The Ponying Express

By Patty Wilber

Ponying: ride one, lead the other. Penny is the lead horse and Risa is being ponied. This was two years ago when they were both three.

This is Tabooli, when he was four, leading Beaner.

This year, my back country plan is to ride Penny and pony Tabooli.  Since they are similar in size, the pack saddle and riding saddle fit both.  So, I could also ride Tabooli and pony Penny.  Mix and match!

Many horses can be good lead horses, and most of the horses here have done it.

Usually, it is easiset if the lead horse is a steady personality, but sometimes a flighty bugger can be calmed by having a pony horse companion. When we took the cattle in last spring, T was so herd-bound to Alameda he about blew apart if she got too far away.  However, if I ponied Cinco, T was mollified and behaved much better.

The lead horse should be unfazed by ropes on their butt, under their tail, around the legs. Stuff happens when you put a horse….um anywhere…but it can be more “entertaining” if the lead horse can’t handle it.

Take the rope under the tail for example.  If the lead horse does not fancy this, the pony horse misbehaves AND the rope goes there, the lead horse will often panic and clamp their tail down on the rope.  Tightly!

This is bad!  Tail tight, rope trapped, pony horse having a “moment”, rope pulls…

Next time you get a chance, run a finger along the skin on the under side of the tail. It is very soft.

Rope trapped + pony horse having a moment = rope burn under the tail. This is often accompanied by…


Penny has never really been too concerned about the rope under her tail.  Cometa either.  T, on the other hand, is more of a goosey butt, so that just means the rider has to be more alert, and that he could use more desensitization in that area.  I rode him with a crupper for a while.  (A crupper goes under the tail and attaches to the saddle.  It keeps the saddle from slipping forward.) It helped.


It’s nice to pony the little ones, too.  Good for exposing them to new situations while having a mentor as a buffer.

Lacey and Longshot. Those two are great buddies!  Longshot is super personable and trots over to see me and follows me where ever I go.  If a horse (um, that would be Penny)  runs him off his feed, he sneaks back around to another side.  Persistent.

Lacey, on the other hand  hardly ever gets run off her feed because she stands apart until everyone settles down. With people, she will come over to visit, but more on her own schedule.

The other day I went to catch Lacey.  I tracked her around the pasture (i.e. dirt lot) with Longshot on my shoulder, nosing the halter “pick me!  pick me!”  I’d planned to pony Lacey first and didn’t want her avoidance to be rewarded, so  had to ignore Longshot! After a few minutes of follow follow follow, Lacey gave up, and I haltered her.

I ponied her off Tabooli, and she was the picture of cooperation.  “not getting into any arguments,” says she.

Switched up and got Penny and Longshot.  Mr. Friendly has no qualms about asserting His Own Opinion.

“that ditch is too deep.  we have trotted far enough.  i don’t want to walk behind Penny. i’ll bite her butt,” (Penny loves that one–NOT!) etc.

Oh brother!

Then there is JD.  He is a great uncle to Longshot, so I figured, Longshot would come along nicely and JD would enjoy having some company.

Wrong and wrong.

Longshot, not cooperating, planted his feet and waited to see if JD could budge him. (He’s pretty good at passive resistance, although I have my little tricks).  JD wanted NO part of any it.   That’s the first time I’ve had a horse that really seemed to hate being the lead horse.

Next time, I will pick someone easier for him.

Ponying is a nice skill on both ends of the line–lead horse and pony horse.  I am looking forward to having the switchable tandem of Penny and Tabooli clearing trail this summer…if we don’t end up being too busy… with… COWS!.

(Here’s hoping…)

About BlogPatty

Here's the skinny: I have a thing for horses. They make sense to me. I have a small horse training business (it's a "boutique" training business, not because it's super fancy, but because the horses get a lot of personal attention). I also go by Dr. Wilber, and teach biology full-time at a Central New Mexico Community college.
This entry was posted in The Write Horse and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to The Ponying Express

  1. Sherry Meagher says:

    This was great, especially for the person who has no experience with the subject. It made me laugh out loud.

  2. Patty says:

    Thanks Sherry–two things I love to hear–informative and funny!

  3. Barb McGuire says:

    I laughed out loud too. Great post, Patty.

  4. Patty says:

    Thanks Barb!

Comments are closed.