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Which do you like the best and why?

What is the general cost of owning one? I wouldn't be boarding, so it would just be the cost of hay, vet visits and farrier. I have 3 acres of pasture.

Which has a longer lifespan, or are they about the same?

I want a companion for my old mare. I want something I can drive so soundness and health is VERY important.

My mare is old, and isn't a kicker so I'm not too worried about putting them together, plus they will have separate paddocks as well.
 

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I'd go for a larger (40 inch or taller) Shetland pony to put in with her and nix the donkey idea of you don't yet have experience with donkeys/driving. I've owned a mini mare, a mini molly mule (close to a donkey right? LOL), and worked extensively with a Shetland gelding, Personality wise- I liked the Shetland gelding the most. He was a lot of fun to drive, had a fantastic work ethic (but so did my mini), and was super cute and hardy.

I'm not sure about donkeys but minis and shetlands have the same general life span. Minis in their 20s are common, 30s is more common than in full sized horses but not extremely common. Their biggest health risk is founder and cushings/IR, so if you're turning it out in a pasture you're going to need to keep a grazing muzzle on it at least during the day time. Donkeys are even bigger 'air ferns' than minis/ponies, so it would probably need a grazing muzzle almost constantly.

General costs depend on the individual animal's maintenance needs. Farrier work costs the same as a normal horse, but they VERY rarely need shoes. They usually do not need grain at all, so a ration balancer or supplement will suit them just fine. One bag of $28 ration balancer lasted my mini mare two and a half months. Hay needs vary, but they are generally fine on 6-10 lbs of medium quality grass hay per day. For me that is 1/5 of a bale so about $1.10 daily for hay. If it ate grass in the pasture for a few hours at night, I'd say it would probably be on the lower end of that. Vet costs are normal...they still need vaccinations, worming, floating, etc as usual.

Investing in driving carts and harnesses though...now that is where the money comes in! LOL
 

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I'd go with a large mini or a Shetland. Donkeys are less forgiving (so I've heard) and harder to train and work with (no personal experience though, just what I've heard.)

I used to have 2 minis and they're cheaper to feed than a full sized horse, you have to watch them really well for founder and obesity, and our farrier charged less for their trims, but most charge the same as a full sized horse.
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