7 of the Best Pony Breeds for Children
If your little cowboy or cowgirl is interested in learning the ins and outs of riding or showing, there’s no better time than the present to get them started—and since the bond between a horse and a child is one of the most miraculous sights to behold, chances are, you’ll get them hooked for life. If your son or daughter has expressed interest in getting their first horse or pony, take the time to research the best breeds specifically for young children. It’s a much wiser idea to get your little one started out on a tiny pony during their early years, since it will help them get experienced with riding before they graduate to a larger mount.
While there isn’t necessarily an “ideal” mount for a child, there are certainly breeds that are better suited to beginners and young riders than others. Most pony breeds are suitable for children, since ponies are smaller; if kids fall off, they won’t hurt themselves, and their legs will be able to reach when they’re mounted on the pony. A child riding a very large horse is a painful injury waiting to happen, since a 16-hand fall can be disastrous for someone so small.
1. Shetland Pony
These small-statured ponies were originally bred as draft horses, so they are built to carry a lot of weight and can provide a safe alternative to other types of ponies for smaller, less experienced riders, especially children. One of the main disadvantages to raining a child on a Shetland is that these ponies are much stronger than they look, and if a child isn’t prepared to handle this, they can become injured—though, as previously mentioned, Shetlands aren’t that tall, so they won’t have an extremely far way to fall if they do. If you find a docile, well-behaved Shetland, you can be certain your child will be safe riding it.
2. Pony of the Americas
There are few pony breeds that are better for pint-sized riders than this one—specifically because they were bred for young riders. These ponies are primarily bred in North America, and are perfect for children. They are a hybrid of pony and horse, and their unique, dappled coats give them a very interesting appearance. If you live in the U.S., Canada, or Mexico and can locate a breeder that specializes in these ponies, you can be sure that they will be a good choice for your little aspiring rider.
3. Welsh Ponies
If Shetlands make your child nervous due to their unpredictability, Welsh ponies are a no-nonsense, docile alternative. They can be ridden from childhood through adolescence all the way into adulthood without many issues. These ponies are highly durable, strong, and friendly. In addition, if you are interested in helping your child pursue a career showing Welsh ponies, they are a popular choice all throughout North America.
4. Miniature Horses
Like the name suggests, these are not ponies, but actually horses, and their small sizes make them inappropriate for riding. On the other hand, if your child is more interested in driving or showing horses, this is a great, active breed. They can be shown in agility competitions, much like dogs, and love to have a good time in the outdoors. Their level of energy is perfect for a rambunctious, eager youngster.
5. Grade Ponies
While this isn’t technically a breed in itself, grade ponies tend to be bred using a mixture of pedigrees for very specific purposes. For instance, if your little one is not a great rider but is interested in show ponies, you can be sure you’ll be able to find a grade pony that has been designed for trotting and showing. On the other hand, if you’re seeking a pony with an active personality, you can find a great mount for riding amongst the wide selection of grade ponies.
6. American Quarter Horses
Palomino American Quarter Horses are some of the most beautiful and regal horses out there, and the good news for young riders is that they are equally personable and friendly, particularly those without thoroughbred bloodlines. With predictable temperaments, they are ideal breeds for children.
Last but certainly not least, Appaloosas are a unique option for youth riders, and their intriguing coat patterns tend to catch kids’ eyes. Appaloosas possess steady, calm personalities and those with Quarter Horse blood in their veins are even friendlier around kids. While they might not be the ideal horse for riding, if your daughter or son is focused on a future in showing or judging, Appaloosas might be the best option for them. It likely won’t be difficult for you to find programs in your area that can help push your children along the path to a lifelong love of horses.