Now that Royal Baby Fever is settling down to an acceptable level, it’s time to ask the most important question of all. When will His Royal Highness Prince George Alexander Louis of Cambridge be introduced to his first pony and what will it be?
With a title and full name that filled all available space on the registration of birth document, will he be presented with a pony with a similar blue-blooded lineage, or will he have a nanny on four legs who lacks aristocratic connections but has an unbeatable CV? There’s always a possibility his parents might find both: one of my friends has a wonderful 24-year-old Welsh Section A who earned his halo looking after her children and is now polishing it in preparation for his next lucky family.
Fortunately, the royal family possesses plenty of horse sense and the Queen, his great-grandmother, is probably already earmarking potential prospects. Her Majesty is a true horsewoman and will understand that a first pony is one of if not the most important equines in any rider’s life. We all remember our first, whether the memories are good or bad!
Both the Queen, Prince Charles and Princess Anne started riding on Shetland ponies. Those who substitute an ‘i’ for an ‘e’ in the breed name are being unfair, because when they’re treated and trained like proper ponies, Shetlands are unbeatable. Next step up could be either a Welsh A, a Dartmoor or an Exmoor, all breeds which have passionate devotees.
Again, it’s temperament and training that matter. In 1954, the Dartmoor Pony Society presented Prince Charles with a Dartie called Juniper. He had been trained especially for his new role by the then Jane Bullen – now Jane Holderness-Roddam – under the guidance of her mother, the artist Anne Bullen.
Jane demonstrated the success of their bomb-proofing techniques by propping a ladder on the pony’s hindquarters, climbing up and leap-frogging into the saddle. He stood rock solid and undoubtedly instilled the initial confidence that eventually saw Prince Charles become such a brave and accomplished rider on the polo field.
Every child lucky enough to have a pony deserves such a star. But whilst a few perfect first ponies might seem to be born to the job, all need correct and sympathetic training. They are worth their weight in gold and can make or break a child’s love of riding, so never underestimate their value or their worth.