Adults on Ponies/Honies

Let us discuss!

I grew up in the h/j ring, where ponies were strictly kid’s horses. I can count on one hand the number of times I saw adults on ponies, and usually it was because said pony had been N-A-U-G-H-T-Y at some point, not because the adult actually owned and showed the pony regularly. And if it was in the dreaded 14.3-15.2h range – forget it! No value in a horse that size. These days I don’t know if it’s just that the tide is turning a bit, or if it’s the fact that I’m involved in different sports, but seeing an adult on a pony or hony isn’t a rarity anymore.

Usandro1
that’s a pony

While I personally am a bit big for actual ponies, I could totally see myself on something 15h-15.2h. I think it’s great that we’re seeing smaller mounts more regularly for adult riders. After all, how many times have we seen an adult amateur perched atop a giant warmblood that is quite literally way too much horse in every regard?

These days, the quality of the purpose-bred ponies and crosses is so high. Gone are the days of short-legged little demon fluffs who look as if they were made from spare parts and moved like miniature sewing machines. These days the ponies easily rival the warmbloods when it comes to quality gaits and talent.

Usandro3
that’s also a pony

While the dressage pony/hony breeding has really gotten quite good in this country, the jumper side of things has been slower to grow. I think a lot of people believe that a pony or small horse just couldn’t possibly have the scope and step to rival a horse, but to those people I ask – ever watched the pony jumpers in Europe? Those things can ping around 1.20m like greased lightning, and it’s not at all unheard of for them to make it to 1.30m or 1.40m. Granted, it’s probably slightly more unnerving to approach a bigger fence when said fence is taller than your mount, and some people genuinely do need larger horses. But really, do I have to do anything more than point to Kent Farrington and Creedance to prove the potential positives of a smaller mount?

There has always been a pretty strong, yet niche market for the Connemara in eventing, something they have proven time and time again to excel at. I have to admit, I myself am a big Connemara fan. Someday I’ll own a cross. Preferably buckskin. Not that I’m dreaming or anything (okay, I might be a little obsessed with WH Topgun). They are not always the best movers though, and good ones can be hard to find.

Usandro2
yep, it’s a pony

I’ve been thinking about this subject a lot since we saw the pony-sized Usandro in France a few months ago. He is mostly warmblood, and certainly looks just like a warmblood, only shrunken. He gives scope, a good length of step, rideability, and good gaits to his foals. He’s by the horse stallion Sandro Boy, who scored a 10.0 for jumping at his approvals, went on to be a World Cup winner under Marcus Ehning, and sired the Champion of the Holsteiner licensing in Germany this year. His damsire is Welcome Sympatico, who managed compete successfully through 1.55m despite being only 15h. The amount of “jump” in that pedigree is better than most horse stallions in this country. The more I’ve let it ruminate, the more I think he would cross really well with the type of mare base we have in the US and make some really super little horses that could excel at all 3 Olympic disciplines. Spoiler alert – the first three photos in this post are all Usandro offspring in Europe.

UsandroConfo
Usandro himself

What I’ve really been stuck on, though, is how to make a stallion like this appeal to American breeders. The most obvious answer is easy: demand. Riders have to want these horses in order for anyone to produce them. A lot of people seem stuck on the magical 16h minimum requirement. I get that, but there are also plenty of people that could have a lot of success with smaller horses (or ponies), too. How do we encourage that, or get people to take a chance with (and see the value in) a more pint-sized mount? Those are the questions I keep pondering.

Over time I think that these sportponies and honies will continue to gain ground with adult riders. Competitions like the Pony Cup are definitely helping, as is the media attention that a lot of small horses get at competitions. Could a stallion like Usandro find a market here as a sire? Will American riders buy the offspring? And will the prices be enough to actually make it worthwhile to breed them, or will people see a pony and expect it to be cheap? I want to find out.

75 thoughts on “Adults on Ponies/Honies

  1. I’ve got a very limited knowledge of breeding and marketing, but I do love a smaller mount. I originally didn’t, but I’ve come to love the two I have and appreciate the agility they have that a bigger animal simply lacks due to size. Not to mention it’s a much lesser distance to fall when the inevitable comes along haha. I would love to see a bigger interest in sport ponies/honies in the US. I’ve heavily considered one for my future!

