Today’s question is about teaching horses to pony or the art of leading one horse while riding another. Ponying can be a great way to exercise two horses at once as well as a way to expose a younger or less experienced horse to more of the world without riding.
This podcast lists things to consider regarding the horse you will be riding as well as the horse you will be leading or ponying.
It also discusses controlling your environment and situations you should prepare for such as narrow trails, barking dogs, etc
[00:00:03] Podcasting from a little cabin on a hill. This is the Stacy Westfall podcast. Stacy’s goal is simple to teach you to understand why horses do what they do, as well as the action steps for creating clear, confident communication with your horses.
[00:00:22] Hi, I’m Stacy Westfall, and I’m here to teach you how to understand, enjoy and successfully train your own horses.
[00:00:30] Today’s question is about teaching horses to pony or the art of leading one horse while riding another. Let’s listen to the question.
[00:00:41] Hi, Stacy. My name is Carina and I live in Washington State. I have two mustangs. One is green broke and I ride him under saddle. I have a round pen and I can ride him on trails. I would like to teach him to pony my two year old baby Mustang that I recently adopted. The baby Mustang is able to lead and the two seem to like each other. And I’m wondering what steps I need to take to teach my green broke Mustang to pony and how to teach the baby to be ponied. So if you could help me with that, that would be great. Thank you so much.
[00:01:25] Thanks for the question, Carina. And I’ve been doing a lot of this lately, so it’s really fresh on my mind. I love that you’re asking about both horses. And I’m glad that you told me you have a round pen because that’s going to help me with the answer. But before I start with tips on the training of both horses, there’s a big disclaimer. And that would be safety first. Try to see any potential problems way ahead and have a plan. So it’s one thing to see a potential problem, like, say you’re ponying and a dog comes barking and running and the horse you’re leading tries to spook and run. You need to have a plan, not just the identification of the problem. So have a plan in mind for what you’re going to do. Are You going to angle the more broke horse between the dog and the horse that’s trying to run? Do you have your hands in a good position to where nothing is going to get tangled up if that horse that you’re leading spooks and tries to leave? And so try to play out situations depending on where you’re going to be. For example, if you’re riding in the round pen and your ponying and something happens, it’s much easier to commit to dropping the lead rope and separating both horses. And you can realistically have a pretty good outcome as long as no one gets tangled up in the process of letting go. So this is what I mean by trying to see the outcomes that are possible and and looking ahead, because you do have two horses and some version of ropes and reins and there’s a lot of different moving parts.
[00:03:07] I’ve been ponying recently and when I added my saddlebags to Willow’s saddle while I was ponying Presto, it brought up another level of awareness that, oh, I’m carrying the end of my long line because I’m using a 15 foot lead rope or short lunge line, depending on what you want to consider that. And so I’m holding an extra loop in one of my hands. And I became very aware that if he were to spook that that loop could potentially actually snug down on one side of the bag. So I had to be more intentional about where I carried that extra loop. And that’s just because of awareness. After years of running into different issues and trying to look ahead now and have better outcomes. Now, another thing that you said was that you had a green broke horse and then a new one. And so everyone has a different view on what Green broke is. So rather than me trying to guess at what your horse is like. I’m going to tell you what I look for and why. And then you can apply that to your situation. So let’s go ahead and talk about each horse individually and then some of the potential issues. So first, let’s talk about the horse that you’re going to be leading or ponying. This is the horse is going to be following alongside you when you are riding the horse you’re ponying from.
