Finding the right first pony is super important. This is the time when memories are made and we always want to make sure as parents that the first memories are good ones.
So, what makes a pony a great first pony and what do we need to be aware off that is best avoided?
The perfect unicorn
The pony has to have experience, confidence and willingness to do the things your child wants to do
- Therefore its best to find a pony that has come from a home that is similar to the one it is coming into. Rider of a similar age, family with similar horse experience or lack off, participating in similar experiences like riding at Pony Club, on the beach, with other riders or by themselves…
- An older pony is generally better as they have been there, done that.
- Pick a size pony that is not too big so your child can learn to do the handling and tacking up by themselves.
- If you want to take the pony away to Pony Clubs, beach rides or trail rides, make sure the pony is a good traveler and easy to float
- Look for a personality that is easy going and wants to please rather than the pony that is funny and quirky!!!!
Ponies best avoided
A young and inexperienced pony.
- Think of it this way, for the first pony you want to have a baby sitter for your child. This means that you want a pony that you can trust more then your child.
- A young pony is still learning and therefore can easily over react to something new and putting your child at risk.
- Unlike a pair of school shoes, you don’t want to buy a pony that is a size too big so your child has to grow into it. You are far better off to buy the size that fits perfectly and to be prepared to upgrade when your child has grown out of it.
- Some ponies are behaving super well in their familiar environment but struggle with anything different. Environments like Pony Club, beaches and trails can be unpredictable and it takes a long time until ponies are not just used to these environments but are confident and reliable.
- As a general rule, the scruffier, average looking ponies are often the more even tempered and more tolerant ones. Some of the really cute and pretty ones may have a temperament to match.
Make sure whenever you look at a pony to buy that you get plenty of time to try it out. Not just in a safe and enclosed arena or round yard but out in the open.
If the pony is a bit of a plodder and sometimes hard to get going then that is not necessarily bad for a beginner rider. Slower is better and safer until the child is more experienced and more confident.
If you have no experience or knowledge of horses it may be best to ask someone for help. You could ask your child's riding instructor, the pony club instructor, or the committee members, or someone with more horse experience if there are any ponies they know of that may be suitable.
Word of mouth is great for finding your unicorn. The internet is also very useful place to look for a suitable pony. It is often best to look locally so you can go and look at the pony first. Be sure to ask the right questions to get more of the whole picture before deciding anything.
Getting clear on what you want and making a 'wish list' will help you from making the impulse purchase when you or your child 'falls in love' with the first pony you see. Having clear guidelines and sticking to your budget is important in making the right choice.
If you find one advertised ask someone you trust to help with the enquiries and they may be able to ring the owner on your behalf or go with you to see the pony.
Never feel pressured to buy your first pony or horse on the first inspection. You may think that if you don't get this one there will 'never be one like it again'. It's better to take your time and get any help you may need in making your decision before you purchase. Don't rush into a purchase or decision without feeling confident with all the information you have, only to find that the pony is not a good fit for your child. If you miss out there is sure to be another one in the near future.
If you have made a purchase already and you think in 'hindsight' that it may not have been the best choice with what you now know, don't be hard on yourself.
Again, talk to your instructor or another more experienced horse person and see if they agree that your pony is not quite right for your child at their current level. It is better to make the hard decision to move that pony on and start again than perhaps persevere with what you have, as this may affect your child's confidence and in turn affect their joy of riding.
Remember that the first pony is not only there to be ridden but most importantly it should also be your child’s best friend. One that they can sit in the paddock and share their secrets with, that allows them to ride bare back and daydream and the one they are never afraid of but instead want to take everywhere with them.