Lots of people like the idea of buying young horses and ponies, so they can mould them into what they want, but do you have the skills and the time?
A lot of good horses and ponies come from Ireland and there are a many to choose from. However, just because they arrive doing everything, ticking all your boxes and doing everything you always wanted, does that mean that they will continue in the same vein once you get them home.
Unless you are a producer of young horses, have plenty of experience with youngsters, or have regular good instruction, things can go very wrong. Most of these well produced animals have been schooled and ridden by very experienced riders with no fear. A lot are produced very quickly (too quickly) for the sales market and these quickly taught babies, can unlearn as quickly as they learnt with the wrong handling. So many equines arrive as saints, get their hooves under the table and are hardly recognisable a few weeks later.
Many years ago, I vividly remember one particular child at pony club, he was an only child with competitive and adoring parents. Unfortunately, little Johnny’s skills at that tender age were not what they might have been. I witnessed two gorgeous and talented ponies brought over from Ireland for this child quickly get sold on. Needless-to-say, it wasn’t the ponies that were the problem!
The first, a lovely sport pony with a fabulous temperament, which arrived doing everything. The first time I saw Johnny with his new pony I was quite envious, as I was not in the position to buy anything like this for my daughters. Then very quickly (without the handling from an experienced rider) this lovely, obedient pony began to go backwards. So much so, that the next time I saw them “the naughty pony” had gone and a new bigger one was in its place.
This time it was a lovely mare, a school mistress, with a good Show Jumping record, but far too big and far too good for little Johnny. Again I watched, as this horse eventually went the same way as the previous one. She went from jumping everything in a lovely rhythm, to going flat out, scaring herself half to death and eventually refusing. Not only did the child not listen to any instruction, but he had one speed and it was “flat out”. Even a lovely well schooled mature horse will lose confidence with a bad rider. The poor mare of course got the blame and was sold on. I never found out what happened to her, but I do hope she went to the right home afterwards. I later heard that the child (who was not very big) had been bought an even bigger horse. Terrifying.
When a horse or pony comes with the label “competition”, that is usually what you get, a sporty type, with the enthusiasm to match. They will usually need far more attention and exercise than a native type and will of course have sharper brains.
Having bought my daughters young, unestablished horses and ponies most of their life, I have learnt the hard way. If you don’t want to dedicate your life to something that needs riding almost every day, be kind to yourself and your children, get them an older more experienced mount. Hopefully, they will have left most of that youthful exuberance behind them and have been there, done that, and bought the T shirt!
I now watch friends who have done it the right way around, they have bought/borrowed older ponies, the appropriate size for their children. These children are having a ball, charging around the countryside on steady Eddies, who are filling them with confidence. These are the best ones to get for your children, even better if they come with past history and by word of mouth.
In writing this, I hope to save at least one person from doing what I did all those years ago and I hope others might find what I am saying helpful. It isn’t as easy as buying your child a pony, sticking it in a field just to ride when you feel like it, then expecting it to perform. Horses and ponies that behave well and win rosettes have owners and riders that put in a lot of time and effort to keep them that way.
If in doubt save yourself a lot of trouble and take your child to riding lessons instead, it could save you a fortune!
If they get the bug, learn to ride well and get hooked, you can always re-think and hopefully by then they will be old enough to muck out their own stable, groom their own pony and do most of the hard work themselves, instead of you!