Money can buy most things — but it’s not the only consideration when seeking the perfect first pony. We suss out what to look for in a four-legged gem

Although a little girl might fantasise about owning a unicorn, looks are low on the agenda when it comes to the perfect first pony.

Temperament

Temperament is the most important criteria,” says showing producer and lead-rein specialist Sharn Linney.

“All children need a kind, quiet pony for the crucial early days, who is willing to do whatever is asked of them in and out of the stable — ground manners are key. Breeding, age and colour are irrelevant, although the pony should be sound and healthy.”

Size

Many of us treasure early photos of ourselves with our legs halfway up the saddle flaps — and Sharn is flexible on height, so long as the child isn’t over-horsed.

“They shouldn’t be too big or strong, but nothing so small that they will quickly be outgrown — the partnership takes time to build.”

Reputation

Sharn’s main warning is to avoid ponies with no history.

“Contact reputable breeders, ask local Pony Clubs, and don’t rush the decision,” she says. “And always see the current owner ride the pony first, so you know whether the pony is suitable for your child to ride.”

Hannah Goffe of White House Farm Equestrian has found perfect ponies for everyone from Russian oligarchs’ children to her own daughters, and also stipulates kindness as key.

“The first pony needs to make the child want to carry on riding,” she adds. “I wonder how many future riders we’ve lost because they’ve had an inappropriate first pony.”

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Price

As for a ballpark price — there isn’t one.

“Some are family pets who never come on to the market, or you may get lucky and land one on loan,” Sharn says. “A good one is priceless as they’re worth their weight in gold.”

Don’t miss this week’s special pony issue of Horse & Hound magazine (7 June 2018), where we also find out how to find the perfect second pony, parent-child share and pony for the nervous child — as well as meet some of Britain’s naughtiest ponies

For all the latest equestrian news and reports, don’t miss Horse & Hound magazine, out every Thursday