Let me say this on the front end – pony shopping is a first world problem! Being fortunate enough to be able to purchase a pony, any pony, for myself or my child is something that a very small percentage of people are able to do. I freely recognize this. But that being said, it is exhausting looking for the perfect pony.
I love the idea of pony shopping, Browsing websites and social media in search of the perfect partner is fun. Imagining the scenario where I find a diamond in the rough is exciting. But when you are more than ready to buy and have a kid eagerly awaiting a new partner, there is a shift in the enjoyment. It becomes a challenge.
PonyKid is 14 this year, and has big goals of making it back to Pony Finals in the large greens. With the cost of some ponies exceeding the amount of my first house, it was time to have a very real conversation with her about realistic expectations. She says she knows what it means to bring along a green project, but no idea of the reality yet. It’s similar to the way I thought I knew how much I would love my children before they were born, but had no clue. You just can’t fully understand until you’re in it.
Today I had lunch with some non-horsey friends, and one of the first questions asked was, “How much does it cost to buy a horse?” Of course, that’s a very loaded question that depends on about a million different scenarios. I mean, if you are so inclined you can buy a horse for $500, or you could spend well into the 6 figures and every price point in-between. Generally, the more demanding of a job you are asking of the pony, the higher the price tag climbs.
I have some fairly narrow criteria for what I want to find, but am trying to be realistic about my expectations. I find it helps me to split my wishlist of qualities into “need to have’s” and “want to have’s.” The Needs are non-negotiables. The Wants are those that I will likely have to let at least one slide in order for the pony to be in budget.
Scope and step for the job
Competitive in hack
Competitive in model
No flashy colors (though gray, roan, and palomino I can totally accept)
Between 6-8 years old
Started over fences
When it comes to shopping, I know myself. I have champagne taste on a beer budget. Except right now, I’m trying to buy some five figure beer and still falling short. In order to get something that meets all of the Needs, I am going to have to accept a hole in at least one of my Wants. If we find a pony who is kind and fancy and the right age, but it’s a mare, I’m not going to rule it out. But if we find one that is the the hack winner, a gelding, can jump the moon, but has a death wish for its rider, I’m out. Good brain and kind temperament are non negotiable.
The struggle to find something that is perfect on paper is difficult in its own right, but there’s still more to consider than a checklist. Compatibility is the biggest component for me. All people don’t get along, and the same goes for our equine partners. Some prefer a rider with a softer hand, some need a firm leader. Some people need a pony who can tune out show jitters, and some need something that likes softer cues. I am drawn to the ones with big quirky personalities. I like them to have their own opinions and to express them, even though it sometimes makes my life more difficult. The PonyKid is very good at listening to her inner voice and usually knows fairly quickly if she gets along with the pony or not. The first time she sat on her last pony, I don’t think she had done more than walk a few steps before declaring “this is my pony!”
Even when we make it through the checklist and the personalities sync, there is still the pre-purchase exam to clear.
I have a serious love/hate relationship with the PPE. It’s necessary. I get it. We need to know that physically the pony is able to hold up to the demands of the job being asked of him. However, I have bad knees, a questionable back, and any range of regular aches and pains. I couldn’t pass a flexion test if someone held a gun to my head. I mean, I limp when I jog – even without someone first holding my joint in an uncomfortable position! So it seems unreasonable to expect perfection in an animal who is on his feet far more often than I am.
I really try and use the PPE as a sliding scale of suitability. I do not expect any pony to have a perfect exam. However, I also have to remember to view the exam with my brain and not my emotions. Once I’ve gotten to the pre-purchase point, I’m emotionally invested whether I want to be or not. Finding out there is a significant enough issue to keep me from moving forward is a tough pill to swallow. However, this is where I really rely on our vet and trainer to tell me when I am listening to my heart more than logic. And y’all, bless my vet’s heart for not tossing me to the curb when I keep asking things like, “So, would this still be a bad idea if…”
As much as I do love pony browsing, I have had to do very little legit pony shopping. The universe has always had a way a presenting the right pony to me at the right time, so I had forgotten how challenging this process can be. There is a lot of pressure to make the right choice. There’s a lot of money, hopes and dreams riding on this one decision. It’s pretty daunting. I need to remember to trust my instincts, the opinions of our vet and our trainer, and the kid’s opinions as well.
There is a perfect pony out there, and we will find it (hopefully sooner, rather than later). I am sure I will look back on this “frustrating” time and laugh at my own foolishness. One day soon, I will look at the kid on her perfectly imperfect pony and I won’t be able to imagine a scenario without this new partner in our lives.
About the Author: Ponymomammy juggles her roles of mother (two human, two ponies, and three doggos), wife, perpetual amateur, and accidental co-owner of Black River Show Stables in Camden, SC. When not shuttling kids, or riding, she can be found feebly attempting to clean or cook, usually in dirty breeches from an earlier hack. Both she and her daughter enjoy showing on both the local, and A rated, show circuits.
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