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13 replies

Mumtothelittlefella · 11/03/2021 08:18

I’ve had some really useful advice on here over the years so I’m back for more.

We managed to find a star of a loan pony for my 7 year old daughter last summer. She’s 12.2hh 23 and just brilliant. Before December lockdown she was going over small crosspoles, starting to come off the lead rein and about to try a canter or two. Since lockdown I’ve just be leading her across the fields and waiting for restrictions to lift before starting lessons again.

Now we’ve found out that my daughter has Absence Seizures. We will see her consultant next week but until we can get them under control, we’ll have to limit her activities- horse riding is one of them sadly.

I’m still keen for her to carry on her love of ponies but in a modified form. So I’m considering a Shetland might be a good option for her. My thoughts are it would be safer to lead and handle on the ground and less of a hight to fall when ridden. I would always lead now until we hear otherwise. Her loan pony is wonderful but that but higher so often I do the real grooming and tack up. I feel something more manageable will expand her enjoyment.

But my experience of these breeds starts and ends with Thelwell! For those of you who have owned them, would you say they would be a suitable for our situation? The pony would need to be very well schooled and appreciate that comes with a price tag.

As for the loan pony, I adore her so my son has said he will ride her but I’m not sure it’ll last as he looses interest very quickly. I feel awful that we might have to send her back home so was considering giving 4 months notice so give her owner time. Does that sound fair? She was meant to be a long term loan so it’ll be out of the blue for them.

OP posts:
maxelly · 11/03/2021 10:24

Hello, I'm sorry to hear about your DD's seizures, it must be a worrying time for you. I'd say don't rush to make any decisions while it's still uncertain, if you do want and can afford to keep the loan pony it won't do her any harm to have a quieter time for a few weeks/months, particularly if you can keep her ticking over with your DS riding, maybe a bit of quieter lead-rein stuff with your DD and maybe doing some groundwork also - can you and DD (if it can be made safe for her) get into learning some more advanced groundwork stuff - there's a girl at my yard learning join-up and liberty schooling with her similar size pony (has proper lessons on it and everything) and it looks fun, she's teaching him tricks, does pole-work and loose jumping and horse agility too, there's a lot you can do from the ground with imagination.

We had a couple of shetlands when my DC were small, I did love them a lot, such characterful little ponies. I do think to some extent the Sh*tland tag is justified, they can be willful and stubborn little sods and also mine were totally ruled by their bellies at all times, so were constantly trying (and often succeeding) in escaping their carefully managed starvation paddocks to try and keep their waistlines in check, would happily drag a child from one end of the yard to another if they spotted a full feedbowl etc - I think the thing to remember is just because they are cute, small and fluffy you need to not forget they're still a horse and need just as much training and management as a bigger horse if you want them to be and stay well schooled and mannered - too many people I think treat them like a big pet, spoil them, don't school them, leave them in a field for weeks on end before plonking a novice child on, and then complain when the pony is naughty or grumpy, when they'd never dream of doing that with their own riding horse or even a bigger pony. A horse is a horse at the end of the day regardless of size and breed and Shetlands are actually hugely physically strong, they're like little tanks so not a breed you can afford to let get out of hand. You would also need to pick your pony carefully particularly with regard to the job you want it to do - one of ours was a dream to ride, your classic saint of a totally unflappable lead-rein nanny pony, I honestly could have taken her into Mordor with a small child on board and I don't think she'd have turned a hair Grin but she could be quite grumpy on the ground, wasn't averse to pulling faces or even nipping if not swiftly corrected and wouldn't have enjoyed hours of grooming, cuddling or groundwork for sure, she was more a 'give my personal space' kinda gal. Whereas the gelding was a much sweeter person, put up with many a 'pamper party' and having his (very bushy!) tail plaited, quarter marks groomed into his fluff etc, liked a fuss from his small owners and certainly liked being fed carrots etc! But he was a trickier ride and needed to be regularly sat on by a more confident child or small adult to remind him of his manners to keep him safe enough for a total beginner, and all my kids fell off him quite a few times which I am guessing is a total no-no for you! So I think a shetland could work for you but what I'm saying is pick carefully and do expect to have to put the work in as well...

lastqueenofscotland · 11/03/2021 12:51

Shetlands often have small man syndrome!! I’d think an old retired welsh A may be a better option for a gentle pony for a young girl to enjoy being around.

Dobbyafreeelf · 11/03/2021 13:03

Hi I'm a support worker and have worked for a long time with a little girl (now 11) who has complex epilepsy and a huge love of ponies!

