View Full Version : First time ponying at track next week... pointers?

Jul. 27, 2011, 09:44 AM

So a trainer who I've helped out here and there when he has been short staffed offered to teach me how to pony the horses for exercise in the morning. I am going over next week to try it out. I have a crash vest and helmet... and I'll be riding his pony with his tack...

Anything you can think of that would help me to know ahead of time?


Jul. 27, 2011, 10:40 AM
Never let the horse get ahead of your leg...meaning keeping his head at your hip/knee but do try to keep their head straight! Sometimes on a tough one I've found that holding the halter quiets them down, but always have the lead in your other hand.

Jul. 27, 2011, 10:54 AM
Make sure he starts you out with horses that pony well -- you might also want to wear chaps to protect your thigh/leg on that side because sometimes horse open their mouth and accidentally hit your leg w their teeth!

Make sure he has a nice pony that you can hold before you try to pony with it--have know some that could pull like a train worse then the racehorses!

Jul. 27, 2011, 11:07 AM
Thanks both of you, those are great tips!

I don't currently have any full chaps, only half chaps, unfortunately.

This trainer seems to have a lot of really well mannered horses. One day I filled in walking for him and walked 13 horses, only one was uppity and he wasn't even bad really, just feeling good.

He knows I have not done it before and has mentioned he'd give me a easy one to start. I hope the pony is good because he only has the one! :) I'm really excited to do this! Once I learn more about it all I may train one of my horses to do ponying. :)

Jul. 27, 2011, 06:50 PM
*Make sure you learn the traffic rules of the track before you get out there. Every track has different rules regarding the direction you are allowed to pony when the starting gates are up. Some trainers will have you "backtrack" the wrong way, others the right way, some don't care. Some horses do better going one way or another, which is something you will just learn. USUALLY they will be calmer backtracking. It's good you are working for only one trainer to start, so you will get to know his horses and their little quirks.

*ALWAYS EXPECT SOMETHING TO HAPPEN!! No matter how quiet the horse seems or how easy things are going, don't ever relax to the point of getting sloppy. Don't let your pony's reins get too long, you want to be sure that you can stop or turn on a dime. Don't relax your lead rope too much either.

*Ditto to keeping the horses head by your leg. Not only can they get away from you if they get too far in front or behind, but if they have too much "freedom" they can kick your pony. Seeing blood gushing from a cut vein on your pony because you let him get kicked is a horrible feeling!

*Be courteous when going by the starting gates. Make sure to look and see if there are horses inside. The gate crew will usually yell "BREAKING!" to let you know that they are going to pop them out. Get out of their way as soon as you can and make sure you have a good hold when those gates clang!

*You and your pony are the racehorses "body guards". When passing another horse, especially on the path to the track, put your pony between your racehorse and the other racehorses. Ponied horses often are feeling good and have a little freedom and love to kick up their heels! You don't want them kicking somebody else. Also be aware of inanimate objects and give them plenty of clearance on your racehorses side, in case he decides to jump into them.

*Sit deep and back a little in your seat and keep your heels down to keep yourself anchored in case the racehorse tries to pull you out of the saddle :-)


*Don't be afraid to speak up if you feel a horse is unsafe to pony or you don't feel comfortable taking them. You have every right not to, and it's much better to speak up than to get you, a horse, or somebody else hurt.

*If ponying a horse with a lip chain, make sure the chain is looped back to itself on the offside so it is snug and won't come off, which can be a HUGE mess!

*Sometimes a horse who is pulling hard will do better if you take ahold of the noseband on the halter and hold it lightly. Just watch you dont get your fingers stuck, or they can rip you right off the pony!

*Keep your reins and your rope tangle and loop free and organized. You'll get better at handling them with practice.

*A couple tricks I have learned to handle emergency cases when the horse is pulling hard and about to get free...don't get in a tug of war, and don't be afraid to give a couple quick hard shanks to get their attention. You don't EVER EVER want to tie the horse to your saddle horn, but you can do a half wrap around it. A few bumps against an unforgiving horn and the horse will often back off his pulling. Even putting your rope hand ON the saddle to brace it can help. Some horses feel the give and take of your arm and will try to take advantage of it. ..........If you have a chain that is attached over the nose and under the jaw, and the horse is being unruly, you can twist the chain until the slack is gone. Gets their attention and can prevent pulling.........And if all else fails, and you can make a loop out of your rope, and put it over the horses nose, and hold the loop in place, loose around the horses nose. This is an extreme measure and you can lose a finger pretty easily if you aren't careful.

