If your child has been bitten by the riding bug then you’re bound to have heard the ‘can I have a pony’ question a few times. If you’re lucky enough to be able to get a pony for your child you’ll want to know what sort of pony is a good choice to start with.
When you begin looking for that special first pony you’re bound to have a head full of questions. Things like ‘should I go for a breed or grade pony’, ‘what’s a good age for a pony’ etc. It’s questions like this that I want to try and help you answer.
What is a good breed for a child?
If you’ve decided that you don’t want to buy a grade pony then you need to think about which breed is the best. There are literally hundreds of different breeds to choose from and there is a certain amount of personal preference but if you don’t have a favorite breed or preference these are some of the most popular children’s pony breeds:
Welsh Pony and Cob
The Welsh Pony and Cob is an extremely good all-round hardy breed that is perfectly suited to pretty much everything from English riding to Western riding, they have a gentle nature and plenty of stamina. The breed itself is formed of four sections that have their own characteristics but are all great first ponies.
Welsh Mountain Pony (Section A)
Standing at no higher than 12.2hh (or 12hh in the UK) it’s the smallest of all Welsh Sections and is ideally suited to smaller or younger children. They’re very elegant and have inherited a dished face from their Arabian ancestry.
Welsh Pony (Section B)
Slightly larger than the Welsh Mountain Pony (standing at 14.3hh in the US and 13.2hh in the UK) they’re great riding ponies with a willingness to please. Having more Thoroughbred than the Welsh Mountain Pony they tend to have a lighter build and make great jumpers.
Welsh Pony of Cob Type (Section C)
As its name suggests it much more cob like than the first two sections. They’re the most popular of all Welsh Sections and are loved for their strength as well as their temperament. The Welsh Pony of Cob Type makes an excellent jumper but is also happy as a driving pony.
Welsh Cob (Section D)
Bigger than the others the Welsh Cob must be at least 13.2hh and is ideal for both children and adults, so is perfect if you want a pony you can ride too! Like other Welsh Pony’s and Cob’s, it’s extremely hardy and good-natured and is just as happy as in hunter classes as it is in driving classes or in hand.
Like it’s bigger cousin, the Quarter Horse, the Quarter Pony really is a pony for all reasons, it’s just as happy as a show pony as it is in high speed barrel racing. It’s got a big heart and plenty of scope. While many have only Quarter Horse blood the registry does allow them to be crossed with other breeds so a Quarter Pony with Pony of The Americas blood isn’t uncommon at all.
Pony Of The Americas
Sometimes referred to as a smaller Appaloosa because of its spots the Pony of The Americas’ has combined the best characteristics of the Arab, Appaloosa and Shetland pony to make a hardy pony that has an enormous amount of stamina and is pretty much capable of anything. Standing between 11.2hh and 14hh you might be surprised to know that, because of its bone structure, the Pony of The Americas is actually a horse rather than a pony. Mainly used for Western riding its equally as capable in English disciplines.
A very popular choice for many first ponies because of its small size (approx. 9hh) as well as it’s extreme toughness, especially given its size. The Shetland pony and American Shetland pony are more or less the same breed with the only real difference being their height limit, 10.2hh for the Shetland and 11.2hh for the American Shetland. They’re also very fast and in the UK are raced in the ‘Shetland Pony Grand National’, a year-round event that raises money for charities.
Native to the Connemara region of Ireland from where it gets its name the Connemara Pony is an extremely popular breed, both in its own right but also for crossing with other breeds to increase their hardiness. Like the Welsh Cob it’s popular with children and adults and can turn its hoof to just about anything you ask it to do. They also have a great deal of stamina and are often used for endurance riding.
A prehistoric breed from the Dartmoor region of Great Britain, the Dartmoor is one of the hardiest breeds around. They can live outside in most conditions due to their thick waterproof coats. Classed as a mountain and moorland breed because of their native habitat they often have their own classes at shows as well as more breed special classes too.
If, however, you’re not worried about buying a particular breed then you might want to consider buying a grade pony instead.
What’s a grade pony?
Much like a mongrel dog, a grade pony is one from an unknown breed or mixture of breeds. Crossbred ponies are sometimes also referred to a grade ponies but, if the pony is a cross of known breeds then they can’t be classed a grade pony. A very good choice if you’re not worried about having a particular breed and are after a good all-round pony that is capable of doing anything.
What’s a good age for a pony?
When you’re buying a first pony you don’t want one that is too old to be ridden or so young that it needs an experienced handler. While a lot of ponies in their twenties still make great mounts, something between ten and eighteen is ideal. That way your children will have plenty of time to bond and grow with the pony will not having to worry about training them at all.
When should I buy my child a pony?
This question can’t really be answered by saying a particular age, it comes down to experience rather than age. If you (or your children’s riding instructor) feel that they are ready for the responsibility of owning their own pony then they’re of the right age.
What to look for when buying a pony
Now that you’ve got an idea of the type or breed of pony you’re after it’s time to start looking for that special first pony. If you’ve never bought a pony before it can be a very daunting experience but don’t worry a lot of us have been there and there’s plenty of help out there if you need it. You might also find this guide to buying a horse that I wrote helpful. If you’ve never bought a pony before the single best piece of advice I can offer you is to take somebody with you who has, you wouldn’t buy a house or car without seeking advice so why do it with a living creature.
Don’t rush to find a pony, if you take your time and buy the right pony rather than rush to buy the first one you find your children will have many years of happiness. After all, you never forget your first pony! If your children want to show their pony then you might find this article on preferring for a show helpful.
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