Guide to dealing with your child’s horse obsession

By Eliza Henry-Jones

Everyone knows that one child who loves horses more than anything else in the universe. Perhaps you went to school with them and they tried to get everyone acting out the Melbourne Cup in the schoolyard.

Perhaps you had to share a room with one growing up and had fiery arguments about them taking down the life-sized stable they’d constructed in the middle of the room.

Perhaps you’re married to one, watching in anguish as the number of horses in the paddock keeps increasing, as if by magic.

Perhaps you’re parenting one, watching in alarm as the walls of their bedroom disappear under a tide of horse photos. On road trips they beg to stop and pat anything remotely resembling a horse. This begging is undertaken with a sort of urgency usually reserved for lost limbs or collapsing houses.

If you’re the parent of a horse obsessed child, we’ve got some tips for you.

*What’s a hand?

A hand is a form of measurement. A horse’s height is from the ground to the wither (point between their neck and back). A hand equals four inches or ten centimetres. Ponies are classified as being under 14.2 hands high.

*How much does keeping a horse cost?

Parents of horse-obsessed children may fall into the trap of believing that the greatest cost of owning a horse is the initial purchase. These poor souls are very mistaken. Horses require ongoing costs.

*How much does a horse cost to buy?

Depending on many factors, the price will vary dramatically from $500 upwards. Generally, around $2000 will get you a nice, quiet pony for your child to learn to ride on.

*Do I need to buy lots of gear?

How much gear or ’tack’ you decide to buy with your horse is up to you. You will definitely need brushes (which are relatively cheap – you can get a kit for $20 from Horseland). You will also need a halter, lead rope and – if you want to ride – a correctly fitting bridle, saddle, saddle blanket and girth. The Yarra Ranges area has lots of great equestrian retailers and there are also specialty horse markets and car boot sales that run throughout the area.

*How much does horse feed cost?

Generally, horses will require additional feeding throughout winter (and sometimes throughout the year). This becomes more likely as they age. Feed is a mix of grass hay and lucerne, chaff and pellets (which can be tailored to your horses needs). Generally, a 20kg bag of pellets will cost you about $20-$30 and a bail of grass hay will be $15-$20. How quickly they go through the feed depends on age, breed, size, their living conditions and how much work they’re in.

*They need the dentist HOW often?

Horses require regular dental care – at least annually. Horse’s teeth are continuously growing and so require filing down to stop sharp edges forming. Dentists generally charge roughly $100 per horse.

*What happens to their feet?

Like their teeth, a horse’s hooves are continuously growing and require attention from a farrier, generally every six-eight weeks. You’ll pay roughly $50 per horse for a hoof trim and $100-$200 for a full set of horse shoes.

*Do they need vaccinating and worming?

Horses require quarterly worming ($15-$20) and annual vaccinations ($40).

*What happens if they get sick?

There are specialist equine veterinary practices in the Yarra Ranges. Other practices offer mixed practice – meaning that they deal with both small and large animals.

*How do I get around?

In the good old days, horses got themselves from a to b on their own four hooves. Now, however, they require their own transport. You can hire a float for a reasonable cost, but make sure to check your car’s towing capacity carefully. If you want to buy a float, you can get a basic secondhand float for $3000 or so.

If you’re rethinking purchasing a horse for your horse-obsessed child, you’re in luck! The Yarra Ranges happens to be one of the most prolific horse centres in the country and there are plenty of options to keep your children happily involved in all things equine.

*Riding lessons

Often, riding centres will offer programs that happen throughout school term or on the school holidays. Riding lessons are great because you don’t have to worry about the upkeep or expenses associated with horse ownership. Some local riding schools include:

Ranges Equestrian Centre (Yellingbo)

Beltain Park Horse Riding Centre (Seville)

Wandin Riding Academy (located Wandin North)

Broadway Park Equestrian (Gruyere)

*Pony Club

All pony clubs across the area are run under the Pony Club Association of Victoria. While it’s generally a place for children who have access to a horse to ride, some clubs offer Riders Without Horses programs, where children will be able to make friends with likeminded folk, spend time with horses and learn lots of practical and theoretical horse facts. Some local pony clubs include:

Dandenong Ranges Pony Club

Seville Pony Club

Lilydale and Mooroolbark Pony Club

Monbulk Pony Club

Macclesfield Pony Club

Doongala Pony Club

*Trail Riding

So, it might be the case that you quite like horses too (not enough to buy one, but STILL). You want to share the experience with your child. Trail riding is a great way to spend time as a family around horses without the intensity of riding lessons. The Yarra Ranges offers stunning trail riding and doesn’t require the continuity of riding lessons. Some places for trail rides:

Yarra Valley Trails (Christmas Hills)

Dandenong Ranges Trails (Kilsyth)

*Events

There are lots of events happening across the Yarra Ranges throughout the year. These local events are free for spectators. Some events coming up include:

9 March Moomba Show Jumping @ Dandenong Ranges Pony Club, Belgrave South

14 March Yeringberg Horse Trials @ “Yeringberg”, Coldstream

15 March Combined Training & Dressage @ Doongala Adult Riding Club, Kilsyth

20 March Australian Eventing Championships @ Wandin Park, Wandin North

28 March Freshman’s @ Wyena Pony Club, Warrandyte South

26 April Dressage Jackpot @ Upper Yarra Pony Club, Wesburn