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Pony Ride! (Part 1)

OK, so the title of this post is a little misleading.  No, I haven’t ridden Lindy yet.  That’s still officially scheduled for her birthday (4/24) and unofficially scheduled for this Thursday (4/14)… but shhhhh!  That’s a secret.

Anyway, one of the little training techniques I really love is Ponying.  I first discovered ponying when I was rehabbing Clue from his suspensory ligament injury (that’s a story in and of itself).  He was restricted to Walking Only for a year, and for much of that year, we were supposed to be walking (under saddle) for 45 minutes a day.  Since poor Clue was not allowed to be turned out and I was serious about him getting better, I was really religious about him getting his walk every day.  But it got really boring.  We ran out of things to do in the arena, let me tell you.  And it made it hard to also find time to ride Spot.  Enter the solution:  Ponying!  I could ride Spot and lead Clue.  We could go for short trail rides this way (ones that didn’t involve hills) and I could spend quality time with both my ponies.

What I love about Ponying, besides its two birds/one stone nature, is the fact that it’s a great way to introduce a new situation to a horse without me having to be on the horse’s back.  I am not the world’s bravest rider.  I like to minimize my personal risk (don’t ask why I still like jumping…).  Ponying is a great way to do this.  Once I accepted that Clue really will bolt without the slightest provocation (just ’cause he feels like galloping like he’s still a race horse), I decided to pony him on the trail so he could at least get out there, but so that I wouldn’t have to experience the bolting if/when he decided to do it.

Ponying Clue, Riding Sadie (or, it's hard to get a good picture of your horses while riding)

I have also been ponying Lindy a lot since I got her.  It’s really a nice way to get to know her and how she reacts when she’s out on the trail.  For the most part, she’s really good.  When she does spook, it’s pretty legitimate (a dog bounding and barking over the crest of the hill right behind us…  a child holding a plastic bag out in the wind…), and she gets over it quickly (as opposed to winding herself up, like Clue tends to do), and she mostly just scoots forward.  It’s a bit of a pain in that Lindy spooking pretty much always makes Sadie spook too, but they’re both so good, and so willing, that they both listen really well when I ask them to stop.  I never feel like I’m going to lose control of either one of them, which can be a real danger with ponying.

To make ponying safer, I practice first in the arena at the walk and trot, trying to keep the horse I’m leading lined up with his head at my knee (easier said than done).  I usually use a rope halter (or “American headcollar” as my friend Ali calls them)  instead of a regular halter for better communication (some people suggest using a stud chain with a regular halter, but I really am not a fan of stud chains).  And if I can get enough of the mud off my horses’ legs to make it comfortable for them, I use protective boots (on all four legs for the horse I’m riding, on the front two for the horse I’m leading).

 

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