Ponies are often thought of as first mounts. There are many
misconceptions, stated and unstated, about these smaller statured
members of the equine world.
"Ponies are mean." Ponies are no meaner than horses *if*
they are treated the same way. The problem comes with the
misconception because ponies are kid sized they're born knowing
everything and don't need training...and people who would
never put an 8 year old on an unbroke Thoroughbred will put
the same 8 year old on an unbroke pony then wonder why the
pony misbehaves. Just like horses, ponies need training. With
the same training ponies will act like the big horses.
Ponies *are* more susceptible to overfeeding, founder and
other issues than many horses are. Another misconception is
that a fat pony is good - a fat pony is unhealthy and a problem
waiting to happen, just like his 16 hand counterparts. Fat
is not healthy...a pony will eat less than a horse and should
be fed accordingly.
Ponies don't need shoes - which depends on the use. For those
riding on rocks, showing and other situations where you would
shoe a big horse, ponies should be the same way. And, like
their counterparts, they should be trained to stand quietly
for the farrier.
Ponies can be an outstanding confidence builder for a younger
rider. A well trained pony that looks out for her rider is
worth the cost. If you balk at paying a reasonable cost for
a trained pony take a look at what a trip to the emergency
room cost and consider again if that pony is too much.
Not just children ride ponies! Older riders are increasingly
turning to ponies - easier to get on, not as far to fall and
ponies get where they need to go. From the POA to the Gypsy
Cob to the Welsh to the "ordinary pony" they can offer an
alternative to scrambling up the side of a 16 hand horse for
Like the larger sized horses, ponies can come in a wide variety
of colors, looks and patterns. There's Appaloosa and pinto
and buckskins and duns. Some hold papers in horse registries
but due to size are considered ponies despite AQHA, Arabian,
Morgan or other papers. Ponies have excelled not only in a
wide variety of activities but as Pony Club mounts, jumpers,
driving and much more.
Some organizations, such as the POA club, have a program
for adults to compete in futurities, insuring that those ponies
are well trained as young horses and therefore suitable all
around ponies for youth. There are stallion futurities and
a focus on producing *good* ponies, not just breathing hayburners.
Good ponies don't necessarily need papers - and many a beloved
pony had an unknown pedigree. Many a youth has learned to
ride, learned horsemanship and, with a good pony, been dumped
just enough to know what *not* to do and that giving a horse
respect is a wise choice. They're draped with costumes and
in a few hours compete in pleasure, barrels and trail. They're
patient enough to put up with mistakes and smart enough to
not panic no matter the situation. They know when to disobey.
Sometimes, especially with youth, this is a good thing! One
case of a pony who would ride anywhere, crossing up a hill,
over railroad tracks and part way down the hill on the other
side he stopped and refused to move. No amount of kicking
or slapping with the reins would make him move so the young
owner, in exasperation, got off and found a branch hidden
in the grass wound around his back legs. Rather than move
and risk falling, he bore the slaps without flinching.
Like the larger horses, ponies need proper housing, medical
care, teeth and feet care and regular deworming. Limited access
to grass, and eliminating founder, means protecting his feet
for life. While a horse may be turned out for an afternoon
you might limit a pony to an hour or so. Keep him fresh and
happy to be caught - if you give him a little grain after
bringing him in from the pasture he associates being caught
with getting grain, not going inside. This can be just two
or three cups, depending on the size of the pony, just enough
that they get something. Some smaller ponies do well on just
a couple handfuls of grain and good grass hay. Remember to
scale back the hay - if the big horses get a 10 pound flake
your pony may only need five pounds.
There are a variety of looks in ponies, from the 'exotic'
look of the Exmoor to the flashy leopards of POAs or the rugged
look of the Welsh. Modern Shetlands and Hackneys can sometimes
look like small Saddlebreds, and are more of an adult driving
pony than a child's pony, with a little more fire and flash
than most children can handle. The traditional shetland is
a long time favorite, with one of the biggest criticisms being
they're so quickly outgrown.
Whatever type of riding or driving you want to do there's
a pony available to fill the need. The Gypsy Cob is on the
larger side somewhat, and offers a draft look for those who
would like something to work around the farm as well as be
able to ride. The smaller Morgans might be 14.2 or 14.3 -
near enough to be considered a pony. For child or adult -
consider the pony!
"Cold Fusion", aka 'Lexington', looks like a big horse but
is small enough to be easily handled by children. A Gypsy
Cob, his heavy bone and flashy coat is typical of his breed.
About the Author
Ron Petracek was raised in southern Idaho with horses and
the great outdoors. With this continued passion He now shares
through a a vast equine network. Learn more by clicking the
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