Saturday, September 5, 2009

I Love Ponies!

It's true. I love ponies. Children are the future of our sport, as well as the rest of the future stuff. They are who will take care of us in our old age. Would you rather be taken care of by a person who was raised in front of the television and computer, or one who was raised in the company of horses (and ponies)?

Let's face it, if a child's first experience has to be on the back of a horse, the most important life lessons have to be put off (grooming, leading, haltering, handling, etc.), just because of the size difference. A good pony levels the playing field. The kid can groom it thoroughly, pick up its feet, tack it by themselves, and be responsible for the bulk of its general care. This teaches them responsibility, independence, leadership, hard work, teamwork, and so forth from a much different perspective...they do it themselves, rather than have an adult do everything for them until the are big enough.

Pony breeding has come a long way in the United States. If ponies were ever as bad as their reputation, that is no longer the case. These days, there are a great many ponies who have wonderful, calm dispositions, good, balanced conformation, and good to very good gaits. To a point, the issue of good training is still a challenge, but there are capable adults who are small enough to start and train ponies for the children.

The pony in the pictures is one of my very favorite ponies! His name was D'Apples, and he was the heart and soul of all the children at Windsor when I was the director there. He was a grey Welsh Cob and was 13.3hh. His disposition was unparalleled, he had really good gaits and was willing to try anything. I showed him at a local show in the off-season for Windsor (the kids were not there to show him themselves) and received scores of 66% and 68% at Training Level (that was his only show that I know about). He died way too young at 13 years old from Melanoma. It was the worst case I have ever seen, and if he had not received the stellar care (due to his owners at Windsor and a great vet), he would not have lasted as long as he did.

But he is not an exception....there are many, many great ponies out there. The Hunter/Jumper world utilizes ponies very well, but I would love to see a much more wide use of ponies in the dressage world. After all, a foundation in dressage should be what we are teaching our ponies AND our kids at the beginning, before they specialize in any discipline....even before Hunters--I see too many kids going over cross-rails long before they have the seat and effectiveness of the aids which is what makes it safer. Most of them survive, a slight majority of them even stay interested in horses, but at some point, all need remedial lessons in their seat and position to keep moving forward in their riding. Wouldn't it be easier to learn the foundation at the beginning than to have to go back and UNlearn the bad habits and replace them with good ones?

I would love to hear from people who have had (or known) great ponies. If you email me their pictures and stories, I will post some of them here.

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