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Newbie Advice Needed - Daughter wants to do more in Hunter/Jumper

Will do, thank you!!!

Beginner level horses are bought and sold frequently. I stand by my advice to purchase. Sure, a young child will outgrow a pony, but 15.2 hand horse will physically fit most pre/teen girls going forward.

As an owner, the doors to US Pony Club membership and activities are opened wide. There is no better place to develop a young rider’s knowledge and skills.


Here is the SF Bay Area, it would be unusual for a 10 year to have more than 1 day a month of “unsupervised” riding time, even then it would be in a ring with a trainer but not being schooled at the moment by the trainer.

You are on the right track that saddle time at this young age is really the only way go. Imagine trying to get better at a sport when you can only practice it 1.5 hours (2 lessons at about 45min each) a week. You need to find a way to get her saddle time.

Out here a half lease is 3x/week and a full is 5x/week. All the other details can be negotiated.

Sadly, in equestrian sports you are only as good as your horse. Luckily at this low level it does not take much. No need to worry about Olympics now. Enjoy the shows now. Find a good trainer that you feel like you can communicate with. Someone who will walk your through the process. Not just someone who sees only your checkbook.

Your daughter is lucky that you are taking the time and effort to support your dreams.


I know you don’t want to buy and sell horses, but if your daughter is going to ride competitively, that’s going to have to be a part of it (one of the reasons I shelved my dreams and now do dressage to work with the horses I have as a personal goal, not a competitive goal - I don’t want to sell mine).

Lesson horses are awesome, and can teach you a lot, but your own horse is going to teach you way more, even if she outgrows them “skill-wise”, you’ll quickly find she might not, especially as she does the majority of the work. Horses aren’t static creatures, and even the best beginner horse will test a beginner if that’s who rides it the bulk of the time. That’s not a bad thing.

When I was a kid, I rode for 2 hours every night, and 4 hours on weekends. I then went to an academy where I rode for 6 hours on the weekends (yes, my parents paid for lessons and rides, but I also mucked stalls etc. for the privilege). This made my balance and feel excellent. To become excellent, that’s what you need to do - ride every chance you can get. I rode everything, easy horses, not so easy horses, horses they just got off the truck. That’s what makes a rider good.

So what I can say is to find her somewhere she can be a barn rat. Pony club is a good place. Let her work for more rides. I know she’s 10 and that feels young, but it really isn’t THAT young. She can learn to clean tack and muck stalls. If you’re not millionaires (and even if you are), that’s the way to develop a rider. Good luck to you :slight_smile: I’m glad she’s got you as a parent trying to figure this out!


I haven’t read all the comments. Maybe this is covered.

My kids came up thru Pony Club, which is/was at that time a pretty comprehensive program including horse management as well as just the riding portions. It was 3 day eventing focused, tho many kids went into specialties (dressage, frequently) when they got older.

In our Pony Club, we had riding lessons 2X a week, which was unusual in local clubs at the time*. Our students also had AT LEAST 1 additional lesson a week privately. The mantra we observed was, 1lesson/week, you will slide backwards in your riding. 2 lesson/week, you will maintain but not advance. Advancement required 3, 4, 5 lessons/week, AND these kids got their horses out on the weekends as well (competitions or conditioning). Difference here was these horses were owned by the families in question or were full leases (not some limited access).

Our riders graduated with considerable horse knowledge and skill: the upper level testing requires them to get on horses they’ve never ridden before and put them over a course of fences or thru a dressage test properly, analyze their rides, discuss the problems evident and possible approaches to a solution. And yet, I can’t name a single Pony Clubber from our region in 20 years of being a part of the organization who was Olympic level, because at that point, the quality of the horseflesh itself is so critical, and none of these families had that kind of money.

These are statements about the average kid, on their own horses. Of course there are exceptions. And it is possible, if you know what you are doing, to find that needle-in-a-haystack horse, but it will take years to develop that eye, not to mention the luck, to be the one who does it.

