The Joys Of Ponies?

By Jasmine Smith AKA Mummy to Jessica Smith-Clarke Dressage

Pony = Noun: A small type of horse!

As a person that has been privileged enough to grow up with ponies then horses and now has the pleasure of coaching my daughter and her pony, I decided to write a simple, fun guide to ‘ponies’. As a child my first pony was a shetland called Snoopy. He was a super pony and I have fond memories however, I equally remember ‘the joys of having a pony’! I found myself many a time, sat on the floor (probably in tears) as Snoopy had decided to help himself to some grass, go super fast to keep up with my mums horse or; his favourite trick, we had been cantering along next to my mum (who had a Welsh cob called Shannon) and Snoopy had dodged some cow poo… I grew up on a dairy farm so as you can imagine, this was his favourite party trick and my least favourite party trick! This said, I equally remember the hours of fun I had riding, grooming ‘helping’ mum muck out and spending ages walking around the field trying to catch him, only for mum to walk straight up to him and put his head collar on! I then moved on to my next pony – Midnight. He was a young Welsh section B and a big learning curve. Let’s just say I learnt the need for a good seat and quickly! Jessica is a 7 year old dressage rider (and my daughter). Jessica competes at Intro and Prelim both BD affiliated and unaffiliated. She has been riding since she was 4 and competed in her first dressage test age 5. Jessica rides her Section A mare, Sarum Little Lady. Lady is completely home produced and we have had her since she was an untouched 4 year old. Lady and Jessica’s birthdays are only 3 days apart from each other. You can see pictures of Jessica and Lady and follow their story on their following Facebook page:​ and on Instagram So from my experiences as a pony rider (many years ago!) and now Jessica and Lady’s trainer, here is a simple, fun guide to ponies….

50 Shades Of Character…… 

Now this particularly applies to mares but lets face it, they all have their quirks! So as the saying goes, you should:

Tell a Gelding

Ask a Stallion

Discuss with a Mare

Pray if it’s a Pony!

This statement is so true! Ponies have the tendency to make their own rules, dependant on how they are feeling, who is riding, what they are being asked to do, what they actually feel like doing and the list goes on. You can quickly go from the ‘happy to see you neigh’ to trying to bite you when they see it is feed time – obviously, it’s because they are ‘starving’! One minute they are standing beautifully, the next, they feel the need to charge at another horse, just for looking at them – talk about a complex! There is no denying it, Ponies are full of character. They can be happy, grumpy, cheeky, lazy, bouncy, forward, stubben, acrobatic, spooky and playful all in the same day! They are in fact, very similar to children! One minute your pony is happily strolling along, having a lovely hack in the sun, then suddenly the spookiest shadow monster jumps out from the hedge, determined to scare them. Now once the shadow monster has made an appearance, then the doc leaf monster, bird monster and even the invisible monster seem to come out too. We just don’t understand the threat that these pose to our loving, calm ponies – or at least they were, 5 minutes ago. Jessica loves reading the Thelwell books. These provide a super overview of our ponies. I guarantee there will be a Thelwell picture that you can relate to.

Quite often I receive nice comments from people we meet. While this is very sweet, it often makes me chuckle. The people to make these comment are either non equestrians or equestrians that have most definitely missed out on ‘the pony years’. Here is a small breakdown of some of them and the actual reality of them.

Non Equestrian V Equestrian Lingo 

Non Equestrian  V​​ ​ The Equestrian

She/He is so cute!  V  Cute? You wouldn’t have said that 10 minutes ago! Plus you are not sat on it!

I wish I had a pony!  V  I miss out on parties, and playdates!

It is not far to fall!   Tell that to my broken bones and my concussion!

She knows where all the Letters are in the arena  V  Um? No, I train hard and I ask her to go that way!

Can I have a go on your pony?  V  I spend hours a week training to perfect The smallest of things and you think I am going to let you undo it all?

It must be so lovely having a pony  V  Yep, I love getting wet, stuck in Mud, bitten by horse flies and smelling of Odor de Cheval, yes, it’s lovely!

You must be rich!  V  Rich? (loud laugh) Rich in memories but financially…. Definitely not!

You are so lucky to have a Horse/ Pony…. 

While this is very true, there is no getting away from the less glamorous side of horses & ponies. It is a simple fact that our pony weighs around 310 kg compared to my daughter who is 16kg. This means that when Lady decides that she is going to do something (and she is having a stubborn moment) there is not a lot 16 kg is going to do about it. You learn to be brave and sit tight, you fall, you break or you bounce (until you get older anyway, then you no longer bounce!) You get cold, you ride in the rain, the snow, the ice. You have to muck out twice a day, clean buckets, pick up poo (yes, the field doesn’t stay clean all on it’s own!) fork the muck heap, clean tack, drive miles for a 5 minute dressage test, pay for it all, try to convince Daddy that this is a good idea and one more pony won’t hurt, watch your money turn into poo and the list goes on. The simple fact is, having horses and ponies is HARD work. BUT….

There is an upside. Afterall, why else would you do it?  

I can not describe the joy i feel when I see my daughter achieving one of her goals (she sets her own weekly goals) this may be as simple as getting into a ‘scary’ corner that they have been struggling with or a big goal like going to the Quest National Finals. It not only makes me immensely proud, but I see the heart and soul that my daughter puts into her passion – her pony. Seeing her face when something has gone well, when she realises what she has achieved what she set out to achieve, big or small. The love that she shows towards her ponies, the dedication that she shows on a daily basis (and at only 7 years old) This all outweighs the tears when she feels that it is not going well, she is very critical of herself. It is all a part of her life (and mine) It is in her blood if you like; part of her life style. The sense of achievement when it goes well, or when the smallest thing goes to plan (even when you tell someone and they think you’re crazy!) It is an amazing feeling. Her passion has contributed to the wonderful person that she is. It has strengthened her passion taught her compassion, determination, dedication, respect and love, it has also taught her that if you want something enough and you work hard, you can achieve your goals.

This brings me back to the point: ​The Joys of Ponies?  

I guess it is simple? They make their own rules, they can be complicated, they are full of character. But what they give far outweighs their quirks, after all, us equestrians like a challenge, we are also full of Character!

The secret… 

Expect the unexpected and you should be fine!

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