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Ponying as part of training: When, Why and How?

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  • Ponying as part of training: When, Why and How?

    I have taught a couple of horses to pony, but with more than a decade in between. I need a refresher course.

    Current green mare was a PITA-- I have done only one day.

    I wanted to teach her to pony as a segueway to riding outside. She had been line-driven around the farm. Also, I thought she have many, many skills.

    And the bizatch wanted me to drag her some. So on the bigger horse, with my western saddle and a shanked lead, I did.

    She got a little better and we could trot both directions by the end, but she wasn't "right there" the way a race horse or polo pony would be. I have seen people pony horses at all three gaits in large fields. I think she should be able to do this, just on general principals.

    So teach me the tricks of the trade for ponying, please.
    The armchair saddler
    Politically Pro-Cat

  • #2
    Why would you expect her to automatically know something she'd never done and to learn how to do it in one day?

    If she is slacking behind and doesn't want to go forward, move your pony back towards her, make clucking/kissy noises, and poke her in the belly with your toe. Use the kissy noise before you boot her every time, so eventually she'll learn to move forward at the noise. Expect her to jump forward or even kick at your pony. I ponied a mare at the track (who ponied A LOT because she would run off with her riders) and she would just stop dead and suck backwards or completely freeze up and refuse to move no matter what I tried. This is the only thing that worked and broke her of the habit and I've used it on quite a few horses. Good luck, be patient.


    • Original Poster

      Thanks for your suggestion! I'll see if I can arrange both horses to have my cluck followed by a boot to the pony-ee.

      Just to be clear: I don't expect a green horse to know anything I haven't taught it, or to learn a new skill in one day.

      I posted in order to give you guys the scenario-- what I had done and what I saw in the mare. I posted after 1 day of this because if I were creating a problem rather than solving one, I wanted to know that before I dug my hole too deep.
      The armchair saddler
      Politically Pro-Cat


      • #4
        There is a whole thread on it here

        (Search is your friend)

        chief feeder and mucker for Music, Spy, Belle and Tiara. Someone else is now feeding and mucking for Chief and Brain (both foxhunting now).


        • #5
          I don't recommend dragging one, as it can set you up for a horse in your lap if the horse suddenly decides to "give" and jumps forward, as well as pop the horn off your saddle, if you're not using a roping saddle.

          The toe in the belly trick does work pretty well for sulky horses that don't want to move forward, but you need a pony horse that's pretty handy, and even better if they're willing to kind of shoulder in to the horse on a small circle and move it around (think circling up in working cow horse, but much slower). Basically, you're pushing the ponied horse around and getting them to get the idea that they are on the bottom of this pecking order of 3, and need to do what is asked. If the horse is really being sulky, you can use the toe of your boot in the side of the ponied horse, while pushing it around in the small circle. That seems to work the best for horses that are just being obnoxious, not truly ignorant horses that don't know how to lead well.

          Riding figures-- serpentines, circles, squares-- can also help the ponied horse learn to follow the pressure of the lead, stay in the proper spot, and keeps their brain engaged. It will also help you get a feel for handling the rope and reins, coordinating your cues to the horse you're riding and the horse you're leading and get more confident with your ability to maneuver them. Like everything with horses, ponying requires some skill and some feel, and you only get that by practicing. Also, make sure to practice "whoa" a lot from a walk and trot before ever moving up to a canter, so you don't end up with something like a hooked marlin the first time.

          I've ponied quite a few horses, and most horses that have good ground manners and lead well will take to being ponied pretty quick, but some have an attitude about it. It seems that horses that want to be the top of the herd order particularly get an attitude about being ponied and will need more work being pushed around and having their body parts moved before they will just go forward with good manners.

          For equipment, I like a rope halter with a good yacht braid lead rope that is attached directly to the halter. I don't like snaps to break or hit the horse in the jaw, and the yacht braid is a nice size to handle with good weight so it doesn't fly around. I like the rope halters because the rope has a little bite on the poll or over the nose if the horse is being naughty, but won't bind up like a chain that is threaded though a regular halter can. Always, always use gloves. I've had 2d degree burns on my hands from rope burns from a naughty horse (not ponying, but handwalking a stall bound rehab), and it's no fun.

          Just take it one step at a time. I'm sure when she started being line driven, she didn't just get the reins clipped on and then went forward in a straight line down the wooded path in a lovely frame. You probably started with lunging, then put lines on and went in a circle, and gradually worked up to her working in front of you going forward. Same thing with ponying. Teach her to yield to the pony horse and follow the pressure of the lead, and you'll soon be happily loping around the field.


          • #6
            Originally posted by BayRoan View Post
            I don't recommend dragging one, as it can set you up for a horse in your lap if the horse suddenly decides to "give" and jumps forward, as well as pop the horn off your saddle, if you're not using a roping saddle.
            Maybe this is just me, or maybe I am misreading your post, but I would never, ever tie a horse to a horse. I have always held them in hand. I have a racetrack background, which is how I learned.

