Ponies can have such a bad reputation. This is not a surprise: those miniature versions
of horses are often very smart, but also difficult for an adult to ride because of
their small size, making any sort of training difficult. However, if their role is
to take young kids through their first steps in the saddle, it is best if ponies
can understand what is expected of them clearly in order to give confidence to our
Ponies need training just the same than the big guys if not more: the fact that their
job is going to be to teach young clumsy riders, mean that they need to understand
all the cues very well, and not be put off when those are given at the wrong time
and meddled in an array of false cues (moving legs and shaking hands). The more clear
understanding they have of what needs to be done, the more confident they are. And
the more confident they are, the more patience they have when the cues given by their
apprentice riders are tough and incomprehensible.
When getting a young pony, if the animal’s job will be to teach a young kid, realistically,
it needs to receive a year or two of professional training, followed by a progressive
switch into lesson work with increasingly greener riders. If the pony has a good
head, it can be occasionally used with complete beginners during the training process,
especially if the work is done on the lunge line. Having the animal in a facility
where there is a constant supply of young riders with experience is an indispensable
part of pony training. That is why I could devise a program especially suited for
1st part: full time professional training.
2nd part: some professional sessions, some done with a young rider on board, and
possibly, the occasional use in a Kiddie lesson.
3rd part: the pony gets introduced to group lessons, still gets private sessions
with a young experienced rider, and a couple of times each month with me to keep
track of the progress and spot any confusion before they become hard to fix.
The amount of time needed in each stage will depend on the pony’s dispositions and
age. For example, the first part might take only 1 month if the pony is older, has
some experience, and mostly needs a tune up, but up to 12 months or more if we start
a 3 year old that already needs to “unlearn” some bad habits.
Throughout this process, if the pony’s owner is old enough to ride, a lesson program
could be devised as part of the pony’s training (no additional expense). If and when
the pony is ready, it could be taken to Pony Club events where there is always some
instruction by experienced teachers. Taking the pony to independent shows where my
presence would be required is possible, if it can fit in my schedule and for an additional
fee to be determined depending on location and duration of the event.