Pony Club is one of the leading junior equestrian organisations in the world, and was established to teach young people the many aspects of horsemanship. The aim of this study was to gain an understanding of the health and performance of Pony Club horses from the perspective of their owners. In-depth interviews were conducted with Pony Club members at two sites in Australia, and topics relating to participants' background with horses, horse attributes valued by participants, horse health and performance, and Pony Club-related matters. The in-depth interviews were taped, transcribed and analysed, by describing the themes and issues recorded in the dialogue and conducting cross-case analysis (finding similarities and dissimilarities between participants with respect to each of the above-mentioned topics). A total of 32 interviews were conducted. The participants' background with horses varied greatly. The horse attributes valued by > or =59% of participants included temperament, size, ability and suitability for riders. A range of issues relating to health and performance were important to > or =53% of participants, including horse temperament, nutrition, internal parasites, lameness and foot-care, and colic. Soundness and preventive health measures were rarely mentioned (< or =16% of participants). Friends or knowledgeable horse people were identified as the first point of contact for horse-health matters, and veterinarians were only used as a last resort or for serious problems. Members of Pony Club learned about their horses by trial and error. Optimal performance was described as a horse that was willing to do as the rider asked. Poor performance was usually the result of the horse misbehaving, and could include a resistance to rider commands, pigrooting and bucking.