The Pony Tack Solution: Giving ponies the means to teach and children the chance learn.
As a little girl, my parents bought me my first pony to learn and gain confidence on. Beauty might have been pretty, but I was only three years old and have only one tragic memory of her. I was casually riding around an outdoor arena as others were warming up their horses, getting ready to rope, when Beauty decided to cut loose bucking and I fell off. When my dad helped me to my feet my mouth was full of dirt, forehead scuffed and eyes streaming tears of fear, confusion, betrayal and anger. I still remember the smell and taste of our rust tinted, sulfur-rich well water that I used to wash out my mouth. I am now 25 years old and I've been through some rough rides since then, but that first mouthful of dirt and tears has been the most traumatic.
I've come up through the ranks of rodeo on horses since then. Youth, high school, college, amateur and I currently rodeo professionally as a member of the WPRA. While I was attending college at Southeastern Oklahoma State University in Durant, OK on a rodeo scholarship, some of the boys on the rodeo team started buying, training and selling ponies to make extra money. As a whopping 5'2" and 115 pound, broke college kid, I decided it was time to face my three-year-old pony fears. I drove home that summer determined to purchase, train and sell ponies.
On a warm July Monday, I hooked up the trailer and my mom and I fearlessly took off to the sale barn on a mission to come home with pony. I got my buyer number and looked through the back pens with my eyes set on a couple good looking quarter ponies. The first two I wanted cost way more than my college budget could handle, but I was tired of getting outbid and decided I'd at least raise my hand to get in on the excitement. The next pony in line was a flashy, paint, mare pony with sweat marks from a saddle that had been taken off before they brought her in the ring. As I was "raising the bid", I heard the auctioneer shout "sold to buyer number 176" and everyone was looking at me. I quickly turned my number over to realize I'd accidentally bought my first pony for $125. After paying, I found my purchase and headed to the trailer. On my way, an older gentleman stopped me and said with a smirk, "I see you bought ol' Hot Rod, good luck with that one." My mom and I looked at each other laughing and we wondered what I had gotten myself into.
I've gotten to work with quite a few nice ponies since then, but I was always struggling with something: tack fit. After working with kids and ponies during lessons and rodeo camps at Widmer's Rock 'N Roll Arena, in Deep River, IA, I realized I was far from alone. The kids on ponies were also struggling and not because the pony and child weren't trying, but because they couldn't possibly communicate effectively. It didn't matter how many holes they'd punched in their over-sized horse headstall or billets; the bit mouthpiece was too wide and cinch to long to function properly. If they did have pony tack, it was the wrong style or size to match the job it was intended to do. I found the ponies, children and myself nearly helpless and frustrated in the middle of lessons and clinics trying to build a solid foundation without the right tools.
Isn’t reason most people buy ponies is to teach children how to ride and gain confidence. I must ask though, are we giving our kids a chance to learn and our ponies to teach if they can't communicate correctly, if even at all? Wouldn't we as barrel racers, ropers and horsemen and women of all disciplines be farther ahead in our horsemanship if we had started building our fundamentals on a pony that we could stop and turn without straining our child arms to the point of exhaustion? Wouldn't our ponies be worth more for resale if they learned to respect the rider?
Don’t get me wrong, I realize that some ponies, just like some horses have bad attitudes, but I believe it starts with a lack of communication and education due to poor fitting tack. Since it has been nearly impossible to find quality pony tack, we cut holes, tie knots, loop a few more times and "get by" or "deal with" tack that's too big. Luckily, we don’t have to compromise anymore!
The Performance Pony Company is the solution to pony tack problems. The newly developed store carries a variety of tack, bits and accessories specifically sized for small horses and ponies. Now we can give these struggling children a chance to learn and ornery ponies the tools to teach. Performance Pony bits come in 4.25 and 4.5 inch mouthpieces with proportionally sized cheek pieces. Headstalls, breast collars, nose bands and other strap pieces come with extra holes to cover a large range of pony sizes. We carry a Mohair blend straight and roper style cinch in 13 to 24 inch sizes. Visit the store at www.performancepony.com to see that full line of products developed to advance our future generations of cowboys and cowgirls.