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Lazy pony?

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  • Lazy pony?

    I bought a driving pony two years ago. The hills around here appear to be too much for him. I am an inexperienced driver and pushed him till he became balky. So, I just drove him once in a while. I've gotten over my fear of traffic on our main road - he has no fear of traffic. Now, I've begun to drive him more frequently on a flatter road and he is getting balky again. My first drive after he'd been off for a while was about two miles. He seemed happy enough. The next drive was a shorter one in a different direction which he did well. I took him out yesterday and he walked the whole way out and wanted to stop. I wouldn't let him stop on the road but pulled over to give him a breather. I saw things weren't going well, so we turned around and headed home. He liked that direction and trotted as much as I would let him.
    Should I push him when he gets balky. I really don't know what to do.

  • #2
    What type of vehicle and harness are you using?


    • Original Poster

      I am using a used leather harness and a new easy entry cart.


      • #4
        I had a similar situation with my Morgan, I pushed him too hard in the beginning, not realizing signs of fatigue, and he became balky from it. Once I became more aware and considerate of his level of fitness, balking melted away.

        It sounds like even though you are dialing back your driving adventures, it still may be too much if you need to pull off to the side of the road to give him a breather. Walking, or a light jog should suffice as a breather for a reasonably fit animal on a realistic drive length.

        Change your routes often, make your drives shorter, and incorporate a lot of walking. If the hills are too much right now skip them.

        Make sure your pony is eager to go, and pay attention to what places he starts to balk, if its the same place (he's reached a destination he recognizes offers a chance to turn for home), or if its a certain amount of time out (ie, after 30 minutes he's starting to get tired). Have a plan in your mind for taking an alternate route home, even if its just a little detour once you get close to the farm, or going past the farm a bit and then coming back.

        Keep him guessing on which way goes home so balking doesn't become a habit to get out of work. But be considerate of his needs too.

        Watch his sides carefully for heavy breathing, and if you catch a glimpse of his head while driving, pay attention to his nostrils for excessive flaring.

        When my Morgan would start to balk, I realized it could either be he's tired or he's learning to avoid work. So I would encourage him forward just a bit so he learned stopping isn't a solution, but I'd honor the idea that he was legitimately tired by turning for home. I'd watch him carefully, if he had a lot of spring in his step and he didn't look like his breathing was hard, I'd take the long way home, making him walk the whole way. If he really seemed tired, we'd head home taking slight detours here and there. Always mixing things up.

        It took time and patience to learn his ability and develop his fitness.

        Driving is hard work and animals must be reasonably fit. Walking long distances is the best way to develop fitness in out of shape animals.

        Make sure your harness fits well and your cart is balanced well and appropriate for your pony. If your cart is unbalanced, it could be putting excessive weight on him.
        Being terrible at something is the first step to being truly great at it. Struggle is the evidence of progress.


        • Original Poster

          Thank you so much for your common sense approach to my problem. You've described in a nutshell what we are experiencing. Most of what you've said is what I am already practicing, but I did glean good things from your answer.
          I have another question. Someone told me that the crupper does not have to fit right against the base of the tail. Do you agree. This person said it was like a wedgy. I don't think that this is part of the problem but not being an experienced driver, I'm not sure.
          Again, thank you. I'm always open to any new thoughts or comments you might like to make. I want the best for my pony's driving experience and that he would enjoy his job.


          • #6
            Do you use an over check, or check rein? If so, perhaps loosen it up considerably, or try without it. They need to be able to put their heads down in order to use muscles correctly to push into the harness, esp on hills. Good luck!


            • #7
              you want to think about the crupper when the horse is in motion, specifically when he is lifting his abdomen and getting round through the topline as he works (or putting his head down to work pulling up a hill). What was formerly a loose setting will now appear tighter, and of course if it was tight to begin with, it probably won't be too comfortable when the horse is working.

              I'm not sure if there is a reliable measurement (like 2-3 fingers in a curb chain) but when I do up the breeching, the crupper sits about 1+ inches looser than a tight position.
              Your crazy is showing. You might want to tuck that back in.


              • #8
                Absolutely be sure to give your pony his full head when going up hills, they need their necks to help balance and distribute weight going up hills. A trainer I worked with a while back said she once had a client approach her with a horse that balked at going up hills. When she watched the client drive, she noticed the client was trying to keep her horse "on the bit" even up hills, that was the problem, horses need to stretch, some more than others, to pull a cart or carriage up a hill.

                Also be sure the chest piece isn't sitting too high to cut off his wind, too low to cause interference across his shoulders/chest, and isn't too thin to be painful. All of these things can make it challenging for the pony to go up a hill.

                Crupper should not fit right up against the tail bone, it could rub and cause a sore. It is also one of the most important pieces of tack to examine routinely and keep clean - though every piece of harness should receive good care as failure could be catastrophic. Be sure to use a nice soft brush under the tail to keep the area clean, and smooth out hairs from the side of the tail bone after the crupper is buckled, bushy short tail hairs can bunch and rub there.

                The same trainer showed me how to measure as I had a similar question: There should be a palm width under the turnback. Ie.: with the horse harnessed, she put her hand on its side under the turnback on top of the highest part of the rump. With her hand under there, the crupper should be tight to the bone, so with her hand removed it was adjusted properly. This was for a 14.3h horse, adjustment for a small pony would likely be noticeably less.

                You're good to be paying attention to your pony and asking questions. Its hard being inexperienced and without help on the ground. Keep watching your pony, asking questions and learning, we all started somewhere and few of us were perfect when we started out. I know I made loads of beginner mistakes and slapped my forehead quite a bit when I realized I was making my horse's work harder than it needed to be for him. But he forgave me : )

                Keep asking questions! Its how we learn.
                Being terrible at something is the first step to being truly great at it. Struggle is the evidence of progress.