Dealer of the month: Marsh Ponies

By: Horse Deals

Dealer of the month: Marsh Ponies
Dealer of the month: Marsh Ponies

Mother and daughter team Nicky and Tira Baillie, who run Hampshire-based Marsh Ponies, have carved both a good reputation and a niche in producing and selling childrens’ ponies.

While the bigger ponies tend to be Irish-bred Connemaras, they also back, school and sell New Forest ponies.

They have an affection for Foresters and owners and breeders send them ponies to back, school and sometimes sell.  "It’s a nice breed to work with," says Nicky. "They tend to be sensible. We’ve had a few who have been tough to start with - if they’ve never been handled, it takes a lot longer -  but in general, they’re level-headed."

A New Forest pony will often fit the bill for someone looking for a pony up to around 14hh, but bigger ones are harder to find. And while a ‘leg at each corner’ Forester pony will easily take a small adult, there is a demand in the competition sector for talented ponies who are a little bigger.

"That’s why we started going over to Ireland and bought a few Connemaras," explains Nicky.  "Now, we get offered more and don’t need to go over there as much."

Finding the right ponies is one essential and making sure they go to the right riders is another. "There’s no such thing as an average customer, because although we don’t have a lot of ponies in at one time, we have a wide range," says Nicky. "You sometimes have to read between the lines. There are a lot of parents who don’t have much knowledge because they’ve never ridden and think that a child who’s had lessons can get on anything.

"We work out what a rider has done and where a pony is going to be kept. I’m not so keen if they say it’s going to be on working livery, though people who haven’t got much knowledge have often been told that it’s a good idea."

They’re happy for a potential buyer to bring an advisor,  but whether or not someone knowledgeable is on hand they insist that any child trying a pony must be helped to feel as confident as possible.  "It’s a huge step to be put on a pony you don’t know and expected to just ride it," Nicky points out. "Often, one of us will take the pony and child into a corner and give them a mini-lesson. "If you talk it through with them, you can see them relax and they get to grips with it so much quicker."

A pony will be schooled according to the job Nicky and Tira think it will be best suited to. "You have to work out what market you’re aiming for with each pony," says Nicky. "If he’s going to be a lovely happy hacker, we won’t school him to the same level as one who shows a lot of talent as a jumping pony.  

Nicky and Tira like clever ponies, but not ones who can’t be trusted. "We don’t take one if it’s known to be a little so-and-so," Nicky says diplomatically. "A good reputation is precious and you have to guard it."

Expert tip

Try and help a child who is trying a pony to relax, because they’re more likely to gel. The Putting a young rider under pressure won’t help the child or the pony!