To keep her safe we would generally have her lying on the pony or having an adult either side of her to support her and prevent her falling in the event of a seizure. She would generally be up bareback with a saddle pad rather than a full on saddle. She would also regularly sit up in front of her brother or mum.

The key I think is having a pony at a sensible height for being able to support her in the event of a seizure. And sufficient help. You need two people, one to look after your Dd and one the pony. I wouldn't go too small pony wise as you need to be at a comfortable height rather than bending over.

It might also be worth looking at air jackets so if Dd does fall she has some protection.

I'd also suggest doing lots of on the ground activities. Grooming, horse agility, trick training could all be fun activities on the ground for DD and improve her relationship with her pony.

Expectingsomethingwonderful · 11/03/2021 13:24

I wouldn't use a Shetland. Even if you did manage to find a perfect one (most do fit the naughtly Thelwell model), they are much more difficult to ride as their little legs have to move so much quicker to cover the ground. A sensible old 11-12hh pony would be a much better choice for many reasons. The child will also outgrow a Shetland very quickly.

FanFckingTastic · 11/03/2021 14:49

Fingers crossed for your daughter OP, it must be very worrying. From personal experience I would not swap your 12.2 saint for a Shetland for a number of reasons. Firstly, although they are small they are very strong (both in body and in mind!) The smaller Shetlands in particular can be more unruly as they are too small for an older / more competent kid or small adult to ride and therefore have never really been schooled properly. Also, as PP have said they often get treated as spoilt pets rather than horses so can be a bit bolshy. Secondly your DD will outgrow a very tiny pony in a blink. Thirdly, Shetlands are actually quite tricky to ride - I'm a small adult so have previously had the pleasure of getting on problem ponies, including Shetlands. They are very wide, so not the most comfortable, and their little legs means that rising trot is far harder than it is on other ponies. Plus they are generally quite strong and opinionated :-)

In my experience a quiet, kind 12.2 schoolmaster is absolutely worth it's weight in gold so I would be inclined to stick with what you have. Maybe you could look at doing lots of groundwork - trick training is really fun and you could look at long lining and agility work too. A friend of mine had to retire their horse from ridden work but they still go out to shows and compete in lots of in-hand classes. They also do sponsored rides etc, where they walk with her. In short there's no limit to what you can do from the ground.

Ftumch · 11/03/2021 16:55

Would something like and inkydinky saddle and a good body protector help keep her safe while on board? I would stick with the very safe pony you have, rather than an unknown pony she will grown out of every quickly.
Have you spoken to anyone at the RDA? I'm sure they would be very helpful in advising you on ways of helping her to continue enjoying her pony and any products that could support her.

Mumtothelittlefella · 12/03/2021 11:03

Wow thank you for all your replies, really appreciate it.

I guess my feelings for the Shetland are down to safety, every by comparison to the 12.2hh. But actually I think you all make an excellent point about the temperament. That’s the most important factor. And I get that actually finding a brilliantly schooled Shetland could be tricky. They’re not pets and should be treated as ponies but I appreciate that not everyone handles them in that way and then unwanted behaviours start appearing.

Our 12.2hh is great ridden but on the ground can be a little overwhelming for my daughter- she can nip if she’s feeling grumpy and knows how to avoid getting tacked up if she can. It’s fine for me, but my daughter isn’t confident enough yet.

I’m not concerned about her out growing a Shetland as she might not be able to realistically ride so having a manageable pony that she can lead and do fun ground work would be ideal. I like the sound of trick training! Will definitely look into that, along with agility. They actually sound like activities I could do too.

The stables I ride at are RDA so will chat to them when they reopen (soon hopefully!).

Good suggestion for the air jacket too. Thank you

OP posts:
midnightstar66 · 12/03/2021 17:12

My dd's have share ponies - a welsh section A and a Shetland. Section A is a green youngster but a million times easier to handle than the 12 year old Shetland who is quite frankly strong as an ox, there's been times he's towed me when he locks his neck down and goes - and I've had horses for 35 years, worked in racing with stallions and 17hh thoroughbreds. This is a Shetland who is very much treated like a horse btw and always has been. Obviously there is the occasional saint but they are few and far between. Your current reliable pony is probably the safer option here.

ShetlandSpecialist · 12/03/2021 23:45

I want to defend the shetland breed a bit here.

I'll declare my bias first though - I breed them, and have way, way into double figures. Not all bred by me, though some are.

