Something that has come to light recently is the number of people who have moved over to France to a property with a bit more land than a garden, and decide to get a horse or donkey to keep the grass down. Yes, these animals make wonderful companions but please realise that they are not merely there to replace your lawnmower! They are a huge commitment both financially and time wise. The points below are not meant to deter you from getting an equine, just to remind you of all the important facts.
So, important things to consider are;
- Where will you get your horse/pony/donkey from? If you are thinking of rescuing (which is very rewarding) please be aware that some of the animals at fattening farms/dealers yards may not have been handled well and sometimes not at all. Be honest with yourself as to your own capabilities and what you could offer that animal. Do ensure you get a receipt for the animal. Don’t be fooled by everything you are told, go on your own instincts too. Don’t be pushed into buying something if you are not 100% sure. Remember little cute foals can grow into big strong horses! Research into the breed to learn the characteristics and if that would suit you. If unsure, ERF can always offer advice and assist where we can in the rescue of an equine.
- Will the horse/pony/donkey have company? Remember they are herd animals and need the interaction of their own species. Donkeys often prefer donkey company too!
- Fencing…. Barbed wire and sheep mesh is not suitable for horses. Fencing must be of suitable height and strength for the animal you have to prevent it escaping and causing an injury to itself and others.
- How much land you have. You would be surprised how quick one animal can eat through a grassy field. In the UK 1 to 1.5 acres is recommended per horse so depending on what area you are in you may need a bit more if the grass is sparse. Donkeys and small pony breeds do not require lush grass. If you are in an area that is very dry in summer you may have to supplement his diet with hay. If your land is prone to being very wet or flooding in the winter you may need stabling also. Strip grazing is sensible if you have a horse susceptible to laminitis or gaining too much weight. Adequate shelter will be needed in the field for the summer as well as winter. Or are you going to rent the land or put the horse at livery?
- Have you the time to donate to your horse to ensure he has interaction and care from you?
- Don’t underestimate the cost of keeping a horse! Routine farriery, worming, dental care and vaccinations are essential as well as appropriate feeding/hay/water and equipment such as tack and rugs if needed. It is wise to have a contingency fund put by just in case you need a vet in an emergency.
- Ensure that your equine practitioner be it vet, farrier etc. come recommended and have all the necessary qualifications. Choosing somebody just on their English language skills is not always the best option.
- Microchips are now compulsory in France for ALL equines no matter which country your horse originates from. The fine if you get caught is 450 Euros. Microchips also make it easier to reunite stolen and lost equines and verify ownership.
- What is your lifestyle? Do you live over here permanently or is this just a second home? Do you holiday/travel a lot…if so who will check your horse daily?
- Responsible horse ownership sometimes sadly ends with having to have that animal put to sleep because of old age or sickness/injury. The usual method in France is Euthanasia and then the body is taken away by the Equarrisseur. It is not permitted to bury an animal over 40kg and there are no large animal crematoriums. It is not a nice topic to mention but essential as we do see so many old and sick horses ‘dumped’ in yards before being taken off for meat, the last thing we can do for them is give them a dignified farewell.