Get them “Ready” with the Basics
When you begin working with a young/horse or pony there is no rush. You need to teach them the basics of being handled; wearing harness, steering, and backing up, etc., and build a strong trust/bond with them. They do not need to look like they are going to a horse show at this stage. They may not have the best carriage or motion at this point but you shouldn’t worry about that just yet. Make sure they have a good sense of steering and are strong enough in long lines before you worry about head carriage, show shoes or putting them in the cart. The reason for this is that if you get pushing them too hard before they are mentally or physically ready, you end up creating problems and will find you have gone backwards. Don’t work them like they are going into any specific division (road pony, harness pony, pleasure pony or cobtail) they will tell you throughout this training process what they are capable of and are going to be.
“Set” them up to succeed not fail
When you find that they have gotten strong enough (can withstand a full, hard work out without tiring too easily) and can steer properly then it is time to put them in the cart. Every horse/pony may be ready at different times, some 2, 3, 4 or maybe even 5 years of age. When you start them in the cart don’t check them too high up, even if you may have had their head checked up perfectly in long lines, lower it back down.
When you jog one and check them up high, their back end needs to be strong enough to handle the weight and the pull as jogging changes their centre of balance and can create problems in their back and hind end if stressed by too much weight. Also don’t put their show shoes on them until they are physically strong enough to handle them. You shouldn’t have to keep adding and adding weight to a young horse/pony’s shoes just to make them trot higher because you may be pushing them to do something they are incapable of doing just yet and create problems.
“Show” them when they are ready
Don’t show one until it is fully prepared to physically take on an entire class, and take into consideration that just going to a show is going to take a lot out of them to begin with. Most times with a young horse/pony, especially a very nervous one, it is good to take them to a show first just for experience before you actually show them. You want to make sure that they are in their comfort zone at a show and that it is a good experience. When you get to the show, don’t get doing things that you don’t normally do with them at home, consistency is key with a young horse and you want to continue their routine even at a horse show.
*The most important things to remember are that every horse/pony is different from the next, what works for one may not be any good for another, consistency is key with young animals, rushing only brings on problems and don’t force one to be something it’s not, every horse/pony has a place and purpose.