Leading from the Off-Side

Willow, like all of my ponies, is comfortable with the horse trailer and willingly loads himself.

I recently had occasion to be glad that my ponies are used to being led from the off-side. I’ve learned that equines need to be taught things on both sides of their bodies, and I have found that just because a pony leads well with me on their left doesn’t necessarily mean that they will lead well when I’m on their right. So I try to make sure that all my ponies get used to me leading them from both the near and off sides.

Recently I was bringing the ponies home from pasture, which involves loading them in my three-horse slant-load trailer. The natural angle and approach to loading the trailer is from the near side, but when the wind’s blowing towards me, it blows the door towards me, blocking the pony’s path and creating a safety hazard. The day that I chose to bring the ponies home was of course windy and added to that, there was snow. The wind was blowing the snow sideways, pelting me and the ponies as well as blowing the door of the trailer shut.

To load the ponies that day, I had to hold the trailer door open, which put me on the off-side of the ponies for loading. Here was the first occasion when I was glad that they were used to being led from the off-side. I sent each pony into the trailer from their off side, then threw the leadrope on their back, and climbed in and around next to them on their near side, retrieving and tying the leadrope as usual.

That day because I was in a hurry because of the weather, I loaded that set of three ponies in a different order than I usually do. They immediately began fidgeting and expressing displeasure about their different placement in the trailer. It was clear I had to undo what I’d done, so I unloaded the fidgety ones and reloaded them in the proper order. When I finally closed the door on the trailer (with the help of the wind), I was DOUBLY glad these ponies load from the offside since two of them had to be loaded twice, in driving snow!

(c) Jenifer Morrissey, 2011

About workponies

Breeder of Fell Ponies, teamster of work ponies, and author of Feather Notes, Fell Pony News, and A Humbling Experience: My First Few Years with Fell Ponies. Distributor of Dynamite Specialty Products for the health of our planet and the beings I share it with.
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