Don't get me wrong, I love ponies. Even though I'm 6 ft tall (well not really, I'm 5'11" but I just round up, 6 ft tall sounds better!) Anyway, ponies are adorable. They are also known for being persnickety and downright dirty behaving sometimes. So here is what I think about ponies.
Regular Schooling by an Experienced (Probably Too Big) Rider:
The reason ponies can be so tough sometimes is that the little kids that ride them aren't skilled enough yet to follow through and make them listen. They tend to get away with things, that they wouldn't if they were full-size horses that a more experienced rider or trainer could pop on for a few minutes to prove a point.
That's why I think one of the most important aspects of maintaining good behavior in a pony is making sure that they get ridden by riders who will regularly push them to go to the best of their ability. Even if they are too big and they look ridiculous, who cares, punky little ponies need to be put in their place from time to time.
Put the Most Confident Students on the Ponies First Even if They're a Little Big:
When assigning your riders their mounts for lessons, chose your most confident riders to put on the ponies whenever possible, even if they are a little big for them. That way, the pony will be more likely to be made to behave, not to mention it is a good experience for the riders.
Often, by putting your more skilled riders on the ponies, it will make them feel really proud that they are able to ride them well and in turn help the younger riders.
Pony Ride Ponies vs. Lesson Ponies
I have had a lesson program for almost 20 years and a pony ride business for about 5 years now. I have found over the years that it hard to find ponies that are good at doing both jobs.
The ponies we use in the lessons need to be more responsive to the rider, and more sensitive, while the pony ride ponies we want to be super desensitized to be able to handle inexperienced kids mounting awkwardly or accidentally kicking at the wrong time. Since we want them to be so desensitized, it can make them harder to use in lessons.
Also, a pony that gives pony rides a lot will be so used to being led and following someone on the ground that they tend to forget how to steer with a rider on them and no ground person, making it confusing for the pony and frustrating for the rider.
Large and Medium Ponies Are Ideal
Large and medium ponies I think are ideal since with their larger size it makes it more practical for a bigger rider to get on them and school them every so often. Or even just to jump on real quick if a rider is having an issue.
Older Small Ponies
Older small ponies I find are better for pony rides than lessons. Senior citizens, maybe retired from a show career, that are well mannered and have seen a lot of different things in their day.
They may not be sound enough to hold up in a lesson program, but pony rides might be just enough to keep them limber and feeling like they have a purpose in life.
These older small ponies sometimes will be okay in the walk or leadline lessons for beginners.
The other disadvantage of the really small ones for both pony rides and lessons is that it limits who can ride them. It is great to have an older small pony for backyard parties and leadline lessons. For your main pony ride string and lesson ponies, mediums and larges will be more practical, since they can get more use.
A Pony for Your Child
Whether you buy a pony or a horse for your child takes some consideration. Many factors come into play. How old is your child? If your child is super young 3, or 4, they are bound to outgrow a small pony with time, but a sweet old small pony would be ideal for them for the time being. You just have to take into consideration what will you do with the pony when your child outgrows it. Your child will most likely be attached and older small ponies can be hard to rehome.
A medium or a large pony is great because your child can get more years before they outgrow them both size wise as well as outgrow the ponies athletic ability level. The problem with buying a medium or large pony for your really young child is they won't be able to be as independent with them on the ground. They will most likely need more help with leading and grooming.
You really have to consider how old your child is and how you feel about rehoming or being able to afford another pony once your child outgrows their first one.
Ask Your Instructor
Your instructor should be able to recommend for you whether they think you should shop for a pony and if so what size. They may recommend an average, to small size horse if your child is a little older. Which can be a good option to be able to get more years out of the first pony your purchase. Some petite teens never outgrow a large pony!
Precious Little Ponies
I love ponies. I love their big personalities in small bodies and how they turn into fluff balls in the winter time. Using them safely and effectively just requires some consideration and effort to make sure their good behavior is reinforced by a bigger or more skilled rider every so often. They can learn bad behavior quicker than good behavior, so you need to nip it in the bud before it gets out of hand. There is nothing more stubborn than a persnickety little pony that thinks they can always get their way.
All the horses and ponies you use in your program should be not just in a program as far as being used by your students. You should also be keeping in mind a program to keep them on their best behavior for your young students. Making sure they are fresh on all their skills, by being ridden by more experienced kids. Also getting them out of the ring on the trail or just giving them days off so they don't get bored in their work!
Our ponies work hard for us, whether be in the lesson program or giving pony rides with them. They are a huge part of keeping our program running smoothly, so we are dedicated to keeping them happy, healthy and well schooled. That is when they will be on their best pony behavior!
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