There are interscholastic clubs and intercollegiate clubs that have school-based competitions (generally on barn horses) – that’s another venue rich with possibilities for competition.

The A circuit generally requires a very expensive horse, either owned or leased exclusively, and as these horses run into the 100s of thousands, the leases aren’t “feed leases”, but $20K year sorts of things. “Hunters” which seems to be the area so many junior riders are pushed into, is a beauty contest: it isn’t even an Olympic sport, but it none the less seems to be the most expensive of them all.

My advice to you would be to discuss the horse show world with a whole lot with trainers (who have NOT got a financial interest in your child’s activities), other parents, and boards like this one where you can reality check some of the things your child may bring home to you but not fully understand. Ultimately, the decision-making resides with you, and therefore the knowledge base has to become something you’re pretty well versed in. This is a field where it is easy to make very expensive mistakes very easily, which could trash your child’s dream in a hurry. Try to avoid that.

*we also held stable management lessons with the trainer 1Xweek, because stable management is part and parcel of the curriculum, and entertains topics most kids who don’t own horses would never cover.

ETA: if you purchase, she will UNDOUBTEDLY eventually outgrow the horse. “Outgrow” in this context does not mean in terms of size, but in terms of the horses’s ability/talent/sensitivity. You don’t want a young rider attempting to bring along a highly sensitive horse, so that’s not what you buy at the “start”. However, by the time they are in serious competition, later in their teens, they need that step up horse who will do anything asked (but you must be careful what you ask and how.) So it is inevitable. You buy the best you can, with a confidence that a good horse well handled will also be sellable when your daughter is ready to move on.


OP, on the topics of cost and commitment, here are a couple of recent threads on the HJ forum that might be informative to skim:


Op check out any local IEA teams: https://www.rideiea.org/

It’s a similar format to college riding and will give her the opportunity to show in a different environment and ride different horses.


Different decade, and probably different region (Metro), but I can. I was in Pony Club in the late 60s, early 70s. At one C-2 rally I competed against Tad Coffin, who went on to compete in the Montreal Olympics. More recently, in the Virginia region, Phyllis Dawson, who competed in the Seoul Olympics, was a Pony Clubber. Also in the Virginia region, Pony Clubber Lynn Symansky was travelling reserve for the Rio Olympics, and competed on several Pan Am teams. (All three in 3-Day Eventing)


This sounds amazing. Unfortunately we don’t have any Pony Clubs nearby! Believe me, I double checked after reading your comments and if we did, we’d already belong to one!

This is all excellent wisdom and advice! We’re going to follow it.


Got it - thank you!

Yes, this is ALL what she wants to do, but we don’t have any Pony Clubs nearby. We have two types of barns nearby:

  1. More “high end” barns compete very well at shows (A-rated and Local) and progress riders through pretty rigorous lessons. This is where we go now - she tacks, rides, and then untacks the horse for 2-hrs 2x per week, with 1-hr of it being pure lesson time with coaches who care about the riders and horses, but also don’t sugar coat anything.

  2. There are some other barns that are more fun oriented. They don’t do many shows (but they do some IEA stuff, which is cool) and lessons are more fun oriented and unstructured. They also have Barn Days 1x per month where they learn all the other stuff. While she loved the barn days, she just couldn’t progress her riding nearly as quickly here.

She loves taking care of the horses as much as riding them, so we’re going to figure this out somehow. But overall she wants to improve her riding, and ride a lot more. Right now there just aren’t many barns that offer both unfortunately, so we chose the higher end ones as she just felt like she wasn’t advancing fast enough in the more fun ones that we used to belong to.

Thank you, I actually read the “Broke” person earlier today - it was certainly eye opening!

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Yes, we’re familiar with IEA. The barn she goes to doesn’t do them much (or at all maybe) though. But she absolutely loves the format. It just isn’t near as popular here as the state/regional HJA shows and the barns focused on them. There are only 2 “teams” within a couple hours of here and we don’t hear much about them locally.