[00:04:32] So instead of saying pony or pony, you’re going to say the one you’re leading is the one that you’re you’re you’re leading beside the one that you’re riding. So I’m going to try to use that term so people don’t get too confused. I want the horse that I’m going to be leading to be well-trained. So if I’m on the ground leading the horse, that the horse will walk and trot easily beside my shoulder. I want that horse to also stop and back up beside my shoulder. And I want this horse to understand lunging, because when I’m doing these leading exercises, I’m mostly walking, jogging. That’s about as fast as I can run on my own two feet. And I want to be able to send that horse out and lunges so I can see what that horse’s reactions are to cantering or loping, because, again, we’re trying to plan ahead and predict the outcome of unwanted things like when that deer jumps out. Again, this is going to depend on where you’re ponying. But I also want to make sure that the horse I’m going to be leading has been desensitized for ropes around their legs or different things like that. So I’ll do all of the desensitizing that you’ve seen on my YouTube series, Stacy’s video diary, Jack. Some of the different episodes that I’ve referenced, I want to have done all of that before I start ponying because I want to set the horses up for success. And again, if we go back to the example of you potentially trying out, ponying for the first time in your round pen, if something starts to go in a way that you don’t want to be leading that horse anymore, you could potentially drop the rope.
[00:06:20] Well, we want to make sure that that horse is going to understand the concept of giving to pressure and not being scared by the rope dragging around their legs. So make sure that that’s done. I personally teach mine to ground tie before I’m going to pony them, because that also means that they understand occasionally stepping on the rope. It also means that they’re starting to comprehend things at a higher level of thinking because they’re not just kind of being manually moved around by the pressure on the lead rope. It means they’re understanding more. Which leads me to my final point with this horse. One thing I do with the horses I’m going to lead is I start to work on the idea of liberty type leading or advanced leading. And basically what that means to me is that I want to be able to walk, trot, stop and back up. And I want to use a longer whip as the cue for all of that instead of the rope. So even though the halter and roper on there and even though I’m not expecting this horse to be fully liberty train, I want to know that I can use it. I tend to use it. I have some driving whips around the House. And so those would look like a very long dressage whip.
[00:07:40] But they don’t have the long tail that a lunge whip has. And so I’ll use those. And so I’ll say I’m leading the horse on my right shoulder and I’ll have that whip and I’ll I’ll trot off. And if the horse doesn’t come, I actually want to reach back and use that whip to ask them to come forward instead of the rope. And this is my preference, because if I can get that horse to follow beside my shoulder and not need the pressure of the rope, although they’ve already been trained to understand the pressure of the rope, this is taking everything up another level. And then when I go ahead and I’m ponying, I actually prefer to ride with that whip as part of my queue system when I’m ponying, which could be argued that it makes it more complicated because it’s one more thing that I’m holding in my hands. But it also could be argued that it makes it easier, because I’m telling you, it’s easier on my shoulder if I can give a horse cuz with this whip and if the horse understands that the whip means come over a side, pass over to the horse that I’m riding. Stay with me and then I can use that same whip to actually stop the horse and back the horse up. So it just adds a layer that I have found over the years makes it a lot easier on me, even though it’s a little more complicated. Many, many years ago when I first started ponying horses, I did not add that step and it just made it more manual.
[00:09:12] As far as like if you’re going down the trail and that horse starts to pass you. How are you gonna stop it and back it up? Or if the horse starts lagging behind you, all these different things. And what I found is that they can actually get a lot of security from that whip. And I did this back in. If you look on YouTube back in 2008- 2009, when I was teaching Willow’s mother to do liberty work beside Roxy so I could ride Roxy bareback and bridleless and have Willow’s mother beside me. And she was at liberty. And so that’s when I started adding a lot of the whip cuz and that’s when I found how much easier it was to just teach that to the horse I was going to be ponying. So now Presto knows these cues, even though he’s not at the liberty level because it’s a lot easier on my shoulders. So now let’s jump over and talk a little bit about the horse that you’re going to be riding. So for me personally, the horse that I’m going to be riding, I want this horse to ride one handed so I can neck rein,. And for me, it’s a requirement. I’m sure that there are people that might juggle around and make some exceptions. I will say that I can be like a four fingered neck rein,, which means that if I’m showing my horse, then traditionally you would just have your pointy finger down between the split reins.
