How to pick a first pony

Picking a perfect pony is an art; there is absolutely no doubt about it. Even if what you’re after is a mount that can simultaneously bend and weave its way through a gymkhana at the speed of light, endear itself to the judges with flashy paces, and produce a jump worthy of Pegasus, whilst remaining utterly bombproof and reliable at all times, especially on the hunting field – the answer to your prayers is always out there!

The very best way to find a really good pony is through the Pony Club – as not only are you likely to be able to see the animal in action, but everyone in the club and indeed the local hunt is likely to be able to give you an accurate description of the beast in question! Taking an instructor with you to see the ponies is always a good idea, and if you get to the moment of purchase, a vet check is absolutely invaluable.

Firstly and most importantly, the perfect pony for you is hugely dependant on two main factors – these being what you would like the pony to do for you, and what you and your child have done before, not only in terms of riding ability but also handling. Safety is paramount, and only with confidence can your child become the next Ellen Whitaker or William Fox-Pitt. There’s not much to be gained in having an Adonis of a pony prancing around your paddock if it won’t let you near it.

It is definitely worth bearing in mind that if you look at older ponies, they are quite likely to have seen everything that you want them to do before and know the ropes. A word of caution though – this can also mean that they know exactly how to avoid doing what you want, through years of mischievous practice!

Though it may sound obvious – size matters! There is a huge amount to be said for something sturdy and reliable, although not if all it’s interested in is the nearest shrub or hedgerow, or indeed a potential friend in a far off field – a scenario likely to leave your small child with aching arms, or worse, bruised confidence.

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It is worth considering the conditions that the pony is currently being kept in, as a pony that has never lived out at grass for example, is unlikely to want to change it’s ways in too much of a hurry. There may also be a very good reason for a minimal turnout – such as laminitis or a tendency to be overweight.

Most importantly of all, whether your new partner is for cantering around the countryside or dazzling in competition – it is supposed to be fun. As a child, the best pony-shaped companion that you can have is one that will teach you everything it knows, and give you the confidence to go on to bigger and better things.