And jump in yourself and take a few adult lessons. I was dragged reluctantly to my first lesson at age 35 as a Pony Club parent.

And my daughter’s first “outgrown” horse? We never tried to sell him and I ended up foxhunting him for over twenty years. My daughter gave up riding when college came along but I am still learning from my horses every day, and am happily horsing around over two decades into retirement from my day job.


Is the program your daughter is in open to her doing more lessons per week (4-5 days)? At least for the winter? Unstructured riding time on a lease horse may not be as beneficial right now as more lessons, plus it would be better for your budget while still giving you a step up to see a bit what a more intensive commitment looks like? Or has she outgrown the capabilities of their lesson horses? I am not an HJ person, fwiw.


Yes, we’ve done 3x lessons per week recently, but never any non-lesson riding, unstructured riding, or only flat riding (unless the coach just wanted to that day). But that would certainly be less expensive. Shoot, we could afford 25+ lessons per week :slight_smile: at the rate of leasing a horse, LOL.

Honestly, the horse she rides at 50% of her lessons is the one they want her to lease. He is an expensive horse (that’s what they are telling us at least), but nobody is leasing him (probably because of the $$$) so she gets to ride him a lot. But she never minds riding the other horses too - some of which she likes just as much as the one they want her to lease but they tell us that those “lesson horses” wouldn’t do well at shows (which is definitely true, from what we have learned).

Honestly, more so at the barn we left before, but also a little at this current barn we get the feeling that if we don’t lease a horse, they might start not allowing her to ride the nicer horses or progress as quickly. It’s almost like the barns around here give you a taste of riding nice horses — as the carrot, and it’s almost an unspoken rule that if you then don’t lease or buy a horse with their approval or involvement within a year or two, you’re going to be put on a different track and are just not going to be able to ride the same horses or progress as fast — as the stick. Overall, it’s a bit of an odd feeling for us parents!

We left our prior barn because they were intentionally holding her back and not allowing her to compete or practice at the next level as an incentive to lease a horse - they told us that flat out when we asked why she wasn’t being allowed to go to certain shows or practice certain things that her peers who were leasing a horse were getting to do. Her newer barn as of the past 1.5 years isn’t holding her back at all (which is great), but when we brought up her goals, they then started heavily encouraging her/us to do the full lease in order to compete at A level shows.

I think we just need to talk with them about getting her more riding time period, before we even figure out the lease, half-lease, or lesson thing. This post has been super helpful and eye-opening for sure! Now we know what to focus on more right now, and that is focusing on her riding more and more and not leasing a horse just for the sake of leasing a horse!


@HeelsDown123, a very simple way to better understand what this lease covers and involves is to ask the trainer if you can have a copy of the lease contract so you can look over it to understand things better.

I would think that a barn of this level would have a clear contract covering this.

I would think a full lease would include some non-lesson ride time, along with those two lessons per week.

In my opinion, I think leasing is a good first step. It allows you to get your feet wet with more time commitment, the additional cost of owning, etc. It also gives you the out of ending the lease if your daughter decides that maybe riding this much is not quite what she wants.


OP, I suggest reading “A Man Walks into a Barn” by Chad Oldfather, and for your daughter, I suggest the US Pony Club Manual of Horsemanship D Level (and C Level) by Susan Harris. Even if Pony Club is not an option, reading and referring to the manuals is very helpful. There is so much more to the world of riding horses than A-rated showing!


Don’t get over-focused on shows. What really develops a rider is time, particularly on a variety of horses and ponies. Taking care of them, just being around them teaches a child about their wants, needs, foibles.

A large prey animal is outside the experience of most children, who are only exposed to small predator animals (dogs and cats). Learning how horses think, behave, and, most importantly, react is absolutely critical to be a good rider and, of course, anything resembling a true horseman.


I think the pony club manuals are great, but do go into it knowing that there are lots of jokes for those in pony club about doing things the pony club way. Some of the stuff in there is not quote modern way accurate.
Still a great read.