BY STEFANIE MAZER
Short stirrup is an important division for young riders. For many, it’s their first time showing over straight rail fences. The jumps can have fill and width, and the courses start to get more complicated. It can be a nerve-wracking step up for a young equestrian!
All these factors mean that it’s essential to find your young rider the perfect short stirrup pony. When it’s time to search for a short stirrup partner, be on the look out for these six traits.
Training Wheel Pony
The best ponies to teach young children short stirrup are the ones I call “training wheels.” They’re not ten speed bikes like your typical division pony. These training wheel ponies might have seen some miles, or they might not be the flashiest thing in the ring, but they are patient and kind. Training wheel ponies are the ones that teach you how to ride.
An Uphill Canter
Having a good canter is about much more than placing well in the hack. A good uphill canter will keep a child in the tack, and help them develop a proper seat and leg. It’s imperative from the start to create correct muscle memory from the seat and leg instead of the hip and hand. Learning to ride an uphill canter will set young riders up for success with their future mounts and higher divisions.
A Shorter Stride
In short stirrup – consistency is key. Judges love to see a consistent trip with a well-suited pair. For small riders, it’s often helpful to find a pony with a shorter stride. A shorter stride will typically prevent the pony from taking a long distance that might unseat a little rider.
Responsive to the Leg
It’s important for all horses to be forward and responsive to leg cues, but even more so when the rider is teeny tiny! Many short stirrup riders haven’t yet developed muscles needed to continually push a mount forward. A pony that’s too dull to the leg will become a source of frustration, and prevent the rider from learning how to use an effective strong leg from the start. A frustrated rider often resorts to kicking, which is neither successful in the show ring nor their subsequent equestrian education.
Easy Lead Change
It’s always good to have a pony that has an easy lead change. This allows the child to learn how to feel the pony’s body move underneath them when changing leads. Easy flying changes also prevent the changes of direction on course from being a source of stress or panic.
Appropriate Sized Jump
With most short stirrup courses ranging from 18” – 2’, you don’t need your pony to have excessive scope. In fact, a pony who steps over the jumps instead of jumping extremely roundly will be more comfortable for a child building confidence around the course. Short stirrup is about safely building the skills a child needs to get ready to move on to the bigger divisions.
The short stirrup division can be a great experience for young riders when they have the perfect pony partner. By following these guidelines and communicating with your trainer, you’re sure to be able to find the perfect match soon. Happy pony hunting!