They are an amazing breed, but must be handled like they're 16hh, not as pets or dogs. Give them an inch, and they'll seize it in their teeth, and gallop a mile. They are clever (some exceptions - I have one who is as dumb as a rock), loyal, brave, bold.

The one bit I'll agree with others on is that they do have a short stride, which can be a challenge if a child wants to learn rising trot. But if you keep them in a really slow trot, it's easier. My DC learnt and did all Pony Club on a shetland first time round. Are they a strong breed? Yes, if they choose to use it against you. But that's the same for any horse/pony. The key is finding one that won't. They can be limited to ride for the childs age, depending on your childs size - my DC rode their shetland until they were about 10/11.

Shetlands are out there which are amazingly perfect for small/vulnerable children. Depends what things you're prepared to compromise on. I helped someone find a shetland a few years ago, saw it advertised on Preloved, registered, in late teens (now in 20s and going strong), but it did have sweet itch. But they paid only £300 for it, and it's been just perfect. The children can do everything with it - it's a saint in pony form. It's LR/FR. It's not a speed demon - it's a VERY slow pony, but that's been perfect for their littlies to learn on and do Mini PC with. So much so that at PC rallies, the instructors keep asking if they can swop some of the kids off their whizzy expensive ponies, to borrow shetland saint for the other kids to do certain exercises on.

Given I have so many shetlands, including colts/stallions, I can assure you that if your fence is sufficient, they don't escape. We have no escapes. And I do have some who have escaped in previous yards with previous owners, but our fencing holds them.

They absolutely do NOT tow me or use their strength against me, with the exception of my working competing pony, who is not a childs pony, but an adults and fed to compete, and my stallion when covering inhand (not rude, but gets a bit keen, but we're still able to cover in a headcollar). But all of mine have been taught to be polite, I don't stand for bad manners.

They do NOT deserve the sh*tland tag they get given. When we have visitors to see the herds/foals, everyone agrees they're not what they were expecting, nor what people have told them they are. And any pony that comes in a bit highly charged, soon chills out here, and becomes easy to do within weeks. And I have very many, and have had/handled/bred/trained many more, so I'm inclined to think the issue there is not the ponies!

Is a shetland right for you? I don't know. Depends how much you want to do/your child is capable of. There are some saintly ponies out there, and not all for high prices. Of course, if you want a push button capable of some serious showing, you're going to have to look at paying well into four figures. But for a loving, safe pony, with maybe one or two compromises, they are out there.

Mumtothelittlefella · 13/03/2021 10:30

Ah what a fantastic insight, thank you. As you say, they need to be treated with the same respect as any other pony/horse. And you are so right about finding the right one, and accepting what ‘quirks’ you can manage and which you can’t - and that the same for any pony.

I’m going to do more research on them as a breed. We have a healthy budget for the right pony for her - I’ve decided fore go one of my own for now as my daughter is my priority.

OP posts:
GirlofInkandStars · 13/03/2021 10:47

I would definitely stick with the pony you have rather than taking on an unknown- Shetland or not! A calm reliable pony is essential once you need side walkers.

When it comes to your daughters needs, 2 adults at least to support her. One to lead and the other to side walk the rider. At RDA we would have 2 side walkers to support her. At 12.2 your pony is the perfect height for this. The side walkers can step in and support the rider in the saddle before there is a risk of falling.

It is an issue with covid as all the helpers and the rider need to be in close contact- and the main reason RDA is currently suspended.

Good luck with it and best wishes to your daughter.

SansaSnark · 20/03/2021 08:32

If you're more looking for something to be a bit of a pet on the ground for your daughter, there are other types of minis that aren't shetlands and may be worth a look? (Particularly if you would consider something which may not have registered breeding).

And then the 12.2 could be kept for riding which she sounds very suitable for.

But it depends on if you are able to commit to two ponies long term.

horseymum · 20/03/2021 08:53

I'm a senior RDA coach and have had several riders with epilepsy ( I know you don't have a diagnosis) and the horses have always been great, often just standing still calmly when a seizure is happening or if the rider needs to be helped off quickly. I think you will need to be very observant but not stop her doing something she loves. I'm not convinced an air jacket is necessary if she is always going to be on the lead rein so probably just trotting for now, the sound of them going off can really spook ponies and it's easy for a child to forget to unclip. Maybe take medical advice. The pony you have sounds lovely, maybe just reinforce manners on the ground. You must be worried just now but there is always help out there. Your daughter may be able to tell in the future when she is feeling 'not right' and you can take action.

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