When I first decided to start our horsemanship program I was told a few times not to include ponies because they are smart and challenging. I gave that some thought, but I remember the two little Shetlands I used to ride when I was young and decided a generalization like that did not suit me. Especially since I want my students to learn to ride using their bodies as much as possible and the reins as little as possible.
I've had parent book birthday parties for their little girl or little boy because they love horses. Then the birthday child is brought to the mounting block and refuses to get on, even our smallest pony because they are afraid. I can't imagine what would have gone through some of the birthday party children, or Pony Campers, had we only had horses to use for them.
Are ponies smart? I'd say the ones that have been part of our program have been. But, then so have most of the horses that have been part of our program. Are ponies challenging? Some times. But then, so are the horses that are part of our program, at times, and what I believe to be true of lesson mounts in just about any program that provides lesson mounts. Each person is an individual, just like each horse and pony. What makes ponies a little harder than horses in a lesson program is that most adults are too big to jump on a pony and tune it up when it has learned to get away with unwanted behavior. So, Addison, the girl pictured on Latte, is not an adult. She's a little bigger than a child that I would normally have ride Latte, but not too big to hop on and do some tune up work. This gives Addison some experience applying what she's learned riding Sugar to Latte. She also gets to see if Latte requires any change in communication from her so that he knows what she's asking. This helps Addison grow her skills and her confidence in becoming a better horsewoman.