Ponying at the Trot, by Lynn Palm
This article will cover ponying at the trot. Be sure you can successfully pony at the WALK first. All the preparations for ponying that were discussed in previous training articles still apply. Remember, I refer to the horse being led as the “pony horse.” The horse you will be mounted on to lead the pony horse is the “lead” horse. I will describe the exercises as if leading the pony horse from the off side (right side) of my lead horse. Use the voice command “trot” as you apply seat and leg aids to ask the lead horse for the transition. Move your right hand forward to signal the pony horse to do the same. Keep your arm and elbow flexible so you can react quickly and smoothly if the pony horse lags behind or speeds up. This also will keep you from being pulled out of position in the saddle or jerking on the longe line. Watch the pony horse carefully. Our goal as we move from the walk to the trot is to keep the pony horse in position between the lead horse’s neck and the rider’s leg. If he gets behind your leg, he is too far back. If he gets far in front of the lead horse’s neck, he is too far forward. The lead horse should move at the speed of the pony horse and not the other way around. You may need to use a “cluck” to encourage the pony horse to move forward. If he surges ahead, use your voice to say “easy” and reinforce it with a slight check on the longe if he pulls ahead of the lead horse. The pony horse must stay straight during the transition to trot. If the pony horse falls in toward the lead horse, remind him to keep the proper distance from the lead horse by swinging the longe line between them. If this does not get a response from the pony horse, shake or toss the looped longe line towards him. The degree to which you use the longe line will regulate how much the pony horse will move away from you. If the pony horse falls out from the lead horse, especially when you start making a circle to the left, use a slight tug on the longe to bring his head back into alignment. Trot for several strides alongside the fence. If he responds well, turn away from the fence to do a circle to the left. Evaluate how well he stays straight without the security of the fence to guide him. If you need to, go back to working alongside the fence until he understands to stay straight. Trot a short distance then verbally give the command “walk” as you use your aids to slow the lead horse. Watch to maintain the space between the horses. Praise the pony horse as he makes the downward transition to the walk. Ask for a “whoa” alongside the fence to help keep the pony horse straight. Change directions, and practice ponying at the trot to the right. The rider needs to be able to walk and trot the pony horse in both directions before she ponies him outside of the confined area. As I mentioned in the previous article, ponying to the right offers different challenges. You will need to increase the speed with the lead horse since he will be on the outside of the turns and decrease the speed of the pony horse. If you do not keep your lead horse forward enough and up with the pony horse, the pony horse will be turning his head into the lead horse all the time. Use the verbal command “trot” and apply your aids to ask the lead horse for the transition. The pony horse may have a tendency, especially going to the right, to move outward and too close to the lead horse. Be ready to use the longe line to keep him away. Keep your right arm flexible and be ready to react to keep the pony horse in position if he lags behind or speeds up in front of the lead horse.
Backing Backing should be part of the ponying lesson. It is easier to teach this alongside the fence to help keep the pony horse straight. With the pony horse between the lead horse and the fence, give the verbal command to “back” as you ask the lead horse to back. You may need to give a gentle tug on the longe line to reinforce the command. If the pony horse has learned basic ground training maneuvers, he should understand what this command means and respond correctly. If not, you may need to teach him backing from the ground before repeating it as part of a ponying lesson. If your horse is sluggish or lazy, make sure to work short sequences during ponying. Vary the gait, speed within each gait, and direction to keep him more attentive. Ponying is a great exercise that teaches the pony horse to accept being next to another horse. In the next article, I will discuss ponying outside of a confined area.
My Longevity Training Visual Series will give you complete lessons plans for your ponying sessions. It is available along with other training products and information at www.lynnpalm.com or by calling 800-503-2824.