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Can I Have A Pony, Pleeeassse?

What a joy it is to see children getting hooked on horses! It doesn’t take long before the (sometimes dreaded!) question comes up “mum, dad…can I have a pony?” For some parents, this is a celebratory time, as they’ve longed for rides alongside their child in the forest. For others, it is a step into the unknown world, ‘The Horse World’.

So, apart from the obvious of making sure you have the know-how of actually looking after a horse or pony, what qualities do you need for your child’s first pony?

Here are some suggestions.

1) Know how your child learns

It is key to find the perfect match for your child. For instance, if they are brave and confident, a pony that is more forward could suit them. If they take a little more time in building their confidence, a steady pony could be the answer.

2) Think about size

Size is also important. If your child is tall and heavy, you will need to make sure the horse suits their size. If you have a small, light child, you might need a slighter framed pony to suit them. Also think about the life span of the pony – will you keep it forever and if so, what happens when your child outgrows it? It might be better to look for a pony around 14hh, that you know will stay with you for your child’s whole journey. Smaller sized ponies are great for building confidence but will be outgrown quickly. There are then, of course, plenty of children wanting to have the same experience as your child had on your pony – but will your child be happy to part with them?

3) Looks aren’t everything

Try to look beyond a pony‘s looks – I have met many people with gorgeous looking horses that they are too terrified to ride. It’s better to get the plain looking pony with the perfect behaviour, rather than the pretty one that is highly reactive.

4) Get experienced advice

It really is a good idea to ask your child’s coach their professional opinion. Where is your child at in their skill level? What sort of pony will suit them the best? If possible, get someone with experience to come and see a pony with you. We all have different expectations – what is a quiet pony for one person, is like a ticking time-bomb for another.

5) Vet Check

It is also important to get a vet to carry out a pre-purchase assessment of the pony. You want to make sure there is nothing lurking health-wise that you might not notice. A pony with health issues will be an expensive investment.

6) Beginner riders and beginner ponies do not mix

It is so common to hear a parent say, “I want them to learn together”. I am a big believer in giving children the tools to train their own horses and it is possible. However, children need to be at a certain level of skill and confidence to effectively train a young or ‘green’ pony. It comes down to the child’s balance, their use of their signals, their understanding of the principles of training. Now, if you are going to ensure the pony is trained by an experienced rider in between the child riding, the pony may progress well. However, it takes an amount of consistency for a pony to become obedient to the aids and you have to ask yourself, are you going to be setting the pony up for success?

7) Older ponies

You cannot go wrong in buying the pony that has been-there-done-that. The one that is bombproof as it is groomed, led, and ridden. The one that can hop on a float, compete in a jumping competition one day and let a toddler cruise around on them the next. The cost of this experienced pony could be much higher than expected, but really, if you want to see your child progress faster and safer, this is your best bet. I’ve heard people say prices for horses and ponies are outrageous. If you consider the time that someone has invested in training, not to mention the cost of keeping a pony (dental, vet bills, regular hoofcare, feed, agistment) you will understand the reason for such prices. Isn’t safety priceless?

8) Additional costs

The purchase of the pony is just the beginning. Sometimes, a pony will come with their gear (which you will be expected to pay for in the price). Other times you will have to buy the whole lot – bridles, saddles, grooming kit, perhaps a rug or two. Your child needs to have the basic safety gear – helmet, boots. I’ve heard complaints when the suggestion is made to check their pony’s saddle with a professional saddle fitter, or that they could do with a chiropractor checking their back. This is the reality of horse ownership. If you don’t want to be thorough in your upkeep of the pony’s welfare, which goes beyond the basics of it merely surviving, perhaps stick to regular lessons for a little longer – they are much cheaper in comparison to the cost of owning a pony!

Follow the link below to see Horse SA’s Five Domain Model on how to assess and manage a horses welfare, beyond its basic needs.


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