At 4? You'll be lucky of they can get around a show ring in a class situation in the next year or so. I mean, really...realizing all parents can think their offspring is an exception, kids that young still need considerable coaching from outside the ring. Listening to the disembodied voice over PA and following those commands is pretty uncommon in a 4 year old.
Serious lessons are a little beyond them at that age as well. They cry too and can get scared in a heartbeat even if the Pony is not naughty. Most trainers have caved to the trend of starting them really young but will tell you privately 6 is a better age for most of them to really start understanding instruction and being corrected instead of having to be babied and protected from disappointment.
I think movement is the last thing you need to be worried about in a starter Pony for a 4 year old...who may not even really like or want to go horse show, just wants a Pony to love on and play with. They will say what the parent wants to hear to please them, not really a whole lot of independent thought from 4 year olds.
Get her a nice old Pony and let her just have some fun with it until she grows up to, say, 6ish. Then she will know enough to decide if she wants to compete or not...and understand sometimes you win, more often, you lose and crying is not an option.
When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.
OP, I mean this in the gentlest way, but it is time for a reality check. Your daughter is four. She needs something safe and steady. Put those qualities above all else. Four year olds do not care about showing. Four year old kids should not be riding loose in a show ring with other kids and ponies. Four year olds lack the strength, balance, reflexes and judgment to have any real control over a 500 lb. pony or the ability to protect themselves/get out of the way should a situation or accident occur.
If you are interested in your daughter having a show career, have patience, the time will come. For now, try and see things from her point of view. Do not be lured by movement or looks--little kids don't notice or care about that stuff. Little kids want to feel safe. The might tolerate a fall or two, but I've seen many kids lose interest FAST. Little kids like to do things themselves--pick feet, brush manes and tails, apply coat products and hoof oil, etc, so look for a pony that has excellent ground manners. Little kids have slow reflexes, so absolutely NO spookiness or quickness. Look for a pony that tends to slow down when the rider gets off balance or does something weird, and avoid ponies that tend to pick up pace as a reaction to things. Little kids love to feel accomplishment in their abilities and have the approval of the adults around them, so choose a pony where they can have success and feel pride in THEIR skills (not in how fancy their pony is). A little kid will invariably be happier feeling successful on a hairy old one-eyed packer than struggling with a fancy pony.
A little kid will invariably be happier feeling successful on a hairy old one-eyed packer than struggling with a fancy pony.
I had to comment on this statement.
I know of a BNT who had decades of success with very fancy ponies. Champions at the best shows, horse of the year awards, etc. However, when it was time for his own young kid to start riding, he got her the "hairy old one-eyed packer" to start learning the ropes. Literally, an old show pony who had ended up with one eye, but was a saint with small children. And he got that "hairy old one-eyed pony" from another BNT who had started her own daughter on that pony.
Both those kids (and probably many others) went on to ride and show a wide range of very fancy ponies and horses down the road, but they got a great start from that wonderful safe old pony with one eye. Bless her.
Funnily enough, I was just talking about the Naughty Ed video with a friend a few weeks ago. His own daughter, who has become a fantastic rider, started out on a pony with a few Ed-like tendencies, though her pony was nowhere near as bad as Ed.
The videos of the naughty ponies certainly show how sweet most ponies are for the little kids.