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    1. So I wonder what the ideal combo and height range is for most people? Sportpony/TB? Sportpony/WB? And is 15h+ the more attractive size? And more importantly, are people going to be willing to pay similar prices for them as they do for horses of similar quality?

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      1. I’m going to jump on this thread- I think 15-15.2 hands who would mightily appreciate all of the points that Liz made, but still not feel like they are riding a child’s mount. And especially if it had the fancy factor of warmblood breeding, I could very easily imagine a market for that.

        Crossing sportponies with TB’s would make for a great eventer, but I struggle to see where any other discipline would really appreciate that cross in a widespread manner.

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        1. 14.3-15.2 like you noted, but with the movement of a horse, not a pony. TB or WB crosses based on what people are looking for. I always get remarks on my 14.1 mare because while she’s small, she moves like a much larger animal – and it looks like most of the ones in your posts move that way, too. As long as they had the bigger movement, I don’t know why they wouldn’t be attractive in dressage, eventing, and jumpers; I know multiple animals that meet this bill who are in endurance, too. Pricing is definitely the tricky area and not my expertise at all, but if you had quality parents, why not?

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  2. I enjoy riding smaller horses.You barely got me up on Henry and he is not huge but I get nervous the bigger the horse. Remus is 15 hands if he is on a good day. And he is plenty big enough to carry any of my taller friends as well. I totally would LOVE to have a Connemara cross one day too.

    I think that there are definitely more off the cuff horses at my local events though there will always be a ratio of 10 – 1 of OTTB vs off the cuff…
    But the last show i went to to watch at Plantation in October I saw a few adults on horses/ponies smaller than Remus, a Fjord, a Haflinger, a couple of smaller Appaloosas, a couple Arabs and onward. And these were adults on them. Not kids.

    So i hope the tide turns and people start breeding for smaller type horses. Sometimes they are handier and if you are not aiming for the upper levels why not? (I know some can make it to the upper levels just a lot of us don’t aspire to that).

    Great post 🙂 And gorgeous horses/ponies etc. 😉

    PS I was the adult in my 20’s thrown up on those naughty ponies 🙂 LOL

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      1. I was going to hop in and say for lower level/hobby riders this would be the ideal. Scarlet is 15 and I don’t feel overly big on him. It’s nice to be able to mount from the ground. And he has no problem moving out to keep up with larger horses if need be. I think if its presented in the right way, the “honies” could be a bargain warmblood style horse for those who can’t afford the current trend of monster horses.

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        1. The problem is the “bargain” expectation. Breeders can’t survive on a model that puts their foals in a low price bracket… not the good breeders anyway. And if they can’t at least break even in the end, they aren’t going to purpose-breed these kind of horses. In my perfect world the honies and sportponies would be worth just as much as their full size counterparts, and thus the breeders would have incentive to produce really really good ones.

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          1. I understand. But if all horses end up being sold for 30k-50k despite their height, I don’t see how it would be viable for the riders either. Especially when ottbs are much cheaper. But breeding is expensive and I wouldn’t want to do it without actually making some sort of profit. Probably why I didn’t go that route.

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            1. In my fantasyland it’s quality that determines the value, not size. 😉 If a high quality small horse can be just as marketable and valuable as a larger horse, there is actual incentive to make more of them, and to make them better. The more mediocre ones will always be cheaper.

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              1. Ah I see. I didn’t think as much about that angle. Yeah, quality breeding of smaller horses would result in good but not great options being more readily available.

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  3. I love short. I’m 5’4, 5’5″ on a tall day, and I’m currently riding a pony. I rode a smaller Large in the Low Adult jumpers, and had tons of fun. The issue for me is striding – once the jumps get up to a certain height I just don’t think the ponies are going to have that ability to max out their stride and still clear anything past a certain height, and it gets worse in combinations. Current pony fits the add in quite easily in a two but it gets yucky in anything shorter. Now, if you could add classes set for ponies, you’d be talking.

    That said, I’m stalking a 15.2 Ch/AA jumper mare that’s for sale and is been there, shown over that. I know that she can do the job so the fact that she’s small is a bonus for me. But I think that’s going to be the limitation for the smaller ones, people questioning their stride. Clearly some of them have it in them (Oh la la anyone?) but for those who don’t have the time/money to risk, the bit over 16hh is probably still going to be the sweet spot.

