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 who decide to get a horse or donkey to keep the grass down.

Yes, these animals make wonderful companions but please realise that they require more maintenance than a lawnmower and are a huge commitment both financially and time wise.

The points below are not meant to deter you from getting an equine, but are maybe something you might not have considered.

  • Where will you get your horse/pony/donkey from?  If you are thinking of rescuing please be aware that some of the animals at fattening farms/dealers yards may not have been well handled, if 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 and listen to your own instincts. 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 whether that particular animal would suit you. If unsure, Equine Rescue France will always offer advice and assist where we can in the rescue of an equine.
  • Will the horse/pony/donkey have company?  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 in order to prevent it escaping and causing an injury to not only itself, but others.
  • How much land have you?  Or are you going to rent the land or put the horse at livery?  Adequate shelter will be needed in the field for the summer as well as winter. It’s surprising how quickly one animal can eat through a grassy field. In the UK with it’s plentiful rainfall, 1 to 1.5 acres is recommended per horse, here in France you may need substantially more if you have hot, dry summers and may even need supplement his diet with hay.  If your land is prone to being very wet or flooding in the winter you may need stabling also. Donkeys and small pony breeds do not require lush grass and strip grazing is sensible, especially if you have a equine susceptible to laminitis or gaining too much weight.
  • 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, as well as 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 for an emergency situation such as colic.
  • Ensure that your equine practitioner, be it vet, farrier or dentist comes recommended and has 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? Have you the time to donate to your horse to ensure he has interaction and care from you?Do you holiday or travel a lot?  If so who will check your horse daily?
  • Sadly, horse ownership sometimes ends with having to have your animal put to sleep because of old age or sickness/injury.  The usual method in France is for the horse to be euthanased by a vet 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 dwell on, but essential, as we do see so many old and sick horses ‘dumped’ in yards before being taken off for meat – and the most responsible thing a horse owner can do for their animal is to give him a dignified farewell.