Why my horses keep getting smaller

Ellie loves to jump!

Ellie loves to jump!

In the last some years, each horse I’ve bought has been smaller than the one before. I’ve owned, loved, and enjoyed horses as large as 17 hands, but my current horses are two wonderful and athletic 14.1 hand ponies.

Why would an (average size) adult choose to ride ponies? Because Ponies are the

                                    Sports Cars of the horse world!

They’re agile, athletic, generally sound and healthy, intelligent, trainable, adorable, have Personality Plus, and are fun, fun, fun! At 5’6″ my legs hang a little long on them, but as long as I keep my weight within bounds, they carry me very comfortably and competitively in dressage, over fences, and down the trail. Ponies can WIN against the big horses and will always have a fan club because they have such charm and panache.

Finn showing 3rd level dressage

Finn showing 3rd level dressage

They’re smaller and closer to the ground, which is good in every way.

  • Easier to get the saddle on and off.
  • Easier to mount/dismount.
  • You can see to brush the top of the horse.
  • You can get the halter/bridle on easily. No giraffes!
  • Less far to fall (although I try to avoid falling at all)
  • Spooks and antics tend to be less terrifying. However, be advised that some ponies can be very quick, athletic and catty in their movement, so take them seriously.
  • Usually easier to handle on the ground with some decent training (just smaller, so that makes it easier).
  • Require less feed – much less expensive to feed.
  • Many have great feet and can go barefoot, at least behind

Sometimes, riding my ponies or just being with them makes me feel like a little girl again (and a happy one, too).

So maybe Ponies are the Fountain of Youth? I kind of think so.

My renewed love affair with ponies began at a dude ranch with Ruger, the Quarter Pony. Here we are about to cut some cows!

My renewed love affair with ponies began at a dude ranch with Ruger, the Quarter Pony. Here we are about to cut some cows!

18 thoughts on “Why my horses keep getting smaller

  1. I like to hear this! My new mare, is, well, just that, much smaller than earlier horses. Somehow, although not by choice, my mounts have gotten smaller… She’s not done growing yet, but I know for sure she’ll stay Well below 16 hh, 🙂 Love to hear I’m not the only one 🙂

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    • Your new mare is so beautiful and really nicely put together, too. Sounds like her personality matches her outside, too! If she stays on the compact side, so much the better. I look forward to following your journey together.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah, I’ve been really surprised about her personality. Wouldn’t in my wildest dreams think you could pull a horse out of pasture with her herd, and turn her into a pocket puppy in just a couple of weeks 🙂 Thank you for the sweet comments about her!

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  2. As a middle aged learner rider with a crook back and dodgy left leg (yes it had to be the left one!) I am more than happy with my 14.2hh Connemara. All the reasons given in the article are valid, and I would hope no-one feels pressured into riding a horse or pony taller than they feel comfortable with.

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    • I LOVE Connemaras! They are one of the best pony breeds in my opinion. Congratulations on acquiring one! And I agree – no one should feel pressured to ride anything (taller, hotter, greener, or anything) than they feel comfortable with. We’re all grown up enough to make our own decisions, right? Right! That’s why I bought myself a pony. What the heck.

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  3. The horse I have had and ridden and driven for the last 14 years is an 18.2hh Clydesdale gelding. He is wonderful and sweet and very biddable and I even rode him in two Buck Brannaman clinics (much to Buck’s amusement) but just about 6 months ago I picked up a 15hh quarter horse and wow, I am certainly enjoying riding a lot more! I joined a driving club for my Clyde and NATRC for my quarter horse and that is about as much excitement as me at 47 wants with my horses. I still feel perfectly safe riding the Clyde but if I have to get off on the trail it is often quite a hike until I find something that I can stand on to remount! The quarter horse I can just hop right on! I think when I have the time and the money I will be breaking the quarter horse to drive!

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    • Your Clydesdale sounds like a wonderful gentleman, and many of us have loved these great big fellows (or girls). But it does seem as we get older that the smaller horses are just, well, easier! I can’t even imagine how big a log you’d have to find to clamber back onto that Clydesdale if you had to dismount on the trail (not to mention how long the drop is every time you get off – and you know that shock is kind of hard on your back and other joints). Enjoy both your horses – and always use a mounting block for both of them. I do, even for my little ponies 🙂 It’s better for everyone. I’m smiling now just imaging Buck Brannaman’s enjoyment of your big handsome boy! Thanks for sharing your story

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  4. I don’t currently own my own equine, though I’ve owned a 16.2 Standardbred, 16.1 Thoroughbred, 15.2 Andalusian, and 15.3 Appendix QH, but I volunteer with a therapeutic riding program and am privileged to be the exercise rider for Scarlet, the Welsh Pony mare. I think she’s about 13 hands tall, and she’s a blast to ride. The girl likes to gallop 🙂 In her lesson work, she’s amazingly patient and intuitive. Our other mare is 14 hand Honey, a Haflinger, beautiful, gentle, and sensitive, to hearts as well as leg. (Our other 5 horses, The Boys, are troopers, too, and not all our students are small enough for the ponies!) If I were ever shopping for another ride of my own, the Adalusians would get some competition from the ponies…

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    • You know I love the Haflingers! They have the most wonderful personalities and are beautiful as well (who can resist a blonde? Although I’m a brunette myself). But I have a weakness for the Spanish horses as well, and they are very smooth to ride, from what I hear – well worth considering if you have back issues, and very intelligent and trainable, too. Some can be hot, so keep that in mind, but many have excellent amateur-friendly dispositions.

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  5. I never left ponies…I went from a 13hh welsh mare as a child, to a 13.1hh welsh gelding as an adult. My lovely little gelding has done it all for me, from western gaming to schooling fences up to 1M. The benefits of only being 5ft tall…never outgrowing ponies 😉 lol.

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  6. I completely agree. I’ve owned Tilly, my 15hh connemara cross thoroughbred since since she was 4, and even at 4 she had the head of a 10 year old. I was only 12 when I first got her, and a nervous rider. She never put a foot wrong, and has helped me out of a lot of situations. I would drag her out of the field and be BE90s or 100s,and she would still be perfect. I’m 19 now and she’s 11, and I’ve never felt the need to move onto horses, and Tilly always out performs them, and is just so much easier! At pony club, all my friends moved onto horses in their early teens, and had problem after problem. She may not be a big, impressive horse, but she has enough character and heart to make up for it. She is unbelievably gentle and clever, I use clicking noises to move her around the stable, and have taught her a few tricks. Her favourite one is opening the velcro on her travel boots (but only when I ask her too). She is a pony for life, and even though I’m 5ft 7in, I’ll never feel the need to go up a size, because I’ll be missing out on so many perks of having a pony.

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    • This could be my favorite comment so far! Maybe because I can envision your pony taking her boots off on command. Hilarious! And so clever. I think I could train my ponies to that, and think of the time saved. Although they might not be very gentle with them. I’m so pleased you have stayed with your wonderful pony. She is truly a horse friend and you are very blessed to know her!

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      • Thank you! I love that picture too. She made me laugh and think of this article when she pulled my zip down to open my coat earlier! I think she thought I looked too sweaty after our jumping session and needed to take my coat off.. Cheeky pony.

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  7. Love this! My horses are getting smaller too and I wouldn’t trade my mare for anything. I have a haflinger too and can’t believe that I didn’t go back to ponies sooner!

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