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    1. I think that with the sportponies that have a lot of warmblood in them, stride is much less of a problem. When they come from a welsh (or even stock horse) background, they are naturally more short-strided. But man, these sporty little things that I saw in Europe had a HUGE step. Like, bigger than my horse’s lol.

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  4. Having just concluded my pony search for the spoiled kiddo, I can say that out here by Aiken there are a ton of sports ponies available. Mostly in the $15-25,000 range with better training and more scope than most of the horses I see get posted on the same sites. But they are being listed for kids which is a shame. I would go in for any one of those for myself if I had the money. I don’t like large horses and am perfectly happy with my 15h mare.

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  5. I am in the H/J circuit so like in your opening statement I only see adults on ponies if they are being naughty. With that said there is no rule against it. We had an adult at our barn win the beginner division on a lesson pony this past year. I would never ride a pony because I am just too big but I will admit that I was blown away by Teddy O’Conner competing in Rolex! I am not sure how to get this to be more of a popular idea.

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  6. Personally, I love tall horses. But I do love ponies and here in Germany, we have a lot of athletic, sporty ponies.
    Over the years I have seen enough children on “competing” on WBs to wish that more people would chose to buy ponies or honies…

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    1. The entire european system for ponies and children is extremely different from here. I was blown away by it, really. Here they put kids on horses pretty much as soon as they can, which often leads to them being overhorsed, which is kind of a cascading effect over time. The ponies tend to get overlooked, therefore the market is not as good for them.

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  7. At 5′ tall (barely), I personally would rather ride a smaller horse. My new horse is actually 14.1, so she qualifies as a pony in size not breeding haha. 😉 I have never understood the intense need some riders have for huge horses, especially when they look ridiculously tiny perched up there.

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  8. I’m 5’10” with stupid giraffe legs, so anything shorter than 16.2 looks like a pony when I’m on hahaha. But I absolutely think that people should ride horses that suit them size-wise and can safely do the job. As someone else mentioned, it can be tough with the combos in the jumper ring since those are set to a horse stride- even Frankie has trouble stretching out enough for those sometimes. I do wish we saw more kids in the Pony Jumper division, but there’s only ever one or two entries at every show I’ve been to. I think it would be a great way to get some of the younger kids into the jumper ring on mounts that they fit on more safely.

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    1. I’ve been doing a lot of pondering on how to fix our Pony Jumper division too. It’s just so underutilized, and honestly I think that’s kind of to the detriment of our young talent.

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      1. A big name rider (I already forget who womp womp) recently said that the lack of pony jumpers is a big reason we have trouble developing riders to the top level- they come up through the hunter and eq levels and don’t learn the grit and comfort with speed that they might otherwise. Very interesting perspective.

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    2. I’m in the same boat 😁. At 5’11 and all legs, I make Rio look like a normal horse even though he’s 17.3. I agree though, I think the picture is nicest when people buy horses or ponies that fit them. Tiny adults on 17 hand WB’s seems a bit silly, but at the same time- whatever floats your boat!! I honestly don’t care what size horse people ride if they are suitable to what is being asked and they are having fun.

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  9. When I think of pony there is a definite short-thick-stature in my mind. None of those pictured in your post say pony to me in the least. Perhaps if they were marketed as Sport Horse or something flashy they would garner more interest. I would take any of the pictured above in a heartbeat!

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  10. One of my best friend’s (currently competing at Prelim) family actually breeds high quality Connemaras here in the US and I’m continually impressed by the quality coming out of their barn. I would love one or a smaller horse one day because I’m only 5’2″ and it’s just so much easier for me to ride something I actually fit. I wouldn’t go wear size 10 shoes just because they were trendy… I also grew up on QHs who were on the small size (these days all the top QHs are in the 16h+ range) and when we went to cowhorses, they only got smaller.

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    1. Usandro’s owner uses some Connemara mares in her program and it’s interesting to see how the warmblood and sportpony lines combine with the Connemara. It’s a pretty fantastic formula!

