How to convince someone that children need to start on ponies?
I have been helping a close friend start a summer camp for 2014, maybe 2013. Many problems have occurred, but one that I can't seem to fix is this.
We currently have a 8 year old and a 12 year old riding at the farm(Relatives and Family friends). The oldest has been riding for four years and has lots on local show experience. The 8 year old is walking off lead. My friend wants the 8 year old to ride a 15h horse, and the other to ride something at least 16.2h. She has said that they are both too big for ponies and that there legs will be to far down (This is untrue). I believe that one of the reasons she thinks this is that she has an odd sense of measurement, and thinks that a 14h pony is 15h+. When I told her that we should be looking for both lesson ponies and horses she disagreed and asked me why I am so set on having them ride ponies. The oldest want to start easing into horses, but not jump right to it and quit riding ponies.
So, anyone have any advice on how to convince her of this? I am not asking you to tell me that I shouldn't be working with this person. Any tips are appreciated.
IMO a safe horse is a safe horse. If they really want a horse I'd try to help them find the most bombproof been there done that type. I've known many of kids that's started on 15h horses and never got on a pony. Maybe you could find a 14.2 or 14.3h for the younger child and a 15.1 or 15.2h for the older one. Ponies are great for little ones but there are also bad ponies that have lots of tricks up their sleeves.
Horses aren't our whole life, but makes our life whole
I don't think height or the horse/pony distinction should matter at this point. You need quiet and well behaved schoolies of any size (although something around 15-16 hands will probably be the most versatile in a program since they can accommodate taller riders more easily). The 8 year old/12 year old don't need to be on a pony OR on something that is 16.2 - they need to be on something that will give them confidence, whatever the size.
To completely generalize, smaller ponies are little devils until they are at least 20. I don't think I would mess with even a medium unless it was on the older side for the same reason. Even the truly little kids (5 year olds) have always started on horses at the barns I've been at and moved on to ponies when they have enough experience to stay on if pony misbehaves.
Look first for unending patience, reliability, steadiness, and enough soundness to hold up to the job. Anything appearance related, including height, comes last.
As an added bonus, it is easy to find people to tune up horses that are in need of a refresher from an advanced rider. It is much harder to find a good pony jock to get a small back in line.
Aside from the suitability argument (proportionality, application of the aids, etc.), on which we're in agreement, a couple of business related points in favor of ponies, particularly ones that are large enough for a competent adult to tune up, in riding schools where there are students (children and adults) who are small enough to ride them:
1-In general, they're often sturdier, hardier, and have more useful years than horses. From a business perspective, this makes more sense.
2-It may be easier to acquire sound trained ones that are safe from people who are willing to free lease them because they've been outgrown.
3-They're smaller, the ground is closer and falls may hurt less. In addition, they're more size appropriate for the little ones to handle from the ground. This reduces attrition due to fear and confidence issues. I know there will be people who say all small ponies are terrors and all big horses are saints but ground manners are ground manners.
You might have a hard time with this argument in the US because there seems to be a hurry to ride the biggest horse possible as soon as possible as if it's some sort of achievement. You might also have a problem if you're in an area where everyone rides a 14 2 quarter horse.
Most top class riders started on ponies when they were children. There's a reason for that.
My daughter is 10, been riding for two years and change, and the shortest horse she's ridden is 14.1 or 14.2 depending on who is measuring. She now rides a 16hh QH and does just fine with it WTC and small jumps. She's pretty tall (4'11" - 5'0") and leggy though.
I don't see the mandatory correlation between small kids = small ponies.
Pros of ponies:
- they eat less than horses and require less space = cheaper
- shorter falls!!
- often they have longer careers
But it's very difficult to keep a small or medium tuned up, so they can become terrors.
The most versatile size for kids is probably 14-15hh. A lesson program can probably fit all but larger adults with a range of horses from 14-16hh.
I cannot imagine that a 12 year old would need 16.2++!! Is this Shaq's kid or something?
EDIT: is the trainer concerned about finding horses that she can also get on and train to keep them tuned up? Maybe SHE can't fit a pony? If that's the case, then I would agree with her. Someone needs to keep them tuned up or they won't be safe regardless of size.
