Robert Walker’s hunt for the perfect first show pony: ‘Chiselled, graceful and elegant’

  • You probably associate Robert Walker, guest editor of this week’s showing special (17 March), with winning in the ring aboard a hunter or a cob.

    However, his daughter, Izzy, recently turned three and Robert has a new challenge: to find the perfect first lead-rein show pony that will be a champion.

    “I’m competitive and I want the best pony, but on a low budget finding the perfect one won’t be easy,” admits Robert.

    So what is he looking for?

    1. Looks to die for

    Elegance, grace and beauty is everything in a show pony class. “A chiselled head is a must. Show ponies should be beautiful — like a mini live portrait, says Robert. “It’s got to have blood quality — almost like a mini show hack.”

    2. Perfectly pint-sized

    Lead-rein show ponies must not exceed 122cm. “I won’t mind if it’s not the full 12hh. I’d quite like something around 11.2hh, as Izzy is only tiny and no one likes to see children unable to get their legs around the saddle,” says Robert. “I want the overall picture to look like Izzy is the rider, rather than being perched on top.”
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    3. Catwalk moves

    The chosen pony will move elegantly and with grace. “It can’t step too high off the ground because that will make it hard for Izzy to do rising trot,” muses Robert. “Even so, the pony should still sweep across the ground and have an elegant step.”

    4. Impeccable manners

    Robert used to do lead-rein show hunter pony classes with his son Sam. This category differs in that there is a handy pony-type course to negotiate, with children having to lean over to touch a gate and other activities. “You could instantly tell which ponies didn’t have trust in their handler and it ruined the overall picture. That trust is important for show ponies too,” explains Robert. “I don’t want a pony who is sharp or nervous — if you pat the pony and they pull away it’s because they’re not enjoying being led.” Impeccable manners are vital. “The pony has got to stay by my side, going when I say and standing still until it’s asked otherwise.”

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    5. Ready to learn

    “Basically, I want the best,” concludes Robert. “This season we will play and come out fighting next year. The pony doesn’t have to be experienced because Sam or [Robert’s wife] Sarah can ride it off the lead-rein at home to educate it. It will be more affordable if it’s not proven itself yet.”

    Don’t miss this week’s showing special of Horse & Hound magazine, guest edited by Robert Walker, on sale now (17 March)

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