The Green Pony Problem

With a nationwide pony shortage, Allyson Coluccio speaks out about how a USEF rule may be detrimental to developing green ponies.

BY Allyson Coluccio

When I’m at a horse show, I always marvel at the number of classes available to professionals at the beginning of the week to assist in prepping horses for their junior or amateur riders. Pick a height, and there’s a whole prep division for it. That is, until you get to the pony divisions.

According to Rule HU101 in the USEF rule book, “Ponies shown by a junior in any rated pony hunter sections (i.e. Children’s Hunter Pony, Green Pony Hunter, Regular Pony Hunter), WIHS Pony Equitation, or USEF Pony Medal cannot be shown by an adult at the same competition.”

Arguably, green ponies need the prep rides far more than any other category. Ponies are smart, and you can bet that even if a pro warms them up, they know when the child is on. If we follow that storyline, now you have a green pony who may have green moments in the ring, so then a professional must ride it in the classes the following week, therefore making it so the child can’t show that whole week.

One solution that has become more common is having more experienced junior riders school and show these ponies. But that means you have kids who show in the Maclay also showing in the Small Greens.

Is that fair to younger, less experienced riders? Probably not. But is it right for the situation we’ve created? Absolutely. If a professional can’t show a pony, we have to choose the most qualified juniors to do so.

Because we can’t have ponies being properly produced at the same time by professionals and children, we have a pony shortage. We need seasoned ponies to help bring along the next generation of riders. Therefore, this rule has the potential to impact the overall numbers in our sport.

We need to consider more options for the ponies.

Perhaps the solution is larger show parks need to develop more unrated weeks so that riders have the option to show at big-time venues and properly produce their ponies in the show ring with the assistance of a professional.

In addition, producing these ponies without the added cost and pressure of a rated show encourages more people to partake in development, further assisting in our current shortage.

I think it’s important to recognize that not everyone has the desire to compete in recognized shows, nor can everyone afford to do so. At an unrecognized show, exhibitors are looking at a couple hundred dollars for the day for show fees, if that. A recognized one-day show could run them almost one thousand dollars. There’s just no comparison.

By creating and offering more opportunities for green ponies, we are bridging a major gap and making the sport more accessible to talent, both in riders and ponies, that may otherwise go undetected.

About the Author

Allyson Coluccio is the Owner of Hidden Ridge International, based in Middleburg, VA and Wellington, FL. With nearly 40 years in the business, she has trained and produced multiple national champions in a variety of divisions. Currently, her business focuses on sales and breeding. Horses in her program have become USHJA Derby Finals winners, International FEI show jumpers, and even some top eventing prospects.

Photos: Courtesy of Allyson Collucio