The main conflicts of The Red Pony are man vs. nature and man vs. man.
An external conflict is struggle with an outside force. The main external conflict in the story is man vs. nature. Jody is a ten year old boy living on a ranch outside Salinas. He has to battle nature constantly. When he gets his first pony, it dies. When the second one is born, the mother has to be killed. Sadness and death haunts Jody everywhere.
When Jody first meets the pony, it bites him.
Its grey nose came close, sniffing loudly, and then the lips drew back and the strong teeth closed on Jody's fingers. The pony shook its head up and down and seemed to laugh with amusement. (ch 1, p. 9)
The man vs. nature conflict continues when the pony dies, and the second one’s mother dies.
Jody also experiences some internal conflicts. Internal conflicts are struggles within a character. Jody struggles with fear and pain. He is trying to determine how he feels about the pony, and about the pony’s death. He turns his pain inward and becomes sullen.
The first buzzard sat on the pony's head and its beak had just risen dripping with dark eye fluid. Jody plunged into the circle like a cat. (ch 1, p. 34)
The pain from seeing his pony die, and watching the mother of the second one die, is too much for Jody for a while. It is part of growing up. He does come to terms with it, but he is not the innocent youth he was before.