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Buying a pony for your child is something parents of horse mad children dream of. If you are horsey, you will likely have fantastic memories of having ponies as a child. If you aren’t horsey, you will see how much your child loves being around horses and will want to give them a pony of their own. But it has to be the right pony. Buying your child the wrong pony can knock their confidence and put them off horses for life.
When to buy a pony for your child
The first thing you need to think about is if now is the right time to buy a pony for your child. You should think about how long they have been interested in horses and is it something you can see them sticking with long term. If the answer is yes, how much experience do they have with horses and how much help will they need? If you aren’t horsey yourself, ask their instructor or whoever usually supervises them while riding. They will be able to tell you if they think they are ready for a pony of their own or not.
Have you thought about how much it is going to cost to buy and keep a pony? Horses are expensive. If you need more help looking after the pony either due to work commitments or due to yours and your child’s limited experience, you will need to pay more to have someone help you with your pony. Keeping a pony can cost more than £1000 a month if you need help. Pony prices vary based on age, height, ability and temperament. But for a safe pony for the typical child, I would expect to be paying upwards of £3000 based on the current market.
Understanding what your child needs in their pony
If you think you and your child are ready for a pony, then you need to start thinking about what they need from a pony. There are three main areas you need to consider.
How experienced are they at riding?
Their riding instructor will be able to help with this if you aren’t sure. But the less experienced they are, they will need a more forgiving and sensible pony. If they are more experienced they will might be better suited to something a bit more active.
How are they around horses?
How much of the day to day looking after the horse can they do themselves? Can they groom and tack up? Can they muck out, feed etc? Again, you will be able to ask your instructor for advice about this and maybe even get them a few days helping out with a friends pony.
While you should aim for a quiet, sensible pony for your child for safety. Some ponies are more sensitive and grumpy than others. Some might want them to get on with the job, which might not work for children who are still learning the ropes.
What do they want to do with their pony?
Every child loves different aspects of owning a pony. Some want to get involved with all the pony club activities and compete. In which case they need a pony who is capable of being a bit more active but sensible enough that they can handle them with less supervision.
Some children just like spending all day at the yard grooming and treating their pony. This can be just as exciting to some children as riding. These children need ponies who are happy to stand around and be fussed by children. A grumpy pony can find this irritating and can lash out.
Understanding Lead rein, First and Second ponies
When looking at ponies for sale you will come across terms such as lead rein, first pony and second pony. These terms describe the pony as being suitable for different types of children.
Lead Rein ponies are for children who are usually very young and complete beginners. They will often be small ponies what will be led along by the child’s parents until they are ready to start controlling the horse themselves. Beware though as some lead rein ponies are good as gold when they are being led, but can be little devils when the lead rein comes off!
First Pony or sometimes called first ridden is exactly what it sounds like. It should be the perfect first pony. They should be safe and sensible to let your child learn the ropes both in and out of the saddle.
Second ponies are usually a bit bigger or a bit more active than first ponies. They are perfect for children who are finding that their first pony isn’t quite doing the job any more. They might have out grown them or they are wanting to do more jumping or competing what the first pony isn’t able to do with them.
What to look for in a pony
First and foremost, when buying a pony for your child, you want to be thinking about safety. Obviously, horse riding is a dangerous sport and safety can never be guaranteed. But you can make choices to keep things as safe as possible. Typically, older horses are safer than younger horses. This is because they have been there and seen it all. They are less likely to be silly and spooky than a younger pony who might be experiencing things for the first time. A great phrase what has stayed with me is:
“Your child and ponies combined age should be over 20.”
So younger children need older ponies. But as a child gets older and more experienced, they can start riding younger ponies.
Getting the right size pony for your child is also important. Unfortunately children grow quickly! So it can be tempting to buy them a slightly bigger pony they can grow into with time. But you do risk over horsing them, which could potentially lead to accidents and knock their confidence.
There are no set rules on what height pony children of certain ages should be riding. But you typically see children younger than 8 riding up to 12.2h, children younger than 12 around 13.2h, children younger than 16 around 14.2h. Children older than 16 usually start moving up to horses. If you have a tall child for their age you might want to look at slightly taller horses. Or if you want to have the pony for as long as possible, going for a chunkier type rather than taller might be better. Chunkier types can usually carry more weight.
Finally, you need to be prepared to compromise! The perfect pony simply doesn’t exist. There will always be things missing or traits you don’t really want. But you just have to find the one as close to what you are looking for as possible.