I started riding at 7. I was a tiny little thing, my coach started me on the saint of a pony but the first 2 lessons I had I fell off her (in her 13+ years as a beginner lesson pony I was 1 of 2 people who ever hit the dirt from her back! lol) My coach put me on a 15.2 gelding and I never rode the pony again. She was the only pony in her lesson string
I think a safe, sane horse is a safe, sane horse regardless of size. Kids on ponies are adorable but I don't think it is mandatory that every kid starts on a pony.
I started riding when I was 8 years old, lessoned on some Arabians that were around the 15 hand mark. Bought my first horse, a 15 hand 6 year old appy a few months later. His size was never an issue for me, and because he was not a pony, I was able to ride him for many years.
There are also very capable 12 year olds, I was competing at training level in eventing at that age. Bought my 16.3 TB at 13 to move up on (and had outgrown the 15 hander by that age). At 13 I was 5’5”, with long legs, basically the same height that I am now.
I started riding at age 7, on a 15.2h QH called Sanity I have ridden a few ponies but never had a lesson on a pony. I was always taught that horses are nicer/easier to learn on than ponies both on the ground and under saddle...
My daughter started riding on my 17 hand schoolmaster, started showing on a bombproof been-there done that 15 hand QH, and finally got good enough to ride our 12.2 hand Welsh firecracker! IMO it's not the size that's important, it's matching skill level to the mounts you have available.
It's the temperament of the horse not the size of the horse that matters. I started riding at 6 months old on my grandparents mid-sized plow horse. When my parents were going to buy me a pony when I was 10 yoa, a race horse owner and breeder who worked for my father said "no pony, get a small horse." He followed Mr. Beatty's advice. I'd already taken english lessons on horses at Sa-Hi Riding Academy. No ponies there either.
I don't think a kid needs a pony to ride. I think a kid needs a horse like my first 2 horses, who always took care of me and were great. One was 14.3 and one was 16.0. I've never owned or ridden a pony except at fairs.
I am interested too in who might be able to school the ponies if that is the direction you take; is she small enough to, or are you? I have a very small lesson barn and am incredibly fortunate to have two very good little lesson ponies in my string, both under the age of 10. From the business perspective, as others have noted, they are less wasteful of bedding (if they will be stalled), do eat less and are hardier. The smaller guy, about 13HH and a Westfalen mix, can be a little naughty, not in that he ever will try to throw anyone (knock on wood) but in a "Ooooh, grass! Lets go over there " kind of way. Horses do have a reputation for being a bit more forgiving and amiable, but this guy is small enough that most 6-7 year olds can assert themselves with him, and I think that is a great lesson to learn from the get-go (I do keep them on lead line and longe line until they have good balance). The other, a 14H Welsch/Cob, is incredibly kind and is hardly ever naughty, at worst will try to stop and get some TLC from a lesson spectator. I am a petite rider, and started and trained the Welsch myself, and ride both ponies regularly to keep them tuned up, which makes a huge difference IMO. I agree with the ground manners, as well, grooming a bigger horse can be intimidating vs. grooming the cute little ponies is just fun for the kids and that in turn brings in more business when they go back to school/see friends and talk about it.
The more variety of horses/ponies she can have, the better, height wise to personality wise. I have a pony for the intimidated/worried rider, and a pony for the rider ready to learn how to assert themselves with. Can she lease or borrow a horse or two for the duration of the camp (make sure all insurance is in place) that she has experience with and faith in? In just having two animals, what if one needs time off, for whatever reason? Good luck; the camps are a lot of work but lots of fun.
In my string of schoolies right now, I have only one pony (14h), one small horse (15.1h) and all the rest are 16-17.1h. When you find a great pony they are quite valuable to a lesson program but remember that you are limited with what can ride those smaller mounts. My 17.1h guy can carry just about anyone but my 14h guy can only take kids or REALLY petite adults.
And as a whole my big horses are much more forgiving and quiet whereas the ponies tend to be a bit feisty or sassy.
I always found it easier to teach kids to post on horses as the good schoolies we had moved with bigger, slower steps than the couple of ponies in our program. If I were starting a program now, I would lean toward horses for sure!