor in keeping a horse but could be necessary in the event of an accident or incident where your horse causes damage

Horse insurance is also available for vet bills, which could save you hundreds or thousands of pounds in the long term

As with all insurance, it pays to shop around to get the most competitive price


Horses, in their natural environment, live in herds, and they crave the company of their own kind. They need companions, ideally other horses or ponies, although they can benefit from other animals in close proximity. They are happiest outside grazing in open spaces

Therefore it is much better for them to live outside then be permanently stabled, but if the horse is to live outdoors all the time, then they must have access to suitable shelter when the weather is too hot, cold or wet

Horses are very much creatures of habit, and are more relaxed in a given routine with the same thing happening at the same time every day, especially when it comes to feeding times

Caring For Your Horse or Pony


When handling your horse always be aware of the look in his eye. This will help you to know his thoughts and to anticipate his movements, be they friendly or aggressive

For everything else the golden rules are to speak quietly, handle the horse firmly but gently and avoid sudden movements that could startle the horse and panic

Always speak to any horse before you approach it and while you are handling or working around the horse. This allows the horse to be able to recognise the voice of the person who feeds him or from whom kindness is expected

It can also make it easier to catch if the horse is out with his companions in a field, he will hear your voice and know to come to you

When moving your horse you should either use a correctly fitted head-collar or a halter. If you decide to leave a head-collar on the horse when they are out in a field, ensure there is nothing for the horse to catch the collar on, such as branches or broken fencing

Halters are not designed to be left on the horse as the excess rope that is used to lead the horse cannot be removed and so will be left to trail on the ground, which means it can get caught or the horse can step on it and injury himself

Tethering (tying a horse with a rope or chain to restrict its movement) is not illegal but should be avoided as tethering compromises a horse’s well being in many ways

A tethered horse requires high levels of monitoring, proper tethering equipment, feed, water, and a degree of freedom provided regularly

It is not a low cost or low maintenance way of keeping a horse and is not considered to be good practice

A tethered horse requires high levels of monitoring, proper tethering equipment, feed, water, and a degree of freedom provided regularly

A Tethered Horse Requires High Levels Of Monitoring

If you are leaving the head-collar on the horse, be sure that it fits snugly – not too tight that it can rub the horse, but not too loose that it gets caught in branches. You should also check and clean the head-collar regularly to be sure that there is no build up of dirt and causing an irritation to the horse

When leading your horse, you should be able to lead the horse on both sides. However, majority of horses are used though to being led from the left hand side. When leading a horse, always walk at his shoulder – it is harder from him to kick out or step on you if you are beside his front leg

If you must lead a horse on a road, the horse must travel in the same direction as the traffic and the person leading the horse should be between the horse and the traffic

This is for your own safety – if the horse spooks away from the traffic he will also be spooking away from you and so you won’t end up being squished by a frightened or nervous horse

Horses Kept In The Field

If the field and horse are properly managed, many horses and ponies thrive on living out in fields and it can save you considerable time and money. It can also mean a happier and healthy horse

In the growing seasons of spring and early summer, if the fields are big enough they will be sufficient to provide the horses their full dietary requirements

In this case, you will only need to provide fresh water and a salt-lick. Grass-kept horses are also able to exercise themselves as they are not constricted by space – this will also reduce the necessity for you to exercise them every day

The downside of keeping your horse at grass, is that they can get very dirty and wet, he can decide not be caught when you want him, it is very difficult to regulate the diet and during the winter extra feed may need to be put out if the grass is inadequate or the horse is doing a lot of work

It is very hard to give hard and fast rules about the amount of land needed to support a horse. A lot depends on the quality of the grass in the area, the drainage of the land and the nature of the soil

If a number of horses are being kept in the one field then the general rule of thumb on the minimum size the field should be is one acre per horse. But a field the size of one acre is not big enough for a single horse – they need to be able to move around

Ideally, you should rotate fields so that the fields have a chance to rest and the grass gets a chance to grow. Constant grazing in the one field can make the field horse sick, and therefore, unsuitable for the horses to remain on

In order to ensure your horses are safe from wandering off the field and into traffic or populated areas the field needs to be properly secured

In an ideal world properly treated post and rail fencing with a hedge at the back are considered the best, but so are properly maintained thick hedges and stone walls

The main points to note when securing your fields are the following:

Can the horse easily jump the fence?
Can the horse push through the fence?
Can the horse injury himself from sharp edges, barbwire, or protruding nails?

The following plants are poisonous and they should be removed before leaving a horse in the field:

Ragwort – by law this plant should be cleared from grazing land on a regular basis
Acorn (oak)
Nightshade – woody, black and deadly varieties
Sycamore Seeds

There are other poisonous shrubs and plants also poisonous to horses, the list above are the most common ones

This Article On Keeping And Owning A Horse Has Been Compiled By Tamsyn Lewis With The Aid Of ‘The Manual Of Horsemanship’, Published By The Pony Club

Read Keeping And Owning A Horse Part 2 Here

Do You Have Something Equestrian To Write About? Get In Touch Here

Comments or questions are welcome.

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Keeping and Owning Horses and Ponies Can Be Rewarding and Great Fun

Having Fun
A Big Part Of Keeping Ponies

What are your thoughts, opinions, experiences and questions on owning and keeping a horse or pony? Use the comments box below and let us know

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  1. i got my first pony at 15 having saved very hard, before that I went to all the Pony Club events and learnt as much as I could before owning my own horse. Its very true that keeping a horse is really time costly and a money drain but its well worth it

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