Ponying Indy was a something I always planned on doing. The advantages of ponying endless, but in particular I wanted to:
- Expose him to new (and potentially scary) things alongside his brave mother
- Take him trail riding, which includes going through puddles, over small natural obstacles, hearing strange noises and seeing wild creatures
- Add another option to our training – a way to keep him curious and his mind fresh, rather than burning him out with the same in hand exercises.
- Give him more exercise than I can do on foot!
Of course, all of this could not be achieved without the incredibly well behaved and patient Shady. I had never tried ponying with her before as she hates other horses and doesn’t like her personal space invaded.
Before I could try it, I had a lot of ground work to do. On Shady’s end, I had to make sure she neck reined well enough so that I could control her one handed. I also brushed her up on our voice commands, making sure that when I said “ho” she would stop immediately. These things were easy.
For Indy, I needed to make sure that he led well and understood the halter. Halter and lead training started at 2 days old. We spent a lot of time leading around the paddock, turning left and right, doing circles, serpentines, and all other patterns. I led him from his left side, I led him from his right side. I let the lead rope slide all over his body; between his legs, around his rump, under his belly, around his head, etc. I tried to get him exposed to every possible position the lead could be in, hoping that if something happened he would be less likely to panic.
At two weeks old, I started leading them both to the riding ring, then letting him loose while I rode Shady. It was a bit soon to bring Shady back to work, only 2 weeks after having a baby, but she was ready for some more mental stimulation. We just walked, bareback, doing ring figures, but it was enough to keep her satisfied.
Indy was confused at first; he didn’t quite understand why he wasn’t the center of attention. He would run by and try to kick Shady. When ignored he would cut us off, then try to nurse as soon as we stopped. Eventually he would give up and do his own thing while we rode.
Thankfully, I have a wonderfully supportive boyfriend who I can solicit help from. I would have him lead Indy alongside Shady while I was riding her. Then he would hand the rope off to me and walk behind us. Indy, being about two and a half weeks old when we started, was more than happy to stay close to his mom. Should he need encouragement, we could give him a little push on the bum.
We practiced everything in the ring first. Turning left and right, halting, circling, mounting and dismounting. Then we ventured out of the ring. For a long time, we only ponied when we had a helper on the ground. I have to say we never needed anyone; Shady and Indy seemed to enjoy going places together and understood the ponying process quite well!
Of course, everything was kept fairly short too, as Shady has a big walk and Indy would get tired keeping up with her! In between all of our ponying, I continued to walk and trot Indy in hand. Everyday we do something.
When he got a little bigger we could trot along side by side. He’s very good trotting along next to us. Sometimes at the walk he gets a little excited and jumps around, bouncing off of Shady. She takes it all in stride. The first time we went in the woods Indy absolutely loved it; looking at everything, smelling the air, and trying to canter alongside of us.
I love going on a trail ride and bringing Indy with us. I can only foresee that this experience will make riding and cross country a lot more relaxing and fun for Indy in the future. I am glad I started him as young as I did, and as carefully as I did.