Saturday, May 15, 2010

Day six: Ponying


Ponying is a wonderful tool, if you have the right horse for it.  If you don't already have a well broke saddle horse handy, or you yourself are not comfortable handling two horses at once, there is still plenty you can do, but ponying may not be the best option.

When I work one of my broke horses, I will very often leave a young horse loose in the ring with me.  Not only does it introduce my saddle horse to more distractions, but gives me an opportunity to work the young horse.  I've found this to be especially useful when my youngsters just come in and are still a bit leery of people; I can get a lot closer, a lot faster by using a horse than when I am on foot.

I'll ride around for a while, not paying any attention at all to the colt in the ring.  When the colt seems fairly relaxed, I'll start bringing my saddle horse closer and closer, usually by making circles.  I try not to ride directly at the colt, just approach and leave at an angle, so it is more like I am "accidentally" riding closer.  As the colt gets more sure of me, I'll take my horse even closer yet.  Pretty soon, I can ride right up to that colt, and he won't be too bothered at all.  This is the kind of exercise you can do with any horse, even if you can't pony off him.

Once my colt has some basic ground work done with him, I like to pony them.  This has so many benefits.  It will get your colt very light on the halter, gets him used to a rider being up above him, give you a new way to sack him out, it's a good form of exercise (especially once you get good, and can pony that colt up and down hills on the trails!), build confidence, and as an added benefit, improves your saddle horse by giving a purpose to your exercises.  You'll find your broke horse will be much more willing to yield his hips, or counter arc when he has a reason to (usually because the colt is crowding, getting pushy, or lagging behind on the lead rope) 

Please use caution and common sense.  Horses are large animals, with an exceptional amount of power and strength.  They are also concerned above all with their own personal safety, and will do whatever they feel it takes to keep themselves from harm.  Being individuals that act and react differently, the only certainty you have when working a horse is uncertainty.  I am a professional trainer with twenty plus years experience, yet even with the knowledge I possess, I still get hurt from time to time.  This blog and the accompanying media are for entertainment purposes only.  No responsibility will be assumed for injuries or damages incurred while trying to use these methods at home.  Please ride responsibly; protective gear can save your life!

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