Buying and owning a pony takes hard work and commitment but the rewards are worth says Annabel Hayhouse, mother of three horse mad children.
Rural childhood dreams, especially for girls, often revolve around seeing their own pony grazing happily in a paddock at the end of the garden. Reality can be somewhat different.
Parents who decide to take the plunge to buy a pony are committing themselves to 24-hour care, holiday cover and with younger riders, constant supervision.
In return, their children enjoy a wonderful outdoor lifestyle, as by necessity, the pony still needs exercising in the rain and cold. And the child has a friend she can love unreservedly – a factor not to be underestimated in this turbulent world.
“It’s a minefield buying your own pony, even when you know what you’re doing,” said Helen Barton-Smith, proprietor of Pippins Equestrian Centre. “You have to have eyes in the back of your head.”
“I always advise novice parents to take a professional with them to try a pony and to look for something older with a proven track record.”
The Pony Club is always a good place to start, as everyone in the branch and the local hunt, if relevant, should know the pony. The best ones are handed down word of mouth and rarely reach the open market.
“Safety is paramount and it’s always better to kick the pony along than to be bucked off,” said Helen Bar
ton-Smith. “I also hope parents don’t buy a pony for their child to grow into, but one they can handle and ride happily by themselves.”
Having found your paragon of virtue, always have it checked by a vet before buying.
Ponies who suffer from laminitis or sweet itch will need special care and any lameness or muscular problems can be flagged up. Never be tempted to buy the pony if your vet advises otherwise.
For novice parents, it is not necessary to take the pony home straightaway. There are plenty of good livery or riding stables, which can offer constant advice and help during the first nerve-wracking weeks.
A pony used to being turned out all the time will feel confined if left in a stable without sufficient exercise and your ‘bombproof’ first pony may well change into something else.
Soon however, the pony and child will have got to know one another and everyone will feel confident enough to cope on their own.
Nothing can beat the feeling of having your own pony waiting for you to return from school.
“ I can still remember the ache of longing I had before my parents eventually let me have a pony and the excitement associated with owning horses has never really worn off,” said Jane Clark, assistant district commissioner of the South and West Wilts branch of the pony club.
The pony that will prove the most successful and forever earn a place in their child’s heart will be the one who teaches them everything it knows and gives them the confidence to move on to bigger and better things. Those childhood memories, however, remain for life.
For more information on The Pippin Equestrian Centre click here
For more information on the South & West Wilts Pony Club Branch click here