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Gear for ponying an older horse?

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  • Gear for ponying an older horse?

    My two horses 21 and 25 are BFFs and inseparable. And I mean *inseparable*. The 25 yr old can not let the 21 yr old out of his sight (last time he had to be drugged while the younger guy went to the hospital). The older guy, my TB is pasture sound. The other, my Arab is rideable. So.. I want to ride the younger guy and train the older guy to pony so I can go out on the trails.
    What gear (halter, leather lead line?) do I put on the TB? And do you just hold the lead line in your hand and try to remember not to wrap it?
    I ride in an English saddle.
    Besides that any tips on training? Carry a dressage whip to ensure distance? I will start in a ring of course.
    The Arab is sure footed and the TB is a goofy guy who once started to back off a cliff. Not much sense of sense-preservation but loveable.

  • #2
    It sounds like this should be fairly simple for you as they are already BFF's --- that helps a lot.

    Work in your ring. Nylon halter and (just to start), a chain shank through the left side,an over the nose, through the other side and then over the face to the inside of the ring between the two nylon strapings>the upper ring by his left eye. (this is to assure the halter doesnt twist on the right side into his right eye).
    Make sure the chain isnt *wrapped* around the halter, but loose, so when you loosen your hold, it loosens. This way you can work toward using a single shank (one without a chain).

    Mounting block. Stand horses side by side with shank over your saddle. Mount, Nose on Knee is the safest distance to pony horses. Just hold the shank in your hand and practise.
    Stop, turning Left and Right. Practise leading >for those skinny trails, or going through gates. Anything you would normally ride single you can learn to do ponying. Even teaching your horse to be ponied from the other side > this one is not so easy and may require more patience on your part.
    If there is an obstacle your horse wont go through on the trail....back your pony into regular position so they can travel together, pulling will not work.
    If your horse does well, then you can move into a single shank but I prefer to clip from the side so the horse can move in a more natural way rather than having pressure from underneath his chin.
    It might be a good idea to teach them both to pony? just in case on the trail you might need to switch? just a thought.
    OTTB's ready to show/event/jumpers. Track ponies for perfect trail partners.


    • Original Poster

      Thank you BrightSky! I have to think a little bit to get your description of the shank right. I guess like this:
      Maybe I'll try a longing cavesson. Because he really reacts to chain leads (i.e. rears)


      • #4
        I just use a normal rope halter and longer lead rope. I like enough extra lead that I let it slip through my hands if the second horse stops while the first keeps moving. Such as balking at a stream crossing. Sometimes they just need a little space to look at what they are stepping into.

        I also use the excess to Shoo away the second horse if he tries to pass the lead horse.

        The horses pick it up really quick. Especially if the horse being lead is not the alpha. My biggest problem usually comes from riding a horse that is #2 or #3 in the herd and trying to lead the alpha. The alpha always seems to want to sneek ahead and the horse I'm riding is always looking sidewize to make sure the alpha horse isn't trying to regain his leadership position.


        • #5
          We all have our favorite gear. I used to pony with a leather lead and chain over a nylon halter. I was given a Monty Roberts training halter some years ago and really do prefer it. It is a nylong halter designed to fit snugly on the horses head which prevent the halter from twisting on the head when being led. This is a real plus. It has a regular nose piece and a rope nose piece which your lead snaps to. The rope will tighten if the horse pulls back on the lead and loosen when they step forward, thus rewarding the desired behavior.

          I always wear gloves when ponying, ALWAYS. Trust me on this. I like to use a lead rope of a smaller diameter and I tie knots on the lead in three places which really help you hold onto the lead better if you have to put the led horse behind you on a narrow trail or are holding a rambunctious horse. The knots work like stops for your hands. I always have a knot right at the end of the lead.

          Ideally you place the led horse to one side, I use my right side, and have your right hand on the lead and your reins and the lead again in your left hand. Personally, I want the pony horse to be well trained to neck rein and ride one handed. I don't really like to ride one handed in a snaffle bit and it's awkward for the horse so I use a hackamore or curb bit on the pony horse. Don't let the ponied horse get ahead of your knee. They should pny calmly beside you or behind you if the trail is narrow.



