The primary conflict in the four stages of The Red Pony concerns Jody's relationships with the adults around him as he grows closer and closer to adulthood. In "The Gift," Jody discovers that his closest friend and advisor, Billy Buck, is also a fallible adult who, in Jody's mind, causes his precious pony Gabilan to die. In "The Great Mountains," Jody sides with the old man, Gitano, against his father, who chides the visitor that "old things ought to be put out of their misery." In "The Promise," Jody gets a second chance at raising a pony, but again Billy Buck is unable to deliver the young colt without devastating results. Jody tries to make amends for his father's ridicule of the "Leader of the People," but discovers that in addition to his stories of the past, Grandfather's life is also coming to an end.
All of these events contribute to Jody's coming of age and his transition from a boy into an adult. He comes to understand the aspects of procreation, birth, old age and death from the animals and visitors who make their way onto the Tiflin ranch,and he learns that the trust he puts in adults cannot always be fulfilled