*Watch stud colts! Some will try to bite or mount your pony!

*Every trainer and pony person has their own methods of how they want the chain. I prefer it to be over the nose and under the chin. I feel it gives you the most control. Some do under the jaw. Some will do it buckled to the other side of the halter. I REFUSE to pony like this, you have extremely limited control this way. I tell the groom/trainer to fix it or I won't take the horse. I have always regretted it when I haven't made them change it.

*Don't be afraid to correct dangerous or unruly behaviour. You have to keep yourself safe as well.

*Sing or talk to your horses, some of them really seem to like it :-)

OK, I think I'm done LOL! Hope it helps and you have a great time!!

Jul. 28, 2011, 02:13 PM
A good friend of mine ponies for a living, and I've tried to store away everything she ever tells me as good advice. BansheeBreeze covers a lot of it - two things that came to mind right away that she covered are wearing well-fitting gloves with a suede palm - I followed her advice and got these just for riding, and they are GREAT http://www.greenhawk.ca/cgi-local/SoftCart.exe/scstore/p-DRC0488.html?L+scstore+wkbd8898ff737073+1311888041
One other thing she has mentioned is not giving a horse too much shank - they can get behind you or come into you and you have no way to redirect them. Like I said, I think a lot of her as a horsewoman so I try to remember the stuff she tells me.:)
ETA - it isn't just the colts who can get silly notions about climbing on your pony...she said that when she used to pony my middle gelding, he was on enough hormones to make him think he could get the job done, and he was an obnoxious prick about it. Some fillies, given enough hormones, can think the same thing too! :D

Jul. 28, 2011, 02:45 PM
The trainer you are with is a good guy and should teach you well. However, you usually have to ride in front of the outrider before ponying anything before you can be approved to bring a second horse out on the track. They don't usually let just "anyone" out there to ride. Especially at PID. Their outriders and pony people are very good up there. Good luck!

Jessi P
Jul. 29, 2011, 11:06 AM
Lots of good advice here. I would add that you should take the pony out to the track solo first for a trip around once so that you can get a feel for the pony, tack, track and surroundings before you have a horse in your hand. Make sure to know the rules! Good luck and all the best!

Jul. 29, 2011, 11:24 AM
Good advice here, the only thing I would add is lots of advil!

Jul. 29, 2011, 12:47 PM
Really good advice, I would just second the advice of getting used to the pony on your own first. I made the first page of Indian Charlie newletter about 15 yrs ago getting run off with on the pony around the Saratoga main track!

Jul. 29, 2011, 01:46 PM
good luck and enjoy yourself!

On your lead...dont put knots in it, if it were to run through your hand it will break a finger.

If you do get in *trouble*...dont hesitate to pull your horses down to a walk and move to the outside rail, reverse & return. Im sure the outriders will keep you in their sights offering assistance as needed.

Have fun :)

Jul. 29, 2011, 02:59 PM
Thanks everyone! I am definitely checking back and reading everything, just been busy with packing up for shows this weekend :)

Yeah, I'm sure they would want to see me ride the pony around a bit before handing me another horse, too. If they even give me a horse to pony that day at all. I would want to get to know the pony and the surroundings some anyways before getting a TB to hold onto. I have met the pony and he's a cool dude and the trainer says he's great but can be a little strong, but that doesn't bother me.

Jul. 30, 2011, 05:29 PM
Just one thought...will you be covered under the trainer's comp or your own? hate to put that out there, but thought it was worth discussion.

Jul. 30, 2011, 07:20 PM
Heres an insurance example at PN:

You have to be ON the trainers badge list before going to the track and you can only work for that trainer. Technically, an application process should be followed, but rules seem thrown to the wayside on this lately.

If you choose to do any *outside* day work, even on his pony, you must then have a separate pony license, complete with the whole application process plus verifying that you carry your own insurance.

If you choose to do *outside* night work on the trainers pony, you can only pony his horses to the gate. To take any other horses, you will need to produce your own pony.