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  11. I have a 13.3 Welsh / TB cross and she is amazing! She is little and cute, but when you are on her it feels like she is 16.2. While she was bred to be a hunter, she is definitely not a children’s mount (at least for another 10 years or so…). This year we tried our hand at some CTs and XC schoolings & she proved she is much better suited to the eventing life (super brave to the fences and a trot to die for).

    There is a local Connemara stud (Sir Lancelot) that I have toyed with the idea of breeding her to one day. He and his babies have done well in eventing / foxhunting. Doubt I will ever breed her, but love the thought of it!

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  12. My girl, Savvy, is 14.1 and although my intent was to train her and create a safe pony for my kids, my opinion of her changed quite early on in her training. The smaller size is quite a confidence booster (really, falling off a pony is a lot less daunting than falling off a 16 hh horse). I could see that appeal for adult amateurs that just want to get out and have some fun. That said, larger jumps look HUGE when sitting on a pony which really sucks. 🙂

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  13. I’m all for honies and ponies for adults. Since I’m very petite, I personally feel way more comfortable on a smaller mount. If my guy hadn’t fallen into my lap rather randomly (he’s still only 15.1 or so), I would have searched for a Connemara or another sporty pony breed for myself. I like the handy feeling they have and I was always getting thrown on the naughty pony when I was a gutsy kid. I personally don’t see myself going above Training (lets be honest, I may never get past BN), so I’m not too worried that height would be an inhibitor.

    That being said, I think everyone should look for a horse that fits them, whatever package that may come in. I think eventing is an accepting discipline when it comes to horses or ponies of different shapes, sizes and colors. I see all sorts of types winning, OTTBs, ponies, half drafts, you name it. And the thing that they all have in common is they all enjoy their jobs and have riders who are effective.

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    1. I agree, you see a wide range of mounts in eventing. I think that would probably be the primary market for Usandro, being that he has both the gaits and the jump, but at the same time the eventing market is also the weakest of the 3 olympic disciplines.

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  14. Ohhh, I love this post…and a good pony. I grew up with a Connemara–got him as a 4 year old with 30 days under saddle when I was 11. It is a testament to his solid gold temperament that he never bucked, reared, or bolted me onto the ground (I ended up there plenty, but not because he was being a dolt). He had nice “mini warmblood” gaits, we never had a problem with time at novice cross country and he could turn and burn around a jumper course like a bumblebee. (He’d also jump 3’6 from a standstill, not that it was ever the plan.) One thing I’d lament is that a lot of judges in the Midwest were so unaccustomed to seeing a pony that dressage scoring seemed especially fickle–8’s on his gaits from higher ranked judges, 5’s from lower–consistently. It’s true, lengthenings look different on a 14.2 pony and a 17.2 horse, but size of the horse shouldn’t predetermine the quality.

    I’d love to see more kids grow up on mount that actually fit them. Here we see so many young/inexperienced riders on giant OTTB’s or WB’s they can’t even get their legs around.

    And now I want another Connemara…

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  15. I prefer a bigger horse for the jumpers, but solely because I’m a chicken shit and I don’t want to be looking UP at 1.3 meters. My children’s jumper was small though. Since back in the stone age when I was a junior the high children’s were only 3’6″ I didn’t mind being on a lower to the ground horse. She was technically 15.3, but her withers were huge. I’d say her body was probably 15 hands. She was a welsh/TB cross, and boy was she fast! The smaller ones can turn tighter and still open up that step for the striding. They’re definitely tough to beat on the clock.
    While things didn’t wind up going well with my stationary hony, I’d still consider a smaller horse. Maybe not for resale, since that market is still tough in H/J land, but if I was looking for a keeper.
    I never had a pony as a kid. My dad (total NON horse person) didn’t realize that you outgrow horses in ability just as often as in height. So he thought if I got a full sized horse I’d only need one for my whole junior life. Jokes on him though since I still fit ponies. Back in college I was the designated pony schooler. Loved every second of it (we didn’t have any demons, thankfully)!
    So long story short. GIMME ALL THE PONIES! (please)

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  16. I actually didn’t think they were gaining as much popularity as they are – which I’m glad about! I have a soft spot for tall horses, but only because the really tall ones I’ve ridden have been sweet and willing and took care of me (they were also lesson horses lol). But I like riding the smaller ones. After falling quite a few times in recent years, I’ve gained new appreciation for that. There were actually sooooo many reiners that were pony sized. I was surprised! I rode one that must’ve been just barely 14 hh and I felt huge on him lol and I’m only 5’5″! But I love the athleticism of the smaller ones. They have less body to get out of the way or move, and you’d be surprised by how much jump small things have lol. Plus, I think a lot of those small ponies or honies don’t know they’re small, and I love the “I can do anything” attitude I’ve felt with most small horses. I do hope they gain more popularity though. I’d love to buy a sport pony or hony that’s around 15hh (perfect height for me) – it’d have probably more than I’d need to get me to my goals! I would definitely love a Connemara cross too….

