Wednesday, May. 29, 2024

New Opportunities Abound For Ponies And Pony Breeders

A few years ago while I was watching a breeding class at a horse show, I listened to some pony breeders discussing their industry. Although they were enthusiastic and passionate about their chosen field, they wondered why most of the accolades and awards in breeding were primarily aimed at horse breeders.
   
They had a point.
   

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A few years ago while I was watching a breeding class at a horse show, I listened to some pony breeders discussing their industry. Although they were enthusiastic and passionate about their chosen field, they wondered why most of the accolades and awards in breeding were primarily aimed at horse breeders.
   
They had a point.
   
Throughout the sport horse breeding world there are a variety of futurities, championships and awards for young horses—including U.S. Equestrian Federation national hunter breeding awards, the International Hunter Futurity and the International Jumper And Dressage Futurity. If you’re a pony breeder seeking national accolades, however, you’re pretty much out of luck until your pony is in the performance ring.
   
I thought about our conversation while I was editing Bill Moroney’s Between Rounds “The Pony World Is Thriving—And Changing” (p. 18), and I hope that the pony breeders see the potential opportunities that abound now that there are pony-breeding specific rules in the USEF Rule Book. Bill eventually sees a nationwide program that incorporates the zone, regional and national championships. Such a program would hopefully result in more interest in pony breeding and more focus on producing quality ponies.
   
Likewise, I see Ellen Shevella’s inaugural North American Pony Futurity (p. 90) as a boon to the pony breeders and the pony industry as a whole. The program, which debuts in 2009, has been modeled after the International Hunter Futurity. The Pony Futurity is an opportunity for breeders, stallion owners and owners to showcase their young stock and perhaps earn an early return on their investments.
   
Ellen, the chairman of the NAPF, and her committee have worked hard to develop the program. In addition to a breeding division, there’s also a performance division, one for 3-year-olds and a combined section for 4- and 5-year-olds. In the 3-year-old division, the fence heights are 2′ for smalls and mediums and 2’3″ for larges, an appropriate steppingstone on their way up the ranks.
   
The 3-year-old division also allows for size-appropriate juniors, amateurs and professionals to ride, providing trainers the option of starting a young pony with its ideal rider and not limiting the choice to only juniors. The Futurity may also encourage more adults to develop young ponies because it’s generally less expensive to keep a pony than a horse and less intimidating than, say, starting a 3-year-old warmblood.
   
“Our long-term goal is to keep building the stallion roster and [therefore] increasing the incentive fund,” said Ellen. “We hope the Futurity will enhance the salability of these youngsters and make it more appealing to purchase a young pony.”
   
Ellen also noted that the Pony Futurity might attract horsemen who are concerned about the economy in 2009 and beyond. “One major benefit is that you don’t have to qualify to win the prize money and prestige,” she said. “You just have to get a youngster ready and have this as the goal—you don’t have to traipse them all over the country.”
   
So it appears that the pony breeders have a lot to look forward to in the coming years. And with many friends in the business, I hope that they do receive the accolades they so deserve. There’s no greater feeling than putting your child on a safe, well-trained pony and believing that those people who made it possible have been justly rewarded.

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Tricia Booker, Editor

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