            I also had a pony horse fall out from underneath me one day when a stumble on a deep inside gallop turned into a faceplant. Having the horse tied would have been a disaster.

            I have slack of the rope (I use a longer rope lead these days) in the left hand along with my reins, and the right hand is on the rope leading the horse, pretty much the same as on the ground.

            I have used both chain shanks and ropes with snaps under the halter. If the horse pulls away and tries to make a getaway, I have some line to work with to reel them in. These days, I am also using a rope halter for a bit more control when ponying.

            When starting green horses to pony, I do it like anything else. You have to walk before you can run, so transistions up and down at slower speeds eventually progressing to a gallop, or lope in this case.

            Oh, and I always wear gloves when ponying too. That's a lesson learned the hard way.


            • Original Poster

              Originally posted by Lady Counselor View Post
              Maybe this is just me, or maybe I am misreading your post, but I would never, ever tie a horse to a horse. I have always held them in hand. I have a racetrack background, which is how I learned.
              Oh, yikes no!

              Even ropers don't *tie* the steer to the horn.

              I didn't even dally the pony-ee to the pony-er.

              Like you, the rope went from the pony-ee to my right hand, then some slack and the bight of the rope was held with the reins in my left hand.

              When I got tired of the mare hanging back off my arm I put the rope ahead of my saddle horn and let the larger pony horse pull her a bit. Didn't dally/take a lap around the horn.

              And thanks for the warning about breaking the horn off my saddle. Hell-to-the-No. I like my equipment.

              Also, the other thread that Janet kindly linked mentioned a rope halter. That's a good idea. I chose a leather lead with a chain because I come from English world and thought about that first. I wanted the chain there to add some bite if the mare didn't come (or stop) just with pressure. The chain was a loop only, not set up so as to get tighter and tighter. I found that the leather lead was good because it was narrow and easy to hold with the reins, too.

              Oh yeah, and gloves. Darn tootin' to the gloves!
              The armchair saddler
              Politically Pro-Cat


              • #8
                Originally posted by Lady Counselor View Post
                Maybe this is just me, or maybe I am misreading your post, but I would never, ever tie a horse to a horse. I have always held them in hand. I have a racetrack background, which is how I learned.
                I must not have been clear. I assume people know the first rule is Never Tie Hard and Fast when ponying. I was referring to a situation where the horse being ponied is dragging, so you take a dally and let the pony horse kind of drag the other one along. If you're experienced at ponying, you might get away with it, if the horse is just testing, but often they'll jump forward, just like when a foal is learning to lead, and then you have good odds for a wreck.

                I will take one dally when ponying, just to save my arm on a horse that is learning, but I grew up riding western and know how to keep my fingers out of the way, how to slip dallies and when it's a Bad Idea.


                • #9
                  I've just been working with my young horse on ponying in the last couple of months. I found that if I drove him around ahead (loose) of my mount (I used a longe whip) for a few minutes first it helped to get his brain into a position of being able to work when I hooked up the lead. Over the course of several rides I worked my mount closer to the loose horse, and got to the point of nearly ponying position with the loose horse. Part of the slow approach was determining how likely the young horse was to kick, and how hard I could push him. I got lucky - he's not got much of a propensity to kick. He was more likely to try and nip at my mount on turns.

                  I haven't really gotten to canter with him yet (asked for it today and got several good strides before he dropped back behind). Today I worked him loose for twenty minutes, pretty much in pony position the entire time. We did circles, three loop serpentines, changed the rein, changed gait. I started using a dressage whip instead of the longe whip last week and I can hold that over his back, tap his bum, touch the other side of his neck to bring him towards me, stick the whip forward between heads when the loose horse pushes too hard, etc. I was doing this with the longe whip (lash held with handle) but I found it a bit long as the loose horse learned to stay closer.

                  After the ring work we went for a cool out walk around the farm and I held the rope and whip in my right hand so I could use whichever was needed.


                  • #10
                    I sit on a good steady horse that can figure out I'm leading another horse around them in circles while I sit on their back. So the Ponee learns to follow a rope-feel. Actually they all learn that from forever- wherever that rope advises you to go, go.

                    Then we step off to the Right, toward the Ponee, to untrack them. We'll noodle around the arena mostly turning right until I think they are getting the notion enough. Lots of stops and treats. Then we gradually graduate to figure 8s, big sweepy ones. Never ever squeeze Ponee visually between Poner and wall or fence or anything. Keep their mental path clear. As SOON as you can, step it up to a trot or gait. Bodies in motion tend to stay in motion. You can always turn right to wind them down. Rope halter, integrated lead, gloves, all standard.

                    The filly I raised from 7 months to 7 years went to GA and was Poneed all over Fort Mountain State Park as a 2 YO. She went to Oak Mountain State Park countless times, Poneeing down trails, encountering bikes, deers, creeks, etc. She went everywhere I could reasonably take her. I set her up to be very 'meh' about new things b/c she just went along for the Ponee of it.