[00:10:35] So, again, you could actually go with a single loop rein,, which would make your life a little bit easier. I need to switch mine out to my single room loop rein, because I’ve been riding with a split reins with the tails crossed and that works for me because my hands understand this system a lot. But there are a lot of different things in your hands. So first of all, you want to know if this horse rides pretty good one handed and then is this horse good with ropes around him, around his legs, around his rump, maybe under his tail? How is this horse when other horses are near him or bump into him? Does he tend to kick? Does he tend to bite? Could you control that? So I want a pony with a horse that I can neck rein, and personally, I wait until I can move that horse’s hips around because what that gives me is control of whether or not they kick. So when I’m riding a horse, I don’t hope they won’t kick the horse behind me. I can feel if they want to start getting tight in their body and I can move their hip and aim away. I can do some different things like that. So that’s personally one of my standards. If you want to test out some of this, first of all, you know, double check your stuff with the ropes around the horse.
[00:11:53] When you’re not mounted, one of my favorite ways to do that and you’ll see it on some of the Stacy’s video diary Jack series. I do a lot with ground driving. If you’ve been ground driving, that means a horse is going to be used to the ropes behind their butt. And so if I want to test out some of my ability to handle the ropes and everything else and know how my steering is going to go, you could actually go ahead and practice this without the horse you’re leading. So for me, that would mean I would mount up on Willow. I would be carrying my 15 foot lunge line/lead rope. Go ahead and have the halter dangling on the end of it. And let’s say that I’m I’m right handed. So let’s say that I’m going to pretend I’m going to be ponying Willow. I mean, riding Willow and Pony Presto and Presto is probably going to be at my right shoulder because that’s where all of us are more comfortable. And so what I want to do is I’m going to actually hold the lead rope and let that halter kind of dangle down because remember, I don’t have presto for this example. I’m going to hold that in my right hand. I’m going to kind of hold it out to my right side a little bit, because that’s going to represent Presto being out there. That means that I need to be able to hold the reins and any additional lead rope in my left hand.
[00:13:14] And that means I need to be able to steer. So you could go in your round pen and you could mount up and you could test this out. Can I ride this horse around and be able to steer and adjust my reins and hold onto that extra loop that I have of lead rope? Because you want to make sure you can do that. But you also want to make sure that you can feed that extra loop out or take up that extra loop without dropping your reins. Can you see where I’m going with here? So when I do, go ahead and start ponying. Willow is going to be ridden. I’m going to be riding her with my left hand. That’s holding the extra loop and my right hand when I do it is actually going to have the lead rope. That is kind of close to Presto’s head. Let’s just say you’re holding it about like you would when you’re leading from the ground. Personally, I’m going to have the lead rope and the driving whip in that hand. And then my left hand’s got the reins and the extra loop of rope. And that might sound like a lot. And there might be simpler ways to do it. But here’s my logic behind it. So presto is most comfortable being led on my right shoulder, because that’s what I predominantly do, I try to balance myself out when I work him, but that is what we’re all more comfortable defaulting to. So that’s where I’m going to start out.
[00:14:45] One of the reasons I like using the driving whip in this came in really handy with Presto. Not just for what I’ve already talked about, which was come forward or stop and back up. But the other thing a lot of horses will do in this. It really almost seems like the horses that you’re leading when you’re ponying go to two extremes. Either the horse you’re leading tends to stay away from the horse that you’re riding because they’re a little bit afraid of being kicked or they tend to go to the other extreme and push on top of and lean into and almost step on the horse that your riding. And that’s definitely where Presto wanted to go. Presto likes to push on things anyway. And Presto is definitely famous for asking different questions when he knows the dynamics change. Let me explain that. So if I go to lead Presto and someone else out to the paddock to turn them loose. Presto knows the rules between me and Presto. So he knows to respect me. Presto also knows the rules between Gabby and Presto. And Gabby, Presto. the rules are don’t mess with me. But Presto also has realized that when I’m leading Gabby. Gabby won’t bite Presto. Because Gabby knows she’s not allowed to bite or kick or misbehave when I’m leading her. So what Presto we’ll try to do if I’m watching very carefully, which I do when I go to lead both of them out to the paddock to turn them out together.
