Let’s Discuss: From Ponies to Horses

While I was hacking through London last month, one of the topics my guide and I discussed was ponies. Specifically, how the British in particular embrace ponies as suitable mounts for much longer than we do here in the States.

In the UK, pony jumpers are incredibly popular, and riders are eligible until the age of 16 to compete in the 148cm (i.e. pony) competitions. The European Pony Championships hold their showjumping event over a 1.2m (3’11”) course and with 45 riders representing their countries, it’s obvious that the idea of jumping ponies over height is not an anomaly there as it is here.

Even Jack Whitaker, though obviously being born into showjumping royalty, has to deal with his share of gritty pony wrangling:

And check out this well ridden course by a junior pony pair, liberally sprinkled with pony snark.

Pony jumpers, as well as other disciplines on small-statured mounts, seem not to be nearly as common in the States. Of course we see the adorable pig-tailed girls of the short stirrup classes, but when they get to be preteens, they’re already been riding horses for some time. Not to say this is wrong or right, since of course sometimes a taller horse that lacks typical the pony snarkiness is the safer option for a rider moving up.

But maybe it’s something else here that makes ponies, and short-statured horses unpopular after a certain age. Maybe older riders feel there’s a cultural stigma about riding a smaller mount. Maybe it goes with the bigger-is-better mentality that we Americans like to adopt. Maybe it has something to do with pony breeders, or the absence of marketing sport ponies to adult amateurs. Or maybe we need to see more Teddy O’Connor’s, or North Forks Cardi’s, in the top arenas before the vertically challenged equine becomes en vogue.

All I do know that after being involved with marketing and selling horses, that the ponies and <15.2h horses are the hardest to sell to the 14 and over crowd. Even a horse as cool and athletic as Riley, at 15.1h I wonder how easy he will be to market when the time comes.

Riding shorter horses can be a blast, but why do you think we don’t see so many shorter horses or ponies in the hands of adult amateurs? When did you make the move up to horses, and why? Would you consider riding something shorter if the right match presented itself?