The debate over adults working in ponies seems to be raging on. The sooner The Showing Council and societies reach some common ground over the weight ratio, the better.
While I understand the ruling specifying no one over the age of 16 can ride 122cm ponies anywhere on a showground has been brought in with the best of intentions, it doesn’t make sense that an appropriately sized 17-year-old cannot work in a pony of this height — yet a full-grown man or woman can ride a Welsh section A in the ring in the open mountain and moorland classes.
In the horse classes, it is considered acceptable for professionals to work in animals for adult riders. This may be for a variety of reasons, including time, riding ability and confidence, but most probably because a professional is more experienced at preparing the animal ready for the ring, setting up its way of going so the non-professional can then get the best tune out of the horse in the arena.
The situation with children’s ponies should be no different and many people believe it is even more important for it to be permitted.
Ironing out any problems
I don’t for one minute expect a six-year-old child to have as much technical riding ability as my riding staff. So if, for example, a pony begins its warm-up in an overbent shape and doesn’t want to go forward and straight, it is necessary for a more experienced jockey to iron out these problems by schooling the pony.
You cannot expect small riders to be able to do it themselves. It would be unreasonable to expect the child to break in the pony themselves, so why then would we expect them to have the knowledge, experience, understanding and physical ability to be responsible for the schooling?
By establishing a correct way of going in these ponies, then ultimately you teach the children to develop good feel. This only comes from feeling what it’s like to ride a pony who is going correctly. Hopefully, they can then develop their riding and perhaps one day set up ponies for the next generation.
With regard to lungeing, horses and ponies all have different temperaments.
Show animals are not trained police horses and therefore we cannot expect them all to deal similarly with differing showground atmospheres.
If they come off the wagon and are sharp, then it is safer all round to lunge them and lose some excess energy naturally before riding them in to prepare them for the ring.
Correct exercising in this way for an appropriate length of time is not harmful to an animal. Showing is no different to other equestrian disciplines where lungeing is simply a part of getting a horse or pony ready for competition.
At the end of the day, the safety of our riders should be paramount, and so, ultimately, the correct preparation of the animal is hugely important.
Ref Horse & Hound; 19 September 2019