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  17. I think there is a rising tide of people looking for smaller horses. For the serious amateur a smaller horse is starting to seem like the smart way to go. At least, it’s usually much cheaper! 😉

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  18. I grew up knowing about Stroller, then with Teddy O’Connor, I don’t think it is valid to suggest ponies or anything under 16.3 can’t do anything worthwhile. 5’3 girls who think they need 18h is a bit ridiculous, and some trainer is making money somewhere… But I would love to see more honies! My mare was advertised as 16h and I pulled her shoes and did a dance that she was really more like 15.3. I’m a leggy 5’7″ and love the 15 hands range.

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  19. Love, love, love my pony and would also be very inclined to cross her with the right small warmblood stallion.

    I like connemaras but like you, find they aren’t the best movers.

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  20. I wrote about this early in the year (link below), and I couldn’t agree more. My mother competed a 13.2h pony over 4’+ jumping tracks, so I’ve never understood the mentality that something must be 16h+ to be “right”.

    Breeding though, and creating sport ponies that the average amateur would want, now that’s another kettle of fish. I think having other disciplines be more inclusive of ponies or small horses would be a great start. For instance, what about hunter divisions that don’t demand 12′ strides for your average 15h creature? And dressage allowing ponies at the top level without being in a separate category? Being limited to specialized classes makes it harder to participate in the breadth of horse sport.

    I’m also such a huge TopGun fan. We used to stand a Connemara stallion back in the day (Foothills Waterman), and I do dream of what could have been bred had we retained him. Like what about a Holsteiner X TB dam bred to a Connemara? Drool….

    https://ourhouseonahill.wordpress.com/2017/01/10/lets-discuss-from-ponies-to-horses/

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    1. Yeah it’s really the “how to we bring the market up to the point where this is a viable business for breeders” aspect that has my wheels churning. Because at the end of the day, if we want people to breed nice ones, they have to be able to at least not lose a ton of money on the venture. So then that makes you circle back around to – how do we get people excited about, and looking for, nice horses that are of smaller stature? To be honest I’ve partially written off the h/j world as a bit of a lost cause, but maybe I’m wrong in that. The eventers and dressage people seem a lot more open to a variety of sizes.

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      1. It’s disappointing to think that H/J’s wouldn’t include honies in their system. Maybe what is needed is an endorsement from George Morris, and then they’ll become as wished-for as rust colored breeches!

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        1. Actually they did create a new division, I can’t remember if it was last year or a couple of years ago, called the Small Horse Hunter (or something similar). It was for horses 15.2 and under, but I never really saw it take off. I haven’t seen it offered at any of the shows I’ve been to. But honestly that’s not many since I own a bunch of geriatrics right now… Either way, there was some semblance of an effort made, but it was really grasped onto as far as I know.

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  21. Sign me up! I am 5’2. I have a much easier time riding a smaller mount. Plus, closer to the ground if you part ways. My current horse is 14.3 and I luff him. I’m leasing him and the only reason I’m not clamoring to buy him is movement. Hes a cute mover, not a particularly wow or relaxed mover. If/when I purchase again in a couple years I want 14.3-15.3 with 8+ movement and tidy knees. I do not care about “pony tude” I’ve successfully won over many pint sized grumps by just riding them well vs romping on them like the kids tend to do. My current guy is a lesson program reject 😉

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  22. Welp, I’m fairly tall (5’8) and the horses I’ve done the most with have been 15.1-15.2. For me, height matters less than width – as long as they take up my leg, I don’t look funny on them (Paddy is 14.3 and about as wide). I feel like I’m riding a sports car instead of driving an 18 wheeler… all those 10m circles are SO MUCH EASIER. I know from experience that it’s almost impossible to make strides on something that size though, but you do learn to adjust and make it work. Plus most of the smaller ones seem to be super quick and catty, since there is less of them to move around.