          • #6
            I used to ride one horse and pony the other until we arrived at our trails where there was no traffic. I just turned the ponied horse loose and let him come along as he chose. He stuck pretty close snatching a bit of grass and quickly catching up. I did a bit of this in the paddock to start with. He soon learned that a rustling plastic bag meant treats so I was able to get the lead back on him without dismounting. Both horses were senior's and I didn't want one frantically running the fence. I used just a knotted halter and a 10' lead. Mine was just hollow poly rope with a knot in one end and a clip on the other. It's lightweight and not bulky. If riding english it is easy to coil and tie to the D ring.


            • #7
              I do it pretty much the way Chicamux describes. I position the ridden horse on the left, the ponied horse on the right (makes mounting easier!) and I have a certain lead rope that I use that's just the right length and has knots in just the right places. I am often ponying children riding, so I'll put a rope halter under the horse's bridle and attach the lead to that, so the kids have most of the control and I'm the "emergency brake." Ponied horse has to keep his head beside my knee. Definitely, definitely wear gloves! I also ride in an English saddle, my horse neck reins well, and we're in a similar situation to the OP, where the horses are older and good friends -- so I have about the easiest situation possible.

              Practice the halts before you hit the wide open spaces, and practice adjusting the ponied horse's pace to match the ridden horse's pace. Those two things are the ones that have gotten us in trouble in the past. Picture ancient Arab thinking "whee, a trail ride!" being ponied by middle-aged OTTB who says "sure, ya wanna canter, I can do that." I'm amazed we all made it home alive. It was not fun - for me! thank goodness there weren't any kids involved that day.


              • Original Poster

                Wow, all your comments have been so helpful! Yikes, I didn't think of knotting the lead - of course!
                And practicing halts - I always do that with the ridden horse before I decide if he's "safe" to ride, but didn't think of it when ponying. Doh. Right hand side - check. Head at knee - check. GLOVES - of course (check).
                I think maybe passing the lead line through a softish PVC pipe would give me something solid to push the ponied horse back should he get too close or too far in front.
                Oh now I am getting optimistic. Thanks everyone.


                • #9
                  chicamux said: I tie knots on the lead in three places which really help you hold onto the lead better if you have to put the led horse behind you on a narrow trail or are holding a rambunctious horse. The knots work like stops for your hands.

                  Just speaking from experience, I caution on putting knots in your lead(even at the end). Even with wearing gloves, if a horse pulls back, those knots can (and will) break your fingers middle knucles. I've had my two outside fingers of my right hand broken in order to learn this lesson --- now, in fairness, ponying TB's on the track is pretty intense far more than trail ponying, still......

                  OP, you said these horses are buddies, so I would expect them to respect each other. Instead of chain, simply use a (thinner) longer shank in the same rigging, that should work just fine. I would not use a bridle also in case he were to get loose, you'd end up with a broken bridle and risk a horses broken jaw/haltering is plenty. A bit of practise at home will give you an idea what more you need to practise
                  IN GOD WE TRUST
                  OTTB's ready to show/event/jumpers. Track ponies for perfect trail partners.


                  • #10
                    I, personally, don't like to use a chain on the led horses. But, then, I don't even own one for use on the ground so my horses aren't used to them. IME, ill-timed or accidental yanks can teach a horse *not* to pony well.

                    I also use a long (10-12 ft) cotton lead where the only knot is at the end. I coil it into three big loops, with the tail loop in the pinky part of my hand the the loop nearest the horse's head where it's easy to manipulate with thumb and forefinger. I keep the led horse's head at my knee. If I need to give a longer lead for a minute, I can drop a loop. Then loop it back up once he's back in position.

                    If for some reason you get into a pulling contest, drop your hand down pretty much into your crotch so the lead is over your upper thigh. It gives you a lot more leverage in an English saddle.


                    • #11
                      Don't complicate it with PVC- just shank him if he's rudely going on ahead-warn him verbally and waggle that lead, if he blows you off, put him in his place. Set him where you need him and leave him be, that's how he learns his place. I'll even stash sugar cubes in my pocket so I can reward Mr Ponied for staying where I want him...

                      I like to start with ponying in right hand circles to fully establish I'm up here but I'm in charge. Graduate to figure 8's and yes, practice halts.

