When is My Child Ready for a Pony? With the gift-giving season upon us, many parents will ask themselves this question and wonder when it’s appropriate to buy a pony. Maybe it’s a moment you’ve been expectantly waiting for, maybe it’s a moment you’ve been dreading. But, there are no two ways about it, at some point, your child is going to ask you to buy him/her a pony.
Besides wanting your child to be truly ready for this type of responsibility, it’s important to first ask yourself are YOU ready for your child to have a pony. Realistically much of the responsibility and work will fall upon you, unless you’re dealing with an older child with some experience. That being said, and with your willingness to support your child’s passion for ponies, there are a number of factors to consider before you go out and buy your child’s first mount.
First, how experienced are you with horse/pony care and be honest with the level of commitment you are willing to give? Will you be keeping the pony at home or a stable? Is your child currently taking lessons with a qualified trainer? What is your monthly budget for expenses, care, etc often it’s not the cost of the pony it’s the upkeep that becomes an issue.
Next, you have to determine what your goals are: leading a small child around and gradually introducing them to riding, letting your child ride independently, shows and competing, trail rides, jumping, 4-H, Pony Club, etc.
Once you’ve established your level of experience/commitment, monthly budget and your goals, you can begin the process of looking for the perfect pony. Ideally, if your experience is minimal, your child should be taking lessons and the pony should be boarded at a reputable facility. Oftentimes, the best person to find a pony for your child is the very person who is giving them lessons. Most trainers who specialize in children’s mounts have an arsenal of critters they own, or are familiar with, which could be appropriate for your child. Trust your trainer’s judgment, not every pony will be appropriate for every child no matter how pretty, talented, or cheap it is.
In order for your child to really maximize the experience of having their own pony, they should be able to ride independently and be able to take on some of the responsibilities of ownership—like grooming and saddling. If parents are non-horsey types, then ideally the child should be able to stop, steer and maybe trot/jog on their own. If parents are horsey-types, the child should be able to sit confidently, un-aided on the pony and should know and be able to execute basic commands like go & whoa while being led around.
The most important thing to remember, is to trust your basic parenting skills and judgment. If your child is serious about riding, responsible, or takes on responsibilities well, then they are likely to be a good candidate for pony ownership. If your child quickly tires of activities, toys, and other pets, your better off waiting until your child is mature enough to demonstrate that they are able to take on such a large responsibility.
Having a pony as a member of your family can be a wonderful and rewarding experience. Children learn an invaluable host of life skills by having and being around horses: character, responsibility, sportsmanship, teamwork, empathy and the list goes on, not to mention the bond and affection they develop for their pony. Be honest about your expectations before you go out and buy a pony for your child and you’ll be able maximize the enjoyment you both will have when you do finally get one.