    My next mount will definitely be in the same size range, although it seems like it’s really hard to find anything under 16hh. Hopefully I’ll end up with an overgrown GRP with 10 gaits. 😉

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  23. I’m a big fan of the sport pony. I’m an adult just under 5′ and my welsh B cross TB is 14hh and the perfect size for me. I have previously owned big horses but ponies are so much easier when you are as short as I am. I compete in pony dressage, In Australia there are no age restrictions on riding ponies and in fact, our pony dressage classes are mostly adult riders. Here in Australia adults riding ponies i also super common in the show ring, in fact they have recently had to introduce rules to prevent the smaller ponies (under 12hh) being ridden by adults.

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  24. I used to only like tall horses before Nilla, but she’s taught me that 15hh is actually fine so long as the horse is round (I’m tall and need something to take up my leg). I see quite a few honies and ponies at events around here. There’s a pro – James Alliston – who has a bomber of a little palomino mare that can jump so nicely. They’re a crowd favorite. But I don’t see a lot at the H/J shows we go to for schooling. There it’s just actual ponies with little kids on them or tall horses. There’s also a ridiculously cute Fjord I’ve seen at all the rated events we’ve been to this year and I just want to steal it every time I see it.

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    1. We had a Fjord at our barn, he was crazy overweight at the time so he took up plenty of leg, I loved riding him evem though he could we wicked stubborn. I heard now he is trim and awesome in his new home.

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  25. The first horse I really clicked with in H/J land was an x-reiner type QHx 15.2ish hh horse. I felt perfect on him at just shy of 5’5″. He had a great stride with just a little more push, and saved my ass a fair amount by being able to add when trainer decided to do crazy bending lines. But for resale my 16hh mare was much easier to market. I’m kinda happy the market hasn’t picked up more on honies, makes it more likely I can afford something in that size lol. Pony prices are high already in our area, which sucks cause I want a large for me and kiddos to share.

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  26. This is a really interesting and timely thread for me! Miles was not tall, 16-16.1hh, and sometimes he felt too big for me (usually when he was being a little bit naughty). I grew up riding ponies and all-around Quarter Horses, which are just smaller than the giant warmbloods you tend to see a lot of in the hunter/jumper world.

    In my current search, I’m specifically looking for something UNDER 16h… 15.2hh is probably my sweet spot. The difficult thing about that height is finding one with enough step — even at 2’6″ you have to have a horse that can make it around a course set at a 12′ stride and not look like you are careening at mach 10.

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  27. Tristan is 15 hands. 15.1 in shoes if he stands up very straight. I’m 5’9″. I struggle sometimes getting enough leg on him, but for everything other than that he’s the perfect size. If he were more sensitive off the leg, it wouldn’t even be a problem – it’s just the distance I have to move my heel to get a spur into him that’s a problem. 16 hands is my max, actually!

    I suspect that introducing smaller horses will have more success in eventing than dressage. Even the biggest of the small horse gaits still won’t score well in the dressage ring – not because they’re not quality gaits, I think, but because big, expressive striding is what scores well. (Too bad, sometimes – but still reality.)

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  28. I’m a total hony convert. The horses I’ve ridden more than once, in order, were 16, 16.3, 15.1, 14.1, 15, and now 14.3. The 16.3 gelding was such a good boy but the 14.3 mare I ride now is just so much more…comfy. We fit together. It was annoying to feel overhorsed on an otherwise willing and sane partner.

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  29. In Australia the pony dressage market is really starting to boom. Partially for the talented younger riders who are in need of better moving prospects than the demon fluffs but aren’t ready to step up to the bigger horses – however I would say most of them are for older amateurs that want to be competitive but find the management of the ponies much easier than the horse sized counterparts. The jumper market for ponies is yet to take off here which is sad but hopefully it will develop with time.

    I have a German Riding Pony yearling on the ground now and she has the movement to battle a big horse any day which is rather exciting. Her father is also a lovely jumper so I would love nothing more than to see her become a super all rounder with a gung-ho kid.

