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If your child has been taking riding lessons for a while and is totally committed to the time they spend not only on board during a riding lesson but on the ground too, then it could be the right time to think about buying them their own pony. Most kids who are into riding love to spend time in stable yards which is hardly surprising because yards can be great fun if they are well organised yet relaxed places for kids to be in. The chances are your little rider has made new friends at the riding school and maybe even been to pony camp on a couple of occasions which most kids truly enjoy going to for lots of reasons. If this is the case and you are in a position to buy your child a pony, you need to sit down and work out just what it all entails because there is a lot to think about. If you are a rider yourself, it does make life lot easier when it comes to finding the perfect pony for your young rider. However, many parents aren't riders or did ride but many moons ago which means very often they are a bit in the dark when it comes to buying ponies or indeed anything that is associated with them.
You really do need to discuss things with the riding instructor before you do anything at all. They are the best person in the world when it comes to appraising your child's riding abilities. The one thing you have to avoid is buying 'too much' of a pony for your child – you want to find one that will take care of them both on the ground and when they are on the pony's back. You want to buy a pony who will be able to take your child to the next level so their riding abilities improve the whole time.
A lot of people these days go down the route of taking ponies out on loan. This is a great option, but there are a few pitfalls to consider. One of which is that unless you have a contract with the owners, you may have to return the pony to them before you really want to. This can be a very upsetting situation for all concerned, especially for your child because they may have formed a great bond with the pony. You may decide to take a pony on loan and this could be on a permanent basis but make sure you have a written contract or you may think that buying a pony is your best option. But whichever route you decide on you need to take someone who knows about ponies with you when you go along to look at a pony. Even if you are a keen rider yourself and know about horses, it is always a good idea to have a second opinion when trying out a pony.
Never go on a pony's looks alone because they might look gorgeous, pretty and sweet but in reality be little demons. Ponies if they have not been correctly trained and then well handled can turn into little monsters. Very often this is not the pony's fault at all, but if you don't want your child to have a bad experience, then you need to stay away from these naughty creatures even if they look wonderfully sweet. Many ponies learn bad habits simply because a young rider lets them get away with murder. Not only this, but small people just don't have the strength of an adult so in many cases if a pony can 'get away' on their rider – they will!
Ponies that are safe but fun rides are called little 'school masters'. This is the sort of pony you need to find and when you do, be prepared to pay that little bit extra for them because they are worth their weight in gold. As a parent, you want to know that your precious little person is going to be safe around their pony at all times and this includes when they are on the ground. You certainly don't want a pony that either kicks or bites and who has a 'bad attitude'. You want to watch the partnership between your child and their pony grow and this will only happen if they really love each other and enjoy each other's company. Naturally, there will be the odd 'falling off' session. This happens because accidents do happen around horses and ponies. But you want to minimise this as much as possible so buying a 'safe' pony that your child can handle is of paramount importance.
When you do go along to see a pony you have to listen to the riding instructor's advice. They will be able to tell you whether or not your child is experienced enough to handle certain ponies. It is never a very good idea to take your child with you the first time you go to see a pony because if the pony is very pretty but badly behaved, you might find you have a problem. Children tend to fall in love with pretty things and don't think about the safety aspect of things at that age – which you have to do. Watch the pony's movements and look at their conformation as well as the size of the pony because you need to buy a pony your child will be able to ride now not a few years down the line. Have a look at the pony's feet and see if they have suffered any hoof problems in the past. If a pony has suffered from laminitis, which some ponies are prone to, then you will be able to spot this fact by the ridges you see on the outside of their hooves. Ask pertinent questions like 'is the pony good to shoe, box and clip' and then pick up the pony's feet yourself to see how they respond to you.
If you are happy with the advice you get from the person you took with you to see a pony, then you will have to arrange for your child to meet the pony and to try it out. Make sure when you go along to see the pony for a second time that you have all the necessary riding equipment with you, including your child's body protector. You really should see your child ride the pony in a safe area like a school or arena first and then if everything is going smoothly, the pony should be ridden a short distance out of the enclosed area just to see how they go. If the partnership works and your child looks happy on board with the pony responding well to them, then you need might have found the perfect pony for your child. The thing to remember is that a partnership between a pony and a young rider takes time to build up. You as a parent have to be involved in the process and you have to want to nurture it. There is nothing nicer than seeing a bond form between a young rider and their mount, it's something we all enjoy – wouldn't you?
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