I think everyone loves to watch big classes at horse shows. There’s vibrating energy in the air. Of course there is! You’re watching horse and rider pairs gallop around courses of massive jumps. I’m always in awe of the power, speed, and determination on horse and rider’s face during these classes. Bigger equitation classes hold me captivated. Riders exude brilliance through their tight turns, effortless jumps, and classical position.

I’m convinced this is everyone’s idea of a great spectacle at a horse show. But folks, I must admit: there is a land of wonder outside of the equitation ring, outside the hunter derbies, and past jumper world. There’s a land where tall boots don’t exist and horses are seldom taller than 14.2 hands with adorable small children attached to their backs.

This land is pony world.

Although watching medal classes, working hunter trips, and speed classes is incredible, pony world is a magical place. It’s filled with bright colored bows, pigtails flying, garters slipping down small legs, and ponies galore.

My horse show career did not begin in this enchanted ring. I never wore jodhpurs that gave my calves rubs. My hair was never carefully braided and tied with ribbons. Although my first foray into the world of horse showing was a lead line class, it’s safe to say I never partook in this fairy tale place. Safe to say, I missed out on a lot.

Needless to say, through my learner-judging journey I’ve been leery about heading to pony world. My experience tells me I’m suitable for divisions where riders are over 5’0 and jumps are larger than 2’9. But hey, opinions can change. After sitting with a judge who is very pro-pony, I am becoming a convert.

It’s incredible to see someone learn. The pony-kids put their skills to work, determination architecting the features on their faces. It’s heartwarming to watch kids make stogy ponies canter around a course, executing perfect distances. Every time a “pony kid” made it around a young entry course without trotting, I wanted to clap. OK, of course I clapped with quiet hands under the table of the judge’s booth.

At the level of young entry, short stirrup, and even long stirrup, the overall feeling is less stressful. It’s less serious. With that kind of energy brings lightheartedness and a general feeling of encouragement. Parents’ faces lit up with smiles as their child successfully piloted a pony around the ring. Trainers watched happily when their kids managed to keep their ponies from trotting during an under-saddle class.

The day I sat at the pony ring was long. Sitting for 12 hours watching ponies canter similar courses was tiring, but I gained a new appreciation for the beginning of a horse show career. People trust large animals with small children. The animals cart them around as solid citizens. Most of the time, the children safely leave the ring, patting their pony for a job well done.

If that’s not magical place, I don’t know what is. But it’s something I’d like to stick around and see more of.