    I also get what you mean about Connemara’s, and it is a shame you aren’t in Australia as I know of a stunning buckskin weanling Connie x TB filly in need of a good home. We breed with a Connemara stallion with good jumping blood at CSU, and the filly is just beautiful (and incredibly affordable).

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  30. My girl is a 14.1hh welsh cob who’s a super fun all arounder. She’s the typical round, cobby pony, so does not feel small when you’re on her. I’m also riding my coach’s 15.2 warm blood mare and she “feels” smaller to ride, which is weird, for me it might be more about how much leg they take up/how they carry themselves than height. In a perfect world, my next horse will be a nice GRP type…keeping the smaller size with more of the WB athleticism.

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  31. ALL my horses are 15.1 and under… I’m 5′ 5″. When I hit 50 I made it a rule not to ride anything I couldn’t se over. But I don’t jump. They’re so much easier to feed/manage/fit into trailers…. In my opinion they are sounder too – better feet, less wear and tear on joints than thumping great horses.
    As a teenager I had a ball blasting round ODEs on a 15.1hh Highland X TB who was catty and brave but as we moved up the levels we battled to make optimum time.. He just didn’t have the length of stride to do it. So that’ s another factor to consider.
    It’s a GREAT way for teenagers to move up though.. Where do you think all the “greats” of UK eventing came from. back in the day? From blasting round hunting tracks on crossbred demon fluffs who were practically family heirlooms. Once you’ve ridden an experienced hunting pony, you’re ready to sit on ANYTHING.

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  32. I love this post!
    I am starting to really see a bit of a shift in Pony’s and Conemmara’s (spelling) in the Dressage game and they seem to be making their way. I think the reason ppl stay at the 16hh and above is for a few reasons. Me personally, my first horse was 14.2hh stock horse, so now anything below that just feels too small. I’m one of those, the bigger the better people and after riding a 17.1hh horse for 3 years now my 16.1hh Moo seems small. I’m not sure what to do, but i just don’t ever see me on a smaller horse.
    Mind you, i’ve seen some pretty awesome ponies take on jumps my thoroughbred would refuse.
    food for thought
    Mel x

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  33. My horse/pony (I don’t know what he is, but he could get a pony card since he’s between 14.1 and 14.2) was difficult for my friend to sell until I decided to grab him because people kept ignoring her ads that said he was not a hunter or a kids mount unless the rider was wanting to put some work in to try to event or was at least at an intermediate/advanced level of horsemanship. People kept bringing kids out to try him and he wouldn’t be BAD, he just wouldn’t do shit for them and they’d get mad. I’m 5’6″ and I wear L breeches and Tall height boots but he takes up my leg fine. There’s a small market for dudes like him and it’s unfortunate because he’s awesome – zero maintenance, perfect feet, the same whether you ride every day or once a week and doesn’t seem to give a crap about anything except food. AND he actually jumps nicer at 3″ or so to boot. I hope that the pony crosses take off, you don’t need a huge horse to compete and have fun and there’s so many benefits.

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  34. I. Love. Ponies. I will talk anyone’s ear off all day long about the advantages of sport ponies for the smaller adult rider. Less likely to get hit in the face with branches on the trail! A shorter trip to the ground! You can see the top of their cute little round butts when grooming! You don’t need a stepstool to pull their manes! Their gaits are easier to sit! They’re smarter than you! (wait… this might not be a good thing.) They eat less food, smaller bodies are sounder, their feet tend to be great, you can literally get in and out of ANYWHERE on the trail or hunt field on a pony, ponies jump like they’re made of rubber, and they are just so much freakin’ FUN! For the petite adult rider without upper level jumping aspirations, a sport pony can absolutely be the perfect solution.

    Like you, I think that they will never become popular in H/J land for adults simply because of the nature of the sport. While you can certainly do very well in the jumpers up to a point on a pony or hony with a bigger step (hell Dino has a solid 12′ stride and he’s not even that fancy…) there just isn’t a place for them in the hunters with an adult on board. Also big jumps look horrifying from down here. But for eventing, dressage, hunting, and endurance, I think there is a HUGE untapped market for ponies! At schooling horse trials it’s rare for me to be the only adult on a pony, there are some absolutely killer dressage ponies being bred and shown these days, and you really can’t beat a small horse for trail-based sports.

