Mother's Children: How to Raise a Pony

One of MOTHER EARTH NEWS' young readers shares how to raise a horse, including how to select a pony, how to care for the pony and how to train the pony.

| May/June 1982

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    The Barkers get a lot of pleasure out of their pony, but are also able to use it for work.

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My great-grandfather, Doss Britton, raises Tennessee Walkers in Missouri. He's about 90 years old, and he's been working with horses for over 70 years. I've heard lots of stories about his riding adventures (like the time he came home "froze to the saddle") and other tales, too. I've even been told that he once stood at Frank James's knee and watched the famous outlaw play poker!
Well, I'm only 12 years old, but — like my great-grandfather — I've been interested in horses as long as I can remember. And for the past five years I've owned a Shetland-Hackney pony named Trigger.

My sister, my brothers, my friends and I have all had great fun with Trigger. Sometimes one or two of us will travel the nearby roads in a one-horse carriage called a sulky. It's a wonderful way to see, hear and smell the countryside! In the winter we ride all over the snowy hills in a little sleigh my pony pulls. Trigger and I also like to practice at a miniature horse jump I set up.

But Trigger also works. In fact, my family has found that the pony can be a very useful animal to have around a farmstead. Hitched up to a wagon, for instance, he hauls mulch hay and manure from the barn to the garden. When I need to make a phone call, I ride Trigger to the phone booth a half-mile away (we don't have a telephone at home). My mother often sends me on errands, too, and my pony really speeds up those trips for me. In the autumn, some other children and I pick cider and applesauce apples from neighboring farmers' trees. We then load the fruit in a cart, and the pony hauls it home. Why, Trigger even has a job at a summer camp taking small children for rides!

Of course, some chores aren't easy for Trigger. He has a hard time hauling firewood up the big hill from our hollow. Once he got a load so stuck in mud on his way up that he could not move! We had to unhitch the pony, lead him home, and then pull the wagon out with a tractor!


How to Start Keeping a Horse

If you want to keep a pony yourself, your first job will be selecting an animal to buy. There are lots of different kinds to choose from. Certain types — such as the Shetland, Welsh Mountain, Haflinger and Connemara — make good work animals. Others — like the Hackney, Pony of the Americas and Dartmoor — are better for pleasure uses. Short ones (the Shetlands, for example, stand only 10 hands, or 40 inches, high) are good for small children, while bigger animals (like the Welsh Mountain and Hackney) are suitable for larger kids.


Whatever kind of pony you decide to get, you might want to look for one that's had some "horse sense" bred into it ... since it's well known that purebred ponies can be given to biting, kicking, and bucking, while most horses have milder temperaments and are easier to handle. We recently got a half-pony/half-horse named Sunny, and she's very friendly.

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