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Pony is a Verb

Published: 5/27/2009
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By Maddy B. Gray

This spring I’ve resumed my ponying routine to get the horses across the way to green pasture.


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Mornings, I halter three and ride one bareback for the half-mile trek, down our road, across a stonewall, over the neighbors’ lawn, and into the big field where I’ve taped off two acres with electric fence.
Evenings, I return with them.

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Now, I’m no wiz, but here’s what I’ve learned:

Successful ponying is like successful conference calls or field trips:
  • Have a good leader.
  • Be organized and follow the itinerary. 
  • Maintain protocol and etiquette.
  • Be patient and bring the slower ones up to speed.

A good leader:

My best leader is Phoenix, but she turned 30 recently and appreciates NOT being ridden, thank you very much.
Trixie is a rescued Shetland. No riding her, either.
Brooke is assertive alright but only has 20 rides on her. And we’d all like to complete the task in one piece, thanks again.
That leaves Shea. She’s the biggest and best-trained. But her submissiveness makes the daily trip a challenge.

If I were to lead with Phoenix, I wouldn’t have to check the others to keep them in place as we moved along. Phoenix would do it for me with much teeth-clacking, ear-pinning, and lip-curling. “Don’t you dare take one step ahead of me!” she seemed to say.

With Shea, it’s more work. The others will cross in front of her and nip her neck if I’m not diligent. She’d say, “Please, after you. Please let me get out of your way!”
I have to keep tighter lines on the others and have a running rapport with Shea to make sure she’s tuned into me and not bowing to the wishes of others.

Organization and following the itinerary:

After everyone is haltered with lines draped across their withers, I mount up. Then Shea and I walk around and collect lead lines off withers (I’ve found this method preferable to holding reins and three lines while trying to get on Shea, who’s 16 hands.)
Then we open the gate and walk through it.
Then we pick sides. Brooke and Phoenix do not like each other. So, I put one on each side and Trixie can go where she likes.
Off we go!

Protocol and Etiquette:
  • No running.
  • Everyone moves onto the shoulder when cars pass.
  • Wait for the slow poke (Trixie) when crossing the stonewall.
  • Everyone go around the same side of the tree.
  • Ponied horses may not lead.
  • No switching sides.
Patience with the slower ones:

That’d be Trixie. And being a pony, she picks her moments to try my patience. I’m sure she’s only slow when she wants to be.
She likes to hesitate when we’re almost there or almost home. My interpretation? She’s hoping I’ll drop her line and let her graze just outside the gate. (see Field Frenzy blog entry)

It’s a parade of sorts. When I first started, it was more like a circus. A bad circus with lots of mindless circling, off-balance missteps, and “who’s on first” antics.
Once, I got everyone set and reached for the gate, reached a little more and feel right off with the four horses all around me and an open gate. Once, I brought them home in the dark and we all trotted really fast to get off the road before a car came.
Proper protocol also includes no nighttime ponying and no PUI (ponying under the influence).

We’re getting it down to a routine. Apparently, it's an entertaining routine: My neighbor said he and his wife look forward to their cocktail hour show each evening: watching me assemble the cast and crew and head off.

View Reader Comments:

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6/3/2009 Nora
Good for you Maddy :-) ponying is quite a task, when we're not "all" on the same page - hehe. Have you had to lay on Shea's butt not to get dragged off? being bare back - LOL Horses - Just gotta love'em :-)
8/5/2009 lanie
Thanks for the smiles,that was great! Looking forward to the others.
8/6/2009 Kathy
Well done. I enjoy reading about you adventures.
8/6/2009 marjorie
Great video! I will pass this on.
11/17/2009 Beth
The best video I've seen in a while. I adore your choice in music with all of your videos!
12/16/2009 Eileen
That was such a cool video, and very instructive. Great music!

"Speak kindly to your little horse, and soothe him when he wheezes, or he may turn his back on you, and kick you where he pleases" - Anonymous