Riders need to be mounted on an animal that is suited for their skill level. A common mistake is to over mount a young rider in an attempt to make a pony last longer. Unfortunately, most of the time this animal is too much of an athlete and will scare a young rider and hinder their progress. On the other hand, a rider that has outgrown the skill level of their mount will quickly become bored and will be unable to development more advanced skills. Ponies last on average about 2 years for a rider, 3 years if the pony has progressed as well and the rider has not become too large for him.
Size does matter. A young rider’s skills will progress faster, they will feel safer and be more confident on a pony that is suited for their size. The rider’s calf should reach the widest part of the pony’s barrel for stability and the capability to apply aids. Suitability is also a factor for many judges in the show ring. A child mounted on a pony well-matched for their size and frame is more pleasing to the eye.
Do not plan on making money when buying and selling your child’s ponies. Most young riders do not increase the value of their pony. Like a car, ponies will eventually decline in value from wear and tear from being used. Another factor, as your child is learning to ride, they inevitably teach the pony bad habits; a pony’s mouth may become hard or he will learn to evade the bit or toss his head as a child is developing good hands is one example. Riding and showing horses and ponies is a hobby unless you are a professional trainer. It is an investment in your child in that it will build confidence and teach responsibility. Most of all, working with horses teaches a long list of valuable life lessons.
Show ponies are most valuable when they are out there showing and proving themselves as competitive mounts. Buying a pony at this stage will mean a bigger investment but it takes out the guest work about wondering if he is going to be a competitive teammate for your child.
The Project Pony can be a fun and rewarding activity for a young rider. It most likely will also be a less expensive initial investment. With that being said, remember your child is not a horse trainer. Progress can be slow and it may takes years to see success in the show ring.
A pony is no different than a human athlete. Some are good enough for the NFL, some do pretty well at the High School level and others will fail PE. When a child falls in love with a certain color pony or the friendly lesson pony they might not understand why they don’t do better at the horse shows. Recognizing what is important to your family and your child is necessary. If they are dreaming of blue ribbons they need the right teammate.
There are many rewards when learning to ride and work with horses so going to competitions is not necessary. Not all children and parents are interested in showing. For junior and amateur riders, competitions can give them a sense of how well they are progressing, either on their riding skills or with a pony they have been working with. Horse shows can offer the same opportunities to build character that many other competitive sports do. Showing a pony teaches a young person how to work towards a goal, how to cope with pressure and the importance of team work. In this sport, there is the unique challenge in that our teammate is not a human being. Equestrian sports are recognized by the NCAA at many colleges, it is an event at the Olympics and it IS a sport. Going to a horse show for a rider is the same as a tennis player or swimmer going to a meet or a football or baseball player going to a game.
Protecting your investment
Life insurance and major medical policies are available through several agencies that specialize in equine insurance. An average yearly rate for full mortality is about 3.5% of the insured amount, usually the purchase amount or value based on show record or breeding bloodlines. Major medical and colic surgery coverage can be added for an additional fee. It is recommended to insure your pony if you would not be financially able to replace him or pay vet bills if something happens.
Riding horses is an activity people enjoy in different ways. The expectations on what their horse will be differs as well; it may be a family pet that lives in the pasture or a pampered show mount in the stable. Those not aware of the opportunities and possibilities will miss out on the inconceivable rewards horses have to offer. Learning to ride properly is a gift any horse lover will treasure their entire lifetime. Never has there been a true enthusiast that didn’t wish they learned more as a child or is appreciative of what they did.