WRANGLING ON THE RANGE #175
Ponying points - Fast walking horse
HORSE AND RIDER - DECEMBER 2011
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Ponying Pointers; Fast Trail Horse
How to correctly-and safely-pony a youngster; don't change a
horse's natural ground-covering stride.
PRODUCED BY ALANA HARRISON AND JENNIFER PAULSON
I have a yearlingI'd like to pony off my oldergelding, but I've
never ponied a horse, nor has my gelding. I'd like to exercise
both horses simultaneously, and because I do a lot of trail
riding, I'd like to have experience ponying in case of an
emergency. Can you teach me how to train my horses to pony?
ALESE WATSON, Oregon
Alese, ponying is an important tool to have in your riding
repertoire, and it's relatively simple to teach both your
yearling and gelding how to do it in a safe and effective way. In
the sections below, I'll list the benefits of ponying, the skills
your horses must have to learn how to pony, and what you'll need
to conduct this lesson.
Benefits of Ponying:
* Acclimates youngsters to being in close contact with other
* Allows you to introduce a green horse to unfamiliar places
before riding him there.
* Is easier on a horse's joints and muscles than longeing or
other exercise involving lots of circling.
* Teaches horses of all ages to lead better, especially those
that are pushy and disrespectful on the lead line.
* Gives seasoned veterans a break from their regular workout
routines, and brightens the attitude of ring-sour horses.
* Enables you to exercise two horses at once-especially useful
when you're short on time.
Skills Your Horses Must Have:
* The horse to be ponied must have basic in-hand leading skills
(go, stop, and turn).
* The ridden horse must know "go" and "whoa," plus steer easily
with one hand.
* The ridden horse must be tolerant of other horses in close
What You'll Need:
* A large, enclosed work area with good, level footing. ò A
well-fitted yearling halter.
* A standard-length cotton lead rope (any longer could be
dangerous if the ponied horse were to pull away; nylon can burn
your hands or your horse's skin).
* Gloves. I ò A helper on the ground.
* Protective wraps or boots for both horses, if you use them.
HORSE&RIDER DECEMBER 2011
I have a 10-year-old Quarter Horse gelding that has a very fast
walk when we trail ride. I mean fast, and not just on the way
home at the end of a ride. He's always flat-footed, on a loose
rein, and never out of control. He willingly stops when asked and
stands still until asked to go again. The problem is this speed
makes it difficult to ride with others. I've tried
stopping/starting, and I'm also very aware about keeping my legs
off his sides as much as possible. He's too nice a horse for me
not to spend the time working this out. Any suggestions?
CAROL SCHMUHL, California
My first thought upon reading your question is "be careful what
you wish for!" An energetic, ground-covering, flat footed walk is
a highly desirable trait in a horse and one I wouldn't want to
downgrade. As long as your horse maintains a steady speed, not
speeding up when you turn for home or slowing down when you
depart, a groundcovering walk is good. That your horse will stop
and settle whenever you want him to is evidence that he's
obedient and hard-working, and I wouldn't want to criticize him
I know it's frustrating when riding with others on slower
horses-I had the same experience with my Morgan mare that could
out-walk just about anyone we rode with. Rather than compromise
her great gait, we just learned to stop and wait occasionally,
and if our trail partners wanted to chitchat, they'd just have to
keep up! We covered a lot of miles that way.
I wouldn't recommend holding your legs off a horse because he
seems too fast. Although this is a natural tendency in a rider,
it can actually cause more problems than it solves. Holding your
leg off the horse will cause your leg to be stiff and jerky, and
your tension usually translates to more speed from your horse.
Also, with your leg braced off the horse, when your leg does come
in contact with the horse's side, it could shock him and cause
him to be reactive to your leg cues. Instead, let your legs hang
softly around the horse's sides, with your calves in constant
contactnot squeezing, but softly caressing your horse's sides.
This will make him less reactive to your leg and help keep him
You may be able to alter your horse's speed a little bit by
changing your rhythm in the saddle. If you're sitting in correct
position in the saddle-ear, shoulder, hip, and heel aligned, with
all of your joints soft and relaxedyou'll feel a
right-left-right-left rhythm in your hips and legs. Try sitting
back a little more and slowing that right-left rhythm in your
seat and legs, just a halfbeat slower than your horse is
naturally moving, pressing down on your stirrups alternately. You
should find that your horse slows his rhythm to accommodate your
slower rhythm. Focus on sinking all of your energy down onto your
horse's back and softening all your joints. You might discover
that as you relax and slow your rhythm, the horse does the same.
This is a frustration that most people with gaited horses can
relate to well, especially when they ride with their stock horse
counterparts. It reminds me of when my father (a tried-and-true
Quarter Horse man) fell in love with the Peruvian Paso breed and.
thought he had to have one-until he realized that if he got one,
he'd have to replace his entire string of trail horses with the
gaited horses so they could all keep up ... an expensive
The truth is that not all horses walk the same speed, and the
only definitive solution is to ride with horses that have a
natural pace similar to your own horse. If this isn't an option,
then your nextbest option is to stop regularly and let your
friends catch up while your horse catches his breath.
To try to force your horse to walk slowly by constantly slowing
him with the reins would be difficult and frustrating for your
horse, and I'd hate to see you discourage a good quality in a
horse. If it's an insurmountable problem, you might want to
consider repurposing this horse to a job that's more suitable for
him-he could be more of a workhorse than a leisure horse. Most
ranchers I know would love to have a horse that covered that much
JULIE GOODNIGHT, Salida, Colorado. A well-respected horsewoman,
Julie hosts "Horse Master With Julie Goodnight" on RFD-TV and
presents clinics nationwide. Learn more at juliegoodnight.com.
MY HORSE GOLDIE WAS (STILL IS IF I GIVE HER A FULL SLACK REIN) A
VERY FAST WALKER. IT TOOK ME SOME YEARS TO TEACH HER TO WALK SLOW
WHEN LEADING A TRAIL RIDE. I WOULD OFTEN FOR THE FIRST FEW YEARS
HAVE TO LET SOMEONE ELSE TAKE THE LEAD WHILE I MOVED UP AND DOWN
THE LINE. WITH VOICE COMMANDS AND PATIENCE IN PULLING HER BACK
(BUT NOT ALL THE TIME AS THAT WOULD SOURE A HORSE) I WAS FINALLY
ABLE TO TEACH HER TO WALK SLOW WHEN I SAID THE WORDS "SLOW WALK."