By Patty Wilber
I like to ride in the back country and I like to pack, so I need horses that will pony. In truth, I guess I don’t actually love packing, but it is useful to have horses that will carry a load for Back Country Horsemen projects and for hunting trips. Also, I am proud of my box hitch ability.
Ponying does have other benefits, as well.
- Being ponied can help young horses get used to being close to other horses while doing a job. This can be helpful in the show ring or when riding in a group.
- If the lead horse is a calm, solid sort, the ponied horse can gain a lot of confidence. Both Penny and Cometa are super pony horses and those are the two I usually use when teaching a new horse. Penny starting being a lead horse at three, and her herd mate at the time (Risa) was not an easy one to drag around. Penny never minded a rope under her tail, which in many horses, causes a clenched tail response, followed by bucking.
- Ponying over rough terrain can help horses learn to concentrate and “find” their feet. It can also help indicate if a horse needs more help with the foot-finding. Colleen’s Luna is working on trail balance, and Colleen is using Penny to pony her! We started in the arena, then moved to the open area near the arena and then to the steep and rocky trail across the street from the house, with the railroad tie steps. Colleen and Penny were both steady when Luna got a little overwhelmed and tried to rush. I rode along on Gette for moral support!
- If a horse can be ponied, I can ride one and pony another at a show, to do a twofer warm up.
- A horse being ponied with a wide load learns where the pack is and eventually will stop hitting the trees. Then, when that horse is ridden, the rider’s knee are safer!
- Teaching a horse to cross water crossing can be easier (sometimes) if the pony horse just follows the trusty worth lead horse.
- Water crossings can also be accomplished in more dramatic fashion if the lead horse drags the ponied horse across. Lucy in the above pics came on her own, but she did have a moment of hesitation!
- If you can pony one equine, why not string a few and more?
The most I have ever done is a string of six.…but I did not know what I was doing. I was 18. I was working at K-Arrow summer camp in Oakdale, California and had to take horses down to the lake, with saddles. So I tied them head to stirrup. This makes a string that fans out. Not good. Luckily I was following a dirt road, so there was room. I also had them in an order they did not like, so there was a kerfuffle, resulting in one stirrup being ripped from a saddle… Oh and there was an escaped felon (there was a jail across the lake) in the vicinity, but being 18, I was unfazed by that. They caught him while I was riding down and a police car with the felon in there, drove by me on my ride!
I have since learned how to tag my pack animals to the tail of the horse in front, or even better, set up a tag on a pack saddle. The most I have done, correctly, is two.
The adventures of ponying!
Cancer Treatment Update. I started radiation on Tuesday and I will have 20 daily treatments, excluding weekends and holidays because, according to my radiologist doc, cancer take weekends and holidays off (yes, she was joking). They said radiation might make me tired. Bah! I said. It has only been three treatments, but I do seem tired. It is annoying. I only managed to ride three horses Thursday.
I meet with my oncologist next Tuesday and at that point we will schedule (again and finally) my last set of maintenance chemo. It will be Herceptin plus a chemo agent. The Herceptin will target any remaining cancer cells (hopefully there are none, but just in case) by binding to a molecular receptor on the cancer cell. The body does have normal cells with the same receptor, so of course there can be the usual side effect of fatigue, however, it should be far easier than any of the chemo I have already done (endured??). The infusions will be once every three weeks for 13 or 14 sessions. So about a year. Each session will last about three hours.
I am going to plan those infusions around the Appaloosa Youth World show because I am going with Heidi and Lucy!