“I have an 18 mo old colt and hope he’ll make a great kid pony in a few years. He’s currently 12.2 hh and 500lbs, so I don’t expect him to get very big. What can I do with him on the ground over the next few years to get him ready to ride? When the time comes to saddle and ride him, how do I go about that, with him being so small?”-Ariella G.
Great kids ponies can be worth their weight in gold…but not quite as easy to find. The challenge comes in training such a small steed. I like that you are already thinking about groundwork because so much can be accomplished there.
My first recommendation would be to do all the ‘standard’ groundwork that you saw me do in the Jac series plus any extra that occurs to you. Keep in mind that your goal is to have this pony trained for kids…so try to think like a kid. Kids do things that adults just don’t think of, like climbing the front of the stalls or riding a bike down the isle way. Your challenge is to think like a kid but correct like an adult. This means that you might think of something crazy a kid might do, but then break the training process down into steps.
Another thing I would highly recommend is training the pony to drive. Many great lessons happen during the cart training process that can directly carry over to riding. If you watch the Jac series you will see that I normally ground drive my colts. Breaking your colt to drive will have the same benefits, only better. One of the biggest drawbacks to ground driving is all the running around the handler has to do. Once your colt is trained to drive you will be more likely to continue the ‘driving’ lessons because riding in the cart is more fun than running behind him. A well trained driving horse, or pony, is soft and responsive to the bridle reins and the advantage for you is that it doesn’t require putting any weight on his back.
Groundwork, ground driving, ponying, and teaching him to pull a cart are all great things for creating a well trained pony without even mounting up. All of this preparation will make the transition to riding easier when he is grown and ready. The last challenge will be finding a small but experienced rider. Just because I say small doesn’t mean this needs to be a young person. I have met many ladies that were small enough to ride the pony you are describing.
It takes years of training to create a nice horse and it should take the same to create a great pony. The advantage of training your own will be that you will know him very well and will be able to prevent many of the problems that are common in ponies.