    But when it comes to helping grow their popularity I’m not sure where that should start! I think Pony Cup is a great thing for promoting ponies in dressage, and perhaps something similar needs to happen in eventing? There is a local trainer and rider here who competes a string of “oddball” small horses and ponies in dressage and eventing – Fjords, Morgans, GRP’s, if it’s small and fancy, she rides it. And she KICKS. ASS. everywhere she goes. I think it’ll take more riders and trainers like her getting out there and campaigning sport ponies to really grow the pony market, showing people that there is more than one type of pony out there. Not every pony in the U.S. is a hunter-type kid’s pony!

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  35. I have a love obsession with ponies. My guy is a section D Welsh Cob and I’m 5’7″. He may be pushing 15 hands but when I purchased him he sticked 14.2. He is built like a brick house and takes up my leg better than some of the recent TBs I’ve been riding. The maintenance is less, they handle wear and tear better and those 10 meter circles are easy.

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  36. I tell my trainer all the time that my next horse will need to be smaller. Smaller for hunters though means 16hh. I’m quite tall, so I know that ascetically it has to work out, but after leasing a smaller warmblood mare this past year, I am very open to varying heights The big problem? Selling them again. People in H/J are very worried about that 16hh mark, and if I ever bought below that I would worry about being able to resell them if needed in the future. Which sucks as a whole.

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  37. Since I ride a 13.2 hand pony I’m quite partial but I think ponies are fantastic!! Not only are they incredibly smart but they are so much hardier (in my personal experience) than most thoroughbreds. I can count on one hand the number of unsound days that Katai has had in the 5+ years that I’ve owned her which is amazing. She also eats less and requires way less grain to keep a healthy weight. I love that I can fit her in any trailer or show stall and not worry about her being too big. It’s also easy to mount from the ground if I’m in a tight spot (not that I ever do so but still, it’s nice to know that I can) and she’s just so darn cute!!

    I’m seeing more and more adult pony riders but I do still think it’s a niche market. I also think that a lot of adults are more worried about how they look than anything else. I have so many acquaintance that have said “I’d ride a pony if I could” when they see me riding Katai. Many of them are only a couple of inches taller than me and could easily and safely ride a horse or pony in the 14-15 hand range but they don’t think that they can. I really hope to keep changing people’s opinions because I have SO MUCH FUN with my pony that I think everyone should own one.

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  38. I would love to get more info on that stallion if you end up getting the frozen over here. I have a 14.2 hand Arab mare that I have been looking at stallions for, but I do not want anything much bigger then her. I have been looking at a lot of the German Riding Pony stallions over here but I am really looking to add scope, and Usandro looks exactly the type I have been searching for.
    I discovered last year when I bought a 15.2 hand German riding pony just how ATHLETIC the little ones can be. He is freakishly athletic, no limit on his scope, and his gaits are to die for. He has a huge stride, and eats up the ground on cross country. He is currently in training and he constantly gets called “the German pony” in the barn and they laugh all the time about how small his blankets and bridles are. I find it very amusing as he is my “big horse”

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  39. There are some REALLY expensive ponies out there, both in the dress world and in h/j land. I don’t think people associate ponies with a lower price-tag. I personally grew up riding ponies, and now as an adult Ive gone back to a pony after several years on OTTBs, and couldn’t be happier/having more fun! Ponies are starting to get more press as suitable, athletic, smart, cheeky partners for the smaller adults out there, and I couldn’t be happier about the trend!

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  40. I actually have a friend looking for a high quality hony right now to do the 1.10 jumpers on. She’s a very petite adult and up until recently was riding her huge WB that would give her difficulty because of her size on him (she’s like 5’3″, horse is 17.3 LOL). So she would definitely be the kind of person in the American market looking for a little bit of a sportscar that is not a true pony, but a smaller horse with the step and scope to do the bigger tracks. She is also willing to pay for this. Only problem she’s facing now is finding one, at least in the states!

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  41. I’m more of a back-yard horse person, I guess you’d call it. But I definately prefer ponies over horses. I had mine from when I was 13 to when she died last year, almost 20 years. Welsh Cobb. I have a thing for Fjords as well.
    Good post.

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