[00:16:25] Presto, we’ll take little sucker nips like little sucker punches. He’ll he’ll he’ll be like you. I can nip at you because you can’t bite me. And what that does is that makes me responsible. So basically, Gabby is we can phrase it like this. Gabby’s being submissive to me and saying, I realize I’m running under your rules, but Presto is taking advantage of the fact that Gabby is running under my rules. So he’s putting a little sucker punch or a little nip or a little whatever that Gabby would never let him get away with. He’s doing that to her because he knows her rules have changed because I’m there. But that also then puts it in my court to fix him. Well, those rules all applied when I was ponying also. So Presto has been posted from Gabby and Popcorn and Willow. And he wants to know who’s going to let him get away with what. And he knows the rules around me, but he’s not afraid he to question any different combinations. Which is also just an interesting thing to know about him is that he knows that the dynamics change in that group of three. But he’s also smart enough to know that it doesn’t always change in the most predictable way. So he’s always kind of testing that. So back to the leading why I’ve got this this one whip also in this hand is because when I’m ponying him and he’s on my right side, what I will do is I will actually occasionally take that whip and rotate my wrist so that it goes between, like Willow’s rump and his shoulder.
[00:18:09] And that way I am keeping the distance that I want so that he doesn’t start pushing into her shoulder. And that, again, is very dependent. He’s one of the pushier horses that I’ve ponied where he wants to ask questions by pushing. But I definitely predicted this ahead of time because that’s how he pushes on the horses out in the pasture when he’s turned out with them. Some horses like to bite, some horses like the kick, and some horses kind of run other horses over with their shoulders. And that’s Presto. His number one, go to is running over with the shoulder. His number two go-to would be nipping or biting and his number three would be kicking. That’s fairly low down the totem pole. I think that’s because he’s got such big, long, slower legs that my little horses are gone by the time he can do it. So it’s not super effective. So I think that’s part of the thing going on there. So anyway, all of that said, I will actually train the horse, I’m going to lead. I’ll train that horse from the ground to lead. Well, on both sides of me. So at my right shoulder or at my left shoulder, because depending on your goals for ponying, which could change, like maybe your goal is to pony in the round pen only or maybe your goal is to pony in the pasture, or maybe your goal is like mine and that’s to pony down the trails.
[00:19:32] All of those are going to matter because again, what you’re willing to do as far as like letting go or what happens when you get in trouble or how committed you are, changes when you leave the fences and changes as the size of the area gets bigger. I’m going to teach my horses to pony from both sides, which means the horse I’m leading needs to be able to lead well from the ground. It also means that personally, I want to be able to neck rein, well with either one of my hands, because when I go out on a long trail ride the longest I’ve ponied Presto for right now is a seven mile trail ride. I’ve done a lot of three mile trail rides with them where I’ve ponied him and I’ve done one long seven mile trail ride. Well, during that trail ride, I needed to be able to switch him from both sides so that I could pony off from different sides for several reasons. Number one reason is so that I don’t get a sore because the trails I’m on, he can’t always be right beside my leg, which is essentially like beside my shoulder. Sometimes I have to send him further back behind. So he’s like head to tail in line.
[00:20:45] And that means I tend to twist my body a little bit more. And so I want to be able to switch sides. Now, I also like to have and be able to pony up from either side due to the trail that I’m coming up to. So it could be because there’s a drop off on one side and I want to move away from it. Or it could be because there’s mud and I want to leave him a spot. And there’s a spot for, you know, me to be up on one side and him to be on another. So there’s different situations where I’ll send him around me for different reasons. And but again, the number one is so I don’t get sore. We’re on a seven mile trail ride like that. But I also I’m going to mention here the idea that I do want to be able to teach them. It’s slightly different when you’re riding on a horse and you’re ponying down the trail and you want to be able to send that horse to stay behind you. So one thing I’ll do for the horse that I’m riding is I will put boots on them. And it looks a little bit funny, but I’ll use bell boots for sure. If anything, just bell boots on their hind feet because they’re most likely to have their hind feet stepped on during this by that other horse specially Presto’s big, long steps.
