Congratulations Kate and William on the birth of your baby boy.
Once you have settled on a name — and put him down for Eton — it’s never too early to focus on the next most important question. What should his first pony be?
Although Kate is reported to be allergic to horses, there can be no doubt that the next heir to the throne will be expected to take up the family’s equestrian obsession.
So what would be the most suitable pony for the job?
The Shetland is arguably the front-runner in the first pony competition. It can boast a royal heritage, as The Queen’s first pony was a Shetland called Peggy.
Their small size makes them a natural fit as a first pony although they have a reputation for being cheeky. Jane Dennis from Kerswel Stud in Devon, who has been breeding Shetlands for more than 40 years, believes it would be a good choice.
“They are great confidence boosters because of their personalities,” she told H&H.
“The only thing is you have to make sure that they are broken in properly.
“Some people stick a headcollar on and a child on the pony’s back and then wonder why they don’t behave.
“I think this is where their reputation for being naughty comes from.”
The Exmoor may be the preferred choice of the baby’s step-Grandmother, the Duchess of Cornwall. Camilla’s favourite childhood book, Moorland Mousie, tells the story of an Exmoor who is determined to become a hunting pony.
Juliet Rogers of the Moorland Mousie Trust, said: “Exmoor ponies are reliable, strong and clever, able to take care of themselves and their precious cargo.
“These wonderful ponies are sure footed, versatile and a suitable size, making them perfect for a future king”
Event rider Andrew Nicholson has an Exmoor pony for his 8-year old daughter Lily.
“If we go cross-country schooling, I canter over the little jumps and the pony jumps along behind us,” said Andrew in a recent H&H interview.
“If it thinks a jump is too big, it quietly goes around it and hopes I won’t notice — it’s a good pony.”
The pony is also used on the lead-rein for his 4-year old son Zach.
This is another favourite choice for children due to their small size and naturally calm temperament.
Shirley Young, who has been breeding New Forest ponies at Farriers Stud since 1985 believes they are “simply the best” for young children.
She also pointed out that they have royal history because, “they come from the royal hunting ground for King William I.”
Too much too soon
Although breed and size is important it is also crucial that the pony is right for the child.
International dressage rider Steph Croxford discovered this when she acquired a Shetland pony, Jess, on loan for her daughter Annabelle when she was three-years old.
“Unfortunately it didn’t work out.” Steph explained. “The pony wasn’t being naughty, but as a first pony she was just too much.
“You just had to give her a squeeze and she was off. Unfortunately Annabelle fell off 4 times in 2 days, mainly into icy puddles.
“That put her off riding for 3 years, but she has just gone back to having riding lessons and is enjoying it.”
She added: “It is so important to get the first pony right. My advice would be make sure you just get a pony on loan so if something goes wrong there are no financial concerns.”
Hopefully Zara Philips’ 2-year-old niece, Savannah, will get on better with the Shetland which has just been purchased for her by her aunt.
Mother knows best
Showing producer Katy Carter, who has 3 children, believes that temperament is the most important factor when choosing a pony whether for the ring or just for fun.
Harry, Poppy and Harvey were lucky enough to start off with Sprinter the Shetland who is now 22 years old and has been shared around numerous children.
“He was great because he was a real play pony. I know Shetlands have a reputation for being a bit sharp but he wasn’t at all,” Katy explained.
“Poppy used to put pink ribbons in his hair and a crown on him. It was a great way for her to start.”
Both Poppy and Harry have gone on to ride at the Royal International and Horse of the Year Show after their successful start on Sprinter.
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