Expert advice on making the difficult transition from lead rein to first ridden classes

The transition from lead rein to first ridden showing classes for a young rider is a big step, both mentally and physically, and should not be underestimated.

Safety must be the only major consideration when deciding that the child rider is ready to compete in the ring “off the lead”.

The rider must have an established seat, capable legs and control over their hands before being sent into the ring alone. The pony must be snaffle-mouthed, kind, sensible, well-schooled and of the appropriate size for the child.

As a combination, the pony and child must be capable of “performing” what is required in the ring without danger of fear or humiliation.

There is no point combining a tiny child with a pony that is too large or too sharp, or they will either be unable to get it going in the ring or worse will bucked off or bolted off with.

The combination needs to practise in the clothes and tack that they will use on the day. It is grossly unfair to expect a young, inexperienced child to go out in hard new boots, brand new jodhpurs or gloves and stiffnew reins!

The saddle must fit and be a suitable size for rider and pony. A tiny numnah under the saddle will help prevent cold backs or pinching, as well as making tack cleaning much easier!

Cut stirrup leathers and reins to the right length and make sure your rider is wearing correctly fitting and comfortable clothes.

  • Ensure the child is mentally and physically capable of moving on up
  • Do not push the child to compete off the lead
  • Use an old schoolmaster/mistress for the first season
  • Hack out with the combination to make sure they are confident
  • Accustomise pony and rider to large and small arenas, indoor and outdoor
  • Practise the show at home until foot-perfect
  • Use comfortable clothesand tack
  • Do not expect too much for the first season
  • Do not teach your child to expect to win
  • Teach your child to praise the pony and be polite to fellow competitors
  • Remember that beginner first ridden does not have to show canter
  • Make sure you are always early with plenty of time to prepare
  • Go and watch numerous classes before you have a go yourself.
  • Remember: Safety first at all times
  • Click here for expert advice on buying a first pony.
  • Click here to find out what is a “suitable snaffle” for lead rein and first ridden ponies.