                      Gloves, longer cotton lead(no knots), well fitting halter, and go. You don't have enough hands for whips, PVC, and overthinking. Go have fun


                      • #12
                        I ponied TBs for years on the track and then when I worked as a polo groom. Of course on the track you are ponying just one at a time, but with polo you ponied multiples....I could pony 2-4 horses at a time if I got the sets right and the pony horse was good.

                        The TBs all had shanks with chains over the nose, but none of the polo ponies did.

                        The nose chain is great for controlling forward motion, but if they stop or tend to drag, it does the opposite -- pulls tight, then freaks the horse out who will (tend to) pull even more. Then he stops and most of the time you can lose him if you are going fast (keep in mind when I was ponying it was at a fast trot or more likely a canter; you may not be going that fast).

                        Personally, in this case, I would not use a chain.

                        As others have said, start in an arena. Horse being ponied needs to be on the right side in most cases. Head should stay near your knee...no farther ahead than the pony-horse's shoulder and no further back than the cantle of the saddle. This allows you to adjust for control.

                        Give yourself plenty of lead line (6-8ft). Do NOT dally. Your pony horse should be light on the aids and respond quickly to requests to stop, turn, etc.

                        If the horse is a puller (forward), then a chain over the nose could be helpful. If he is a dragger, and your pony horse is good, you can run the lead shank under the pony horse's neck and up on the left side. That way HE will drag the other horse, not you.

                        And it goes without saying you must be paying close attention at all times and constantly readjusting lead pressure, etc.

                        If you are going on narrow trails, you can let the lead line extend long enough to let HOrse #2 be safely behind Horse #1, but make sure when he comes back up he doesn't get on the wrong side of you.

                        Also, make sure the rope doesn't get under Horse #1's tail!! Things can get super western when that happens...

                        Of course, a good pony horse will tolerate this....but good pony horses are worth their weight in gold....
                        Last edited by Kyzteke; Apr. 16, 2011, 10:57 AM.


                        • #13
                          If your horse leads well and the two like each other, ponying will go fine. Don't overthink it. Practice in an enclosed area, then go have fun. I pony all of mine at various times and places, and it is easier than it looks.


                          • #14
                            I like to use a leather or flat nylon lead- my hands are quite small, and the cotton ropes can be a bit too bulky for me. Good gloves are a must though.
                            Horse Show Names Free name website with over 6200 names. Want to add? PM me!


                            • #15
                              Good advise so far above, so no point in repeating it. The only thing I would add is if the horse being ponied has super ground manners it will make ponying them soooo much easier than one that is a pain to lead on the ground. Also don't over think it, the horses figure it out pretty fast especially if it means they get to go out together.


                              • #16
                                I usually pony mine in the same gear I lead them in. If I am packing or on a multi hour ride, I'll use a longer lead. Gloves are prudent. Often enough, if I am in 'conditioning' mode, I will tack both up, put halter over the ponied horse's bridle, head on out and then switch the halter to the other horse half way around.

                                For me there are two versions of ponying- exercise where the horse's head is at my knee (and no further forward) or packing where that horse is behind the horse being ridden. Either way, a word of caution. It can get interesting if lead rope gets under ridden horse's tail. So, either make sure that can't happen or train horses to not worry about that- you can do that in a round pen with a couple of foot length of broomstick. Lift tail, place stick, horse clamps, goes yee haw, when horse relaxes tail, stick drops. Rinse and repeat til horse understands that keep tail relaxed is the secret to success.

                                Also I was given a useful tip some years back that has worked for me. Training the ponied horse to stay where it is supposed to- you will wear yourself out either slapping with lead rope or pulling 'back' on halter. Easy solution, simply raise horse's head when it is too far forward. Yeah, your arm will get tired first couple of times, but horses don't like going with their head hoisted, and so when they drop back and you release pressure, it isn't long before they respond to slightest upward pressure for correction.


                                • Original Poster

                                  Interesting tip about raising the head to keep ponied horse back (the TB is a faster walker than the Arab).
                                  My riding horse was broke with lots of longing AND a cruper (sp?). So we had some fun with the "thing" stuck under his tail. Lots of indignant bucks. That was however, 20 yrs ago, so maybe I will run a lead line under his tail while on the ground to see if he remembers.