[00:22:01] He actually pulled one of Gabby’s hind shoes off when I was ponying because he got too close. And again, let’s go ahead and look at it from Presto’s point of view. When I was ponying him down the trail, he was a little bit scared because, you know, he would hear noises, chipmunk, squirrels, different things in the woods. And when he gets scared, what does he want to do? He wants to. He doesn’t want to be the last thing in the line. He wants to climb up there, kind of crowd up there. So I need to protect the horse I’m riding. Plus, I need a cue system to have him back off, which again. So you could wiggle your rope. But for me, the rope is already wiggling a fair amount because of going down the trail. So I use again that extension of my arm, which is that driving whip, and I reach back there. And so I kind of have a cue where I can wiggle that and it has him back up. And if it doesn’t, then I can tap him and I can actually reach his neck or chest and have him back up. So that’s gotten a lot better.
[00:23:02] So let’s review a few of the things that could go wrong or really common things that happen when you’re teaching a horse to pony or be ponied. So the horse that you’re leading. So you’re riding on your one horse and the horse that you’re leading.
[00:23:18] One thing that could happen is the horse that you’re leading could want to nip the horse that you’re riding. And again, this is that similar situation to when you’re leading them. Lot of times the horse that’s following behind might start asking some questions. And so it’s your job to correct that horse for doing that. Another thing I’ve already mentioned a little bit would be the horse that you’re leading. Might want to climb on the horse that you’re riding. That can be playful, meaning they kind of want a bounce around and they kind of want to jump around like that. Or it can be like, Presto when he was scared, he was thinking like, there’s something behind me, the boogie man, I need to get out past you. And we’re in Single-file line and there’s not enough room to pass you. So I’m just gonna kind of like run over you. So that’s when you need to make sure that you have a good backup cue of some sort. Again, if you’re riding around in your round pen, you’re gonna be much more well equipped to keep the horse beside your knee, beside your shoulder. That won’t be quite as much of an issue. One of my favorite cues to use in that situation is actually to use tapping them with my my toe or my heel of my leg that’s on the side. I’m ponying them and making that part of a backup cue.
[00:24:34] If they’re close enough to be tapped on their shoulder, then I for sure will use my foot because it’s right there. So another issue you could run into when you’re ponying is the horse that you’re leading decides to stop and. So you want to be prepared? This doesn’t happen again so much when you’ve got the horse beside your knee and your ponying starts to happen a little bit more like I’m out on those trails. So one of the reasons I’ve got that 15 foot long line is because I want to be able to send him behind Willow as I’m going down the trail, and preferably so that he’s got a little bit of a gap, meaning maybe there’s two feet between his nose and her tail. But that requires a longer rope because that way, if he does stop and, you know, because he wants to grab something or whatever reason, like he just suddenly decides to like, wow, there’s a deer or something and he stops. I need to have a little bit of extra rope in case I didn’t, because I’m not seeing that coming, because I’m not riding looking backwards all the time. So I might feel that. So I need that little bit of extra rope. But you want to be prepared to be let that rope kind of slide a little bit and then be able to adjust. So these are things to be aware of because you’ve got to be like take the slack out just as quickly, like, say, I could be doing that and he could decide to kind of jump forward.
