Even though you may have had a wonderful experience with your own first pony, you have probably come across many people who have been bitten, kicked, or ones with “runaway pony” stories. Most of these people either no longer ride, or are reluctant to ride because of the bad experiences they had as a child.
So, why do so many ponies misbehave? Most ponies are not taken as seriously as larger equines and therefore are not trained as well (or not trained at all). People (even most trainers) let ponies get away with many, many unwanted behaviors because they are so “cute”. These are behaviors that any sane trainer would never let a larger horse get away with! Also keep in mind that many people who train ponies are young and inexperienced themselves. The reason for this is that most trainers are not small enough to train the pony for riding themselves.
Without proper training, ponies quickly learn bad habits!
All children that are around ponies should be taught how to handle bad habits (such as biting, pulling/shoving, rubbing, kicking, etc.) and also learn to be consistent when teaching a pony that bad habits are unwanted (this can be a difficult task, since many kids have an attention span of a pea!)
Ponies often get accidentally jerked in the mouth, worked too hard/worked not enough, and generally “roughed up” by their younger handlers…resulting in future bad behavior and bad attitudes. So, be sure that your child knows how to prevent and/or deal with those things.
Wanting a Pony
Make sure your child really wants a pony. There are children who would do anything for a pony of their own. But, there are many parents who buy a pony for “themselves”. Those parents only want the pony for the ego trip of showing. First of all, make sure that your child has been riding for at least 6 months or more…is he/she crazy about horses? (Also, be sure he/she knows how to handle and take care of a pony correctly). Do they know the signs of illness? How about hoofcare, veterinarian visits, etc. Even if you know these things…your child also needs to know them before you purchase a pony because he/she is the one who will be handling the new pony.
Second, look into leasing before buying. There are so many benefits to leasing that I can’t outline them all here! I very, very strongly encourage it! My top 4 reasons are:
- It will give your child all the benefits of ownership without the liability and expense.
- It will show you if your child’s wanting a pony is “just a stage” or not.
- Children quickly grow out of ponies.
- You may be able to enter into a special agreement where the lease price goes towards the end-purchase price, and at any time, you can back out of the contract for any reason (since the pony’s papers are still in the real owner’s name).
Leasing a First Pony
Leasing came in very handy when I got my first pony. This pony had never once had a saddle on his back and I was not sure if I could train him myself, but was extremely determined to learn how! The owner was asking $500 for the pony, so we started out with a 10 month lease at $50/month. In the end, the lease worked out very well, and I still have that pony til this day. It was nice knowing that my parents had the lease there as a kind of ‘insurance’, since the pony can be returned to the original owner any time during the lease.
The second lease I did was on a Thoroughbred mare off the race track. Two months into the lease, I found out about a few health problems she had (frequent colic and an old bowed tendon that never healed properly). This one really saved my time and money in the long-run!
Finding the Perfect Pony
What do you and your child want in a pony? The number one attribute any parent should look for is: Safety! Look for a pony that your child can learn to build confidence on. This means find a pony who is trained well and safe, and who has a nice disposition and attitude. This way, both your child and his/her new pony will be safe and happy.
Take a good trainer with you when you go “shopping”, and listen to his/her advice. If your child is a fairly inexperienced rider, choose an older pony that has more experience. A pony that is 15-20 years is not too old your child may even out-grow an older pony before he/she is “too old”, so stay on the safe side! Older ponies have “been around the block” a few times and are much, much safer than a younger or un-trained pony.
The pony’s conformation and movement are factors to consider if your child intends to show the pony. Size is a very important factor. Find a pony that fits your child now. Do NOT buy one that will fit your child a couple years from now (unless it is EXTREMELY gentle and VERY well trained). Yes, children out-grow ponies quickly, but if you get a pony that is too big and/or hard for the child to handle, the child will most likely lose interest.
The first thing I’ll recommend about “pony shopping” is: when you actually go to look for a pony the first time, DO NOT bring your child with you! Children tend to want the first pony or the prettiest pony they see. Safety is probably the last thing on their mind! You’ll be able to pick a pony that is safe without the pressure from your child.
Don’t ever sacrifice a safe, sturdy pony for one that is pretty, moves well, etc…Safety is #1.
Be sure to have a veterinarian do a prepurchase exam on the pony before your child gets too attached…this is very important (you don’t want your child to fall in love with a sick or injured pony). When you have done all of the above and have found a pony that you like, arrange for your child to meet the pony and work with him for a couple weeks.
During the “trial” week, observe your child with the pony…do you see fireworks? Do both the pony and your child seem to really like each other? If yes, you found the perfect pony. If not, keep looking…
Nurture Their Relationship
Be there for both your child and his/her new pony and support them when they need it. Be sure to supervise your child until he/she gets to know the new pony well.
It is a good idea to keep your child and pony in training with a trainer who knows how to encourage confidence in your child…and also who knows how to keep lessons fun and interesting.
Last but not least…Be sure to take all the steps necessary to ensure your child’s first experience owning a pony is a wonderful one.