Ever thought about buying a pony for your child? If you’ve ever owned a horse or wanted to own a horse, you have probably at some stage thought about a pony for your child, writes Lorraine Dowdeswell, but it’s buyer beware in the pony world.
It’s no secret that children love ponies, often dreaming about owning one of their own and through this dream they can sometimes lead their unsuspecting parents into a complex world. For both sets of parents, those who are currently involved in horses and those who have yet to be introduced to the wonderful world of horse ownership, there are many things to consider in purchasing a pony.
Children’s ponies are everywhere – all over the glossy magazines and on the internet – but beware because there is a widespread misconception that just because a pony is small and cute, it is safe for your child. And
this is simply not so. As parents, it is crucial to choose a pony that suits the needs and personality of your child as well as the job that you would like this pony to do, such a going to pony club, trail riding or competition.
As a horsemanship coach and horse owner for many years, I like to advise pony-seeking parents to take the time to educate themselves. The sad fact is that most ponies out there on the market are generally not suitable for beginner children, and before unsuspecting parents venture out into an already overflowing market of ‘children’s ponies’, it’s good to know why
that is and why it is essential to have an understanding of what an
educated pony should be.
Good children’s ponies are worth their weight in gold and most of them are rarely sold. If they are, the sad truth is they’re not cheap. They stay with their families for years, being passed down to the next child or passed
onto close friends or relatives because they have been educated to be ‘safe’. Educated to know when to stop and go as asked, to stand still for their young rider, to be polite and respectful, to have a calm demeanor and to be able to leave their friends if needed – such small things you may think but they all mean the difference between being safe and unsafe.
The fact is that small ponies are the same as larger horses on the inside, regardless of how small and cute they are, they are animals with their own instincts of survival, and with the same size brain. When they are fearful, they will do whatever it takes to remove themselves from that situation including running off with your precious child on board, with no thought
whatsoever about their passenger. They think and move just as quickly as a bigger horse but because ponies are small, there is a tendency to push and pull them around rather than trying to communicate effectively with them, leaving the ponies to learn how to use their strength and to pull away from pressure or go when they choose. I’ve seen incidents where adults have struggled to even lead a pony, not an ideal situation for a child.
An educated pony can think their way through all kinds of situations that they may find themselves in. Reacting to situations is what has helped the horse to survive for millions of years but reacting is not what you want for your child when all of the instincts in your new found pony are saying run for your life or do whatever it takes to get this child rider off my back.
Educated ponies are the ones that are happy to stand still while being decorated with ribbons and glitter. They are the ones that allow children to climb all over them, they lift their feet politely when asked, they are willing to leave home for adventures, they are calm and reliable, they can offer a steady and comfortable ride and are much more accepting to follow all of
your suggestions for go and stop all of the time!!! In horsemanship terms, we call it emotional fitness, and these cute little ponies need to earn the right to carry their precious cargo. As a parent, please consider your
options carefully and if you are unsure, then please ask for advice from someone who already has one of these precious ponies or take advice from an equestrian professional.
Finding the perfect pony will take time and effort – and buying the ideal pony will need to be a conscious and educated decision, not an emotional one, look beyond what you see, look for more than a pretty face or a lovely
colour, keep in mind that your choice will always primarily be for the safety of your child and their pony loving future.