[00:25:53] I’ve got to be able to pick up the coils pretty quickly. And, you know, some of the things you might run into with the horse that you are mounted on, sometimes a horse you’re riding might want to kick at the horse that you’re leading. That could be because they feel just a little bit threatened because they’re not used to it. It could be because the horse you’re leading is nipping at them or stepping on them. So any which way you can you can work to solve some of the problems if it’s the horse you’re leading that’s causing the problem like that. But it could just be like a general bike, claustrophobic sensation. This is where I want to be able to move that horse’s hips around to stop them. And then I also want to be able to stop the horse that I’m riding from nipping or biting at the horse that I’m ponying. That doesn’t tend to happen that much. If you’re keeping the horse that you’re leading at your knee or shoulder, it’s when that horse starts to get ahead a little bit more that that can become more of a problem, typically. But again, my world, my rules, the horses aren’t allowed to bite or kicking each other when I’m around. So that puts it back into my ballpark to stop them.
[00:27:06] So. You’ve got to have a plan. Another thing you really need to have a plan for is and this just happened to me the other day, is that the horse that you’re riding? So is riding Willow down the trail leading presto. He was a little bit further behind. We came to a big mudhole and he thought, oh, I see a clearing over to the right. Now he’s correct, but he also was going to climb up a bank and go behind a tree, which is not going to work well when ponying. But what it also did rather quickly when he decided to make this new plan on his own was he was on my left hand side. He quickly switched to Willow’s right hand side and that wrapped the rope around her, her butt. And he was kind of like had a plan to go up a hill. So he had a little bit of speed. And so he kind of goosed her with that rope. But thankfully, she you know, she had that little tucked moment and then she stopped. And that actually helped me stop him and bring him back in. And then I became more aware of, like, that’s one of the things when I’ve got him on a longer line, he can make some bigger moves. But you’ve got to be aware that your horse might have that sudden surprise of the rope kind of goosing them.
[00:28:21] You really want to make sure that the horse that you’re riding, you can get under control. You know, this is where, you know, the first few times, like when I’m training a horse to be the horse that’s going to be ridden. It it matters a little bit about their temperament. So let’s talk about that for a second. Teaching Gabby to be a pony horse was easier, quicker, faster than teaching Willow. Willow is much less confident in general. Gabby is much more confident in general. Gabby is a pony horse. She’s a little bit bigger. She’s very confident. She gives off an aura of don’t mess with me. So the horses I’m leading from her don’t tend to mess with her.
[00:29:05] Willow is smaller. She’s used to getting out of the way. She’s more easily intimidated. So in the beginning, teaching her to lead the other horses, I had to actually push on her to keep her there like she wanted to naturally move her body away, move her body away. She didn’t think about kicking. She thought about like getting away from the horse I was leading. She was very well trained by the time I was doing it. But she also didn’t breathe a lot. But to give you a sense of how far she’s come in the last two seasons of using her as a pony horse. It was really fun when I was ponying presto for the first time this year that I could go down the trail and I could take that whip and I could systematically almost like a windshield wiper, but straight up and down between presto and and Willow, I could make that motion up and down, which I will accidentally tap one or both of them at times when that’s happening, sometimes it’s accidental because there really is enough gap. And I’m accidentally just aiming the whip a little bit wrong, or sometimes it’s because one of them is out of position. But she actually was able to comprehend that that was being used for that. For that reason. And that when it bumped into her, she had no reaction at all.
[00:30:22] She didn’t automatically think about going forward, which is quite something because she is a very forward kind of horse. But she understood that much more. But the horse that you’re riding, you really need to assess what they’re going to do in different situations, for example. I just had the dog run out barking, you know, all the hair standing up on his back and definitely in, like, attack mode. Willow doesn’t tend to be a really secure horse, but she has enough training. And I’ve run into that situation before that I was able to use my stop cue and have her stand, even though she was on high alert, which was very helpful because presto didn’t go. But he distinctly checked in with what Willow’s reaction were going it was going to be. And so I do believe if she had started to go, it would have quickly spiraled, because if she’d started to go, then he would have probably gone like, OK, I can see what this is going and he would have gone. I know this is partially true with Presto, because a couple years ago when I was pony them on the trail, I was riding popcorn, who’s a very confident pony horse. But we had a dog come out of the woods at one of the campsites that I was riding by.
