Horse, Pony or Donkey

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Buying a Horse, Pony or Donkey

When thinking of buying a horse, pony or donkey you should consider the following carefully:

COMMITMENT – Equines, especially donkeys, can live for over 40 years. Can you commit to providing care for the animal throughout its life?

KNOWLEDGE – Do you have at least a basic knowledge of equines and understand how to feed & care for them?
COSTS – Do you have sufficient finances to care for an equine? Costs include feeding, bedding, farrier, vet, providing stabling and grazing, worming, vaccinations, insurance, tack & other equipment such as rugs.

TIME – Do you have the time to make daily checks on an equine? Your daily routine will need to include time for the following: feeding, mucking out, turn out, exercise, grooming, treating injuries or ailments, meeting with vet or farrier.

LEGISLATION – Did you know that current legislation requires that all equines (including donkeys) have a valid identification document and almost all must be micro-chipped (by a vet)? In addition, all premises where equines are kept must be registered (for free) with the Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine (DAFM).

Did you know?
Horses, ponies and donkeys, like all animals, have five essential needs to remain healthy and happy – these are commonly known as ‘The Five Freedoms’. Under the Animal Health & Welfare Act of 2013, and equivalent legislation in Northern Ireland, all owners need to provide these five things for the equines they keep:

  1. Diet – access to fresh water and a suitable diet (forage and possibly hard-feed)
  2. Environment – a suitable living environment to protect from discomfort
  3. Behaviour – to be able to behave in normal ways free from fear and distress
  4. Companionship – to have appropriate companionship usually of their own kind
  5. Health – to be protected from unnecessary pain, suffering, injury and disease
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If you decide to buy a horse, pony or donkey, IPAAG recommends the following:

  • Consider contacting your local animal rescue/rehoming centre first – to check have they a suitable animal you might offer a home to.
  • Research before you buy. Be sure you understand the differing needs of the horse/pony/donkey and that you have the time, skills and finance to provide for them.
  • Choose a type of animal that will be suited to your circumstances and requirements – Riding? Driving? Competing? Companionship? Etc.
  • Make sure you have secured appropriate facilities where your new companion will be kept and that you will have the support of knowledgeable people.
  • Check that the animal is healthy and fit for the purpose for which you intend to use it. Your local veterinary practice should be able to advise you on pre-purchase vetting.
  • Take someone experienced, perhaps your riding instructor, with you to try the horse. It may be necessary to visit more than once and see the animal in several situations/environments before you make the decision to buy.
  • Be prepared to wait for the right horse/pony/donkey rather than settle for an unsuitable animal that you may have to part with after a short time.
  • If your chosen horse does not originate from the place of purchase, ask where it came from and try to discover its previous history.
  • Ensure that the equine passport is available and that the animal matches the description. If the animal also has separate vaccination certificates, breed papers or other identification documents, make sure that you examine these carefully and that they are given to you at the time of purchase.
  • In the case of a foal, ideally you should view the parents and buy from a reputable breeder once the foal has been successfully weaned at an appropriate age (about six months).
  • Foals and young horses require a lot of additional care and handling to ensure that they develop properly while being gradually prepared for full riding/driving activities – usually at least four years but varying slightly with breed or type.
  • Insurance -remember that horses, ponies and donkeys are powerful animals and can cause damage. You should consider taking out 3rd party insurance cover. Similarly, veterinary costs can be high and you should consider insurance to cover these bills.
  • Remember that you won’t have this animal for ever – responsible disposal is part of responsible ownership and when the time comes you will need to be aware of and prepared for the options available – so that your companion doesn’t suffer unnecessarily.

There are many equines sold online for a quick profit and often raised without proper care and sold to unsuitable households.  These equines often end up being unwanted and abandoned each year,  due to behavioral issues or simply because they are just not the right type of equine for the family.  It is important when getting any new animal that you choose carefully and that it is an informed decision.  If you decide to buy an equine online, check the website complies with IPAAG Minimum Standards.

For further information and advice see:

Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Council

Horse Sport Ireland

Irish Horse Welfare Trust

Irish Thoroughbred Breeders Association

ISPCA and local SPCAs

The Donkey Sanctuary

UCD & World Horse Welfare