While the word ‘pony’ as a verb in a dictionary is about a monetary transaction, I typically use it to describe something I’ve been doing since very early in my pony career. Ponying (which elicits a misspelling warning from my spell checker!) is riding one pony while leading one or more others. (To see a slide show about ponying, click here.)
I started ponying as a way to accustom a young pony to different environments. An unexpected benefit was that he learned lots of verbal cues that helped when it came to harness work. More often, I pony to move ponies from one place to another, usually from pasture to trailer. Most of the time I pony a single equine, but sometimes I ride one and pony two.
This summer I’ve been taking three Fell Pony mares to pasture: Bowthorne Matty who is nine, Willowtrail Wild Rose who is eight, and Willowtrail Mountain Honey who is two. They have been paddocked together most of their lives so are a nice grouping for doing things. Rose has the most experience with ridden work, so one day when I needed to move these three two hundred yards to the horse trailer, I hopped on her back and ponied the other two.
It was Rose’s first time doing anything like this, and she did awfully well. She also helped me understand that this situation was different than all of my previous ponying. You can see in the picture that her ears are in an unsettled position. Compare them to young Honey’s whose are forward and at ease. Matty’s ears are also in an unsettled position. The reason is that Matty is the dominant pony in this threesome, so she and Rose are in an unusual leader/follower situation compared to other times.
Previously I’ve always ridden the dominant pony and led the subordinate one or ones. I think it’s quite a testament to Rose that she did this job, especially since ponying two is much more complicated than ponying one. I admit that on our first trip I did a fairly slick and quick dismount when the leadropes all became hopelessly tangled and being on the ground seemed the best place to sort them out! I then remounted, and we proceeded to our destination without issue.
I am grateful to Rose for accepting the ponying job I gave her. I am more grateful, though, for her showing me that this ponying job was different. I look forward to doing more ponying with this threesome and exploring the dynamics of ponying when mounted on a pony that isn’t the natural leader of the herd. I love learning from my ponies!
© Jenifer Morrissey, 2015
If you enjoy stories like this one, you might also enjoy the books A Humbling Experience and What an Honor,available internationally by clicking here.