[00:31:32] And you couldn’t see anything until it just sprung out and it happened to spring out on the side that Presto was on. And it was really cool because Presta I mean, popcorn is a really, really good pony horse. He’s been doing it for years and he’s very bold, much like Gabby. So it was super cool because he was able to help me because of his experience. So that dog popped out pretty much like facing us and almost like right between like aimed right between popcorn and presto and presto. He would Presto was on my right hand side. His first reaction was to roll back to the right and try to leave. He was on a short ish line, maybe three feet of lead rope, and it started burning the rope through my hands, which I had gloves on. Another protip had gloves on, but it started heating up, those gloves burning through and I had a 15 foot line so I could get him stopped. But thankfully popcorn was broke enough. He automatically we turned a little bit to the right because of everything that was going right, meaning presto in the rope. But it also he also puffed up an angled himself between the dog, which had stopped. And I was able to use my leg use because he’s very well trained to leg cues, which gave me full use of both hands. Even though I didn’t drop the reins, they were still there. But I was able to really use both hands to get presto, who was much younger to stop got them under control.
[00:32:59] By now, the people with the dog had gotten it under control and all was well. But had that been a much less experienced pony horse or an insecure pony horse or horse, that wouldn’t take that amount of pressure happening. Pressure meaning the dog coming out and pressure also meaning presto, leaving in a very big move. If that pony horse that I was riding had gone with any of that, that can quickly spiral. That’s typically where people end up making the choice between letting go or holding on. So full disclaimer, one of the other reasons that I’ve got a really long rope is because it’s going to be easier to catch a horse that’s got a longer rope, although I really, really, really I’ve actually not had to do that when I’ve been off my property out of controlled environments. And I’m sure part of that comes with being able to see things way ahead of time. I haven’t dropped the rope on a pony horse for a very long. A horse I’m ponying for a very, very long time because I understand and can see far ahead. But if you are new to it and your horses are new to it, I would stay in an enclosed area, meaning a round pen, a pasture, an arena, something like that, into your very comfortable. Because worst case scenario, that’s what’s most likely to happen if your if you. Well, there’s all kinds of bad case scenarios of figure things tangled up.
[00:34:24] But letting go might be your best case in a worst case scenario. But that’s going to obviously work best in a controlled environment. So I love, love, love to pony horses because there is a little bit. Now, listen closely. There’s a little bit of a feeling that I’m working two horses at once. There’s not as much of a feeling of accomplishing twice as much as it might sound like, because for me, conditioning wise, yes, I could argue that it’s twice as much. When we went on the Seven Mile Trail ride, they both went seven miles. And I only had to do that once. So I didn’t have to go 14 miles to take two horses, seven miles each. But as much as I love it, I also know that my attention is divided. So my quality of queue system and riding is nowhere near as high when I’m ponying as it is when I’m riding Willow individually. So if I’m riding Willow individually down the trail, I give a lot more attention to Willow. I feel a little bit more like it’s split. We could almost argue it split 50/50 between both horses. So you do have that loss of attention or this at least split of attention that gets better and better the more you do it. But it is something to keep in mind. I think it’s fitness wise, it does a lot for the main reason I’m using it for Presto is because I really want him to log a lot of miles for experience.
[00:35:53] He’s I think I’ve mentioned it before. He’s not naturally talented in some ways of understanding his body. I think that comes with the fact that he’s like very long legged and maybe not really quick footed. So he needs to be able to figure some of this stuff out. And I particularly want it to happen before I’m on his back. So what that means to me is that I am ponying him up and down the trails because he doesn’t know how to naturally adjust himself. So great example. You go to go down a hill and sometimes those horses want to rush down the hill. Well, that’s not going to work well. So by ponying him, he’s able to figure out how to balance himself and he doesn’t have to balance me. Also a first I’ve got some pretty serious up and down grades out here. And then again, going up. They need to figure out how to best use their body going up and down these hills. Now, he’s also got some other things like mud doesn’t bother him that much, but understanding like when we’re walking in the creeks and finding his balance on the slippery rocks and some of those different things, or one thing that he keeps making the mistake of is a lot of my trails have kind of steep banks. It’s almost like, if you can imagine that there’s a like a narrow foot trail and then the bank goes up a little bit steep on each side. And sometimes he’ll decide that he wants to walk on the side of that bank, which maybe a goat could or willow on a good day that was dry.
