If you want to dress your pony as a unicorn or are are considering the possibility of hiring a live unicorn for a child’s party or other event, you might be wondering if such use of a living animal might be cruel or politically incorrect. You may have seen internet posters rant and rage at people who paint and dye horses for entertainment and worry about being on the receiving end of the internet’s righteous indignation. However, one should keep in mind that public commenters can be both educated or ignorant and while some accurately point out mistreatment by horse owners or business operators, there are also many critics who actually know nothing about horses and are completely mistaken in their claims and accusations.
We, at Wishpony.com, have owned, cared for, ridden, and interacted with various equines (horses, foals, ponies, and one mule) since we were eight and nine years old and we believe horses and ponies should be treated first and foremost as valued pets and family members. That being said, we also believe it is completely ethical to use equines for business and entertainment purposes so long as the health, comfort, and happiness of the animal is put before profit, fun, or the gratification of one’s vanity. We know of many respectable businesses, professional equestrians, charities, and even horse rescues who turn horses and ponies into unicorns for many reasons including profit, fundraising, or just to cheer up a sick child.
Do unicorn horns harm ponies?
In more that 11 years of making horse tack and unicorn horns, we have never received reports of injuries to horses or ponies from use of our unicorn horns, which are designed to be safe for young children and to not interfere with conventional horse tack. A safe unicorn horn is one that is soft, light, and properly fitted to the pony’s bridle or halter.
A safe horn can potentially be made unsafe by negligence of the user. A common instance is when a buyer is too lazy to find out the pony’s browband size and a pony ends up with a loose floppy horn or a tight one that pinches the ears. In an extreme case, we once saw our horse-sized unicorn browband being used on a miniature pony with the result that the pony was completely blindfolded while giving rides to children. This happened because the pony rental company was not willing to pay for 2 different sized browbands and made a small pony share one with their much larger horse. We were sorry to see our product used this way because it was not only psychologically abusive to the pony, but posed a danger to both pony and children as a blind pony could trip and fall down with a rider. We also believe some horns (advertised as PVC or resin) made by amateur crafters are risky for both ponies and humans as they are hard and sharp.
So when choosing a unicorn horn, we recommend that you use one that is designed especially for horses, made of soft material such as fabric or leather, and order the correct size for the specific pony. If you accidentally order the wrong browband size, the ethical thing to do would be to reorder one in the correct size rather than economizing in an unsafe (and unattractive) way.
Are ponies bothered by unicorn horns?
In our experience, horses and ponies do not seem aware of horns on their heads. Ponies that wear bridles are already used to having a strap across their forehead. When you put a unicorn horn on a pony, it feels just like a normal bridle (unless you order a strap that is too tight or too loose). Just as many dogs enjoy the attention they get when dressed up in costumes, a pet pony will enjoy being a unicorn simply because he or she is getting more attention than other ponies. On a rare occasion, you might find a pony who is bad tempered, unusually afraid of things, or ticklish around the ears. In such cases, you should probably not use a unicorn horn or find a pony who is happy to play dress-up with you.
Is it exploitative to put costumes on a pony?
A unicorn horn is not very different from a decorative bridle and can give children a magical experience without harming the pony. Think of all those baby photos with giant flowers attached to baby heads with elastic bands. Babies and ponies may have no idea of what you put on their heads, but these costumes give much innocent enjoyment to friends and family. And if you want hire a pony party unicorn, just make sure you find a good company whose ponies are friendly, relaxed, and well-fed.