Scientists may argue over what is the world’s most precious substance: is it platinum, iridium, oil, antimatter? Parents with children under the age of 16 know — forget the rest, it’s the perfect Pony Club pony.

Rarer than rubies, more valuable per ounce than gold, as sought after as truffles, the Pony Club gem is top of every mother’s wish list.

So what qualifies as the Perfect Pony Club Pony (PPCP)?

They can be divided into two main types — the small, fluffy, safe-as-houses saint who can act as nanny, and the bigger, legendary competition pony who has been on every team for donkey’s years and knows the entire dressage test range off by heart and exactly how many strides they need to fit in through that downhill coffin.

What they have in common is safety. You can trust them not to kick, bite or dump your child unnecessarily. Of course children will always fall off, even if the pony doesn’t put a foot wrong, but a good pony should make reasonable efforts to keep them in the plate.

A child should be able to carry a flapping flag during mounted games, or a polocrosse stick, and go “round-the-world” without objections from below.

Every Pony Club instructor breathes a sigh of relief to see them in their ride at camp — they can be used to demonstrate dressage moves, take part in a rousing game of cowboys and Indians, and won’t bog off back to the lorry if the child does fall off.

7 tips for finding the perfect Pony Club pony

1. Do consider older ponies — in fact, the older the better. Many small ponies improve considerably with age.

2. Don’t buy a young, green pony for a nervous child — 99 times out of 100, it won’t work.

3. Do get it vetted if you are buying it — what you find out may not stop you buying it, but it’s important to know if it has had laminitis or other problems in the past.

4. Keep a close eye out at rallies and competitions for lovely ponies — then suck up to their present owners like mad and make sure you seem like the perfect “next home”.

5. Don’t get too ambitious. If your child is nervous, the pony who will only canter for five strides, after much kicking, is better than the all-singing, all-dancing whizzy competition pony.

6. Remember that just because a pony behaves beautifully for someone else’s child, it doesn’t necessarily mean it will with yours — but try and work out why before you blame the pony.

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7. Be prepared to be the envy of everyone if you find a PPCP — and warn your children that others may be jealous.

Don’t miss this week’s issue of Horse & Hound magazine (8 June 2017), where we find out where the most unusual locations for Pony Club camps in the country are