- Assess whether your child really wants a pony or is this just a phase; a new “toy” to be discarded when the novelty wears off.
Owning a pony is a HUGE commitment. Make sure your child is ready and willing to take on the responsibility of caring for a pony. And make sure you are ready too, because you will need to oversee the welfare of the pony and write the checks. Oh yes, the checks! There will be lots of checks to write (or debit cards swiped, gasp..I'm dating myself) . I'm reminded of a saying I saw on a t-shirt once: "Go Broke, Buy a Horse". But that could be another topic altogether.
- Enroll your child in riding lessons for several months before promising to buy a pony. Consider sending him/her to a horse camp like my dad did for me. Is he/she interested in more than just riding? Is he/she enthusiastic enough to do their own saddling and bridling, or does he/she just want to show up, hop onto a tacked up pony, ride for 45 minutes, then rush off to more entertaining activities while someone else unsaddles, grooms, and puts the pony away? Does he/she have the verve and compassion to take on the dirtier side of pony ownership (scooping poop, picking out stinky hooves packed with manure, grooming, cleaning water buckets, caring for tack & equipment, etc)? There is a lot of hard work and responsibility that, to the right person, is part of the joy of pony ownership.
- When the time comes to start shopping for your pony, enlist the help of a knowledgeable horseman who has a commitment to safety. Your child’s riding instructor should be helpful in matching your child’s skill with the right pony so that the ownership experience is fun, not frightening.
- Look for an older, well trained pony with good manners. A calm, 10+ or 15+ year old mare or gelding that has “been there, done that, and seen it all” is usually a much safer bet than a younger, prettier pony with little training and experience. Don’t buy a stallion. I would even avoid a gelding who was previously used for breeding because they may still act ‘studdish’ at times.
- Encourage your child to keep learning. Once the pony is purchased, the learning process has just begun. Keep up with riding lessons on the new pony, join a pony club, attend clinics & events. Ponies and horses are great teachers. We never stop learning from them.
Happy pony shopping!