[00:37:24] But Presto has big feet on that side of those banks. It just doesn’t work. Either the bank gives way or there’s just not enough room because he would have to like tightrope walk because it’s too steep. But he hasn’t figured that out at all. Now he almost has, but he’s figured it out by taking steps up there and then kind of, you know, sliding back down and having that bank kind of collapse. And he’s getting much more aware. So rather than me riding him a nit picking and feeling protective of myself, he’s able to explore some of this stuff without my balance being a part of the issue and without me feeling threatened by some of the decisions he makes and he can find his way through there. So. I’m looking forward to riding him on the trail when I’ve seen him work a lot of this out and he’s he’s getting much closer and he’s gotten a lot of experience, you know, chipmunk, squirrels, deer, and they’ll be upcoming YouTube videos with footage of me ponying. So watch for that. I’ll try to remember to mention it when I get that release. I’ll try to remember to mention it on a podcast because it is a super useful tool when done well, it can teach horses a lot and it can be entertaining. So the other day I had way too many things on my hands.
[00:38:39] Obviously, I’ve already described it to you, but I also tried to pull out the iPhone but missed it. But he actually picked up a clump of grass and carried it for about a half a mile, which I found really entertaining because it started out about two feet long, which is why he was able to grab it. And then he was nibbling it up and up and up and up and up. But he didn’t want to eat the dirt root ball that he pulled out. So swinging along and he’s going down the trail and he’s trying to figure out how he can get that root ball free. But I was being a little bit entertained by it so I wouldn’t let him stop and rub it on the ground. You could see him trying to reach out and, like, calculate rubbing it on a tree while we were in motion. And I was thinking, oh, goodness, presto, you’re going to knock your teeth out. That’s a good idea. But it was just entertaining to watch him try to, like, figure out how to play with this grass clump toy that he was carrying down the trail. And he finally nibbled it off all the way to the grass clump and then eventually dropped it. So I don’t know. I find it entertaining to watch them as they’re seeing all these different things. And and then, you know, the last Friday I went on, I was ponying him and there was a deer right there.
[00:39:45] And I did actually get some footage of that that will show up in that video. And he was just like, nothing. I’m more interested in looking for grass. So it’s good to see them change. He’s no longer climbing up my horses and and being worried about what’s behind him. He’s kind of just like no big deal. So awesome reasons to pony. Thanks again for the question.
[00:40:09] Next week, I’m going to start season eight of the podcast. During this season, I’m going to have other people join me for conversations with Stacy. If you have questions, though, please keep leaving them on my voicemail hotline over a Stacy Westfall.com. I’ll still be answering questions as I move forward with the podcast. I’ve really enjoyed this season and I can see circling back to it, but also I can also see the potential for answering questions while I have the guest on. So maybe my guests and I will both discuss your question next week on the podcast. I’m going to be joined by Barbra Schulte. And Barbra has a background as a cutting horse trainer. She’s an author, a speaker, a clinician. I actually met her for the first time back when I was in college at the Equine College, the University of Findlay. And she teaches mental strategies for riders and really interesting. I’m super excited to have her on. So if you have any questions relating to confidence or fear or any of those other things that would fit into the riders mind.
[00:41:20] Go ahead and leave those. And maybe I can work those into my conversation with Barbra. Thanks again for joining me. And we’ll talk to you again in the next episode.
[00:41:33] If you enjoy listening to Stacy’s podcast, please visit Stacy Westfall dot com for articles, videos and tips to help you and your horse succeed.
Ponying: the art of leading one horse while riding another.