Whether you’re lucky enough to have a pony of your own or you’ve got a favourite at your riding school, it’s most riders’ goal to build the ultimate bond with their fave pony. The best way to do this is through trust – the more your pony trusts you, the stronger your bond will get and the more you’ll trust him back, which is super-important when it comes to riding.
Trust takes time and patience to build, but there are a number of things you can do to help it along the way, both in and out of the saddle.
Chat to him
Okay, so ponies might not understand exactly what you’re saying, but talking to your fave pony is a great way for him to get to know you and begin to trust you. He’ll find the soft tones of your voice relaxing and soothing, and it’s a useful tool to encourage him to relax if he becomes spooked or worried. Plus, ponies are great listeners, so you’ll find it a good way to get any worries off your chest, too!
Have a pamper session
Ponies love to groom each other in their fields, so giving him a grooming session is a really relaxing and fab way to encourage him to trust you as you groom more vulnerable parts of his body, such as his legs and belly.
Go the extra mile by finding out where his favourite itchy spots are and giving him a scratch. As he starts to trust you more, he might try to groom you back with his lips!
Just like people, all ponies are different. While some love a cuddle sesh, others don’t like hands-on attention quite so much. Watch your pony when you’re trying to make a fuss of him – if his muscles look tense or he’s pulling faces, he’s probably not very happy and it’s best to take a step back.
Your fave pony will start to trust you more when you begin to respect his likes and dislikes – so, although you might not be able to bond by giving him a cuddle, you can still connect with him in different ways. Why not take him out for a hand graze? He’ll especially appreciate it if he has to be stabled more over the winter months.
Routine is key
Ponies like to have a routine – they know when breakfast time is and don’t want to wait around for it! Gain your pony’s trust by sticking to a timetable when it comes to mealtimes and management.
He’ll feel more relaxed knowing when he’s going to get fed or turned out and is less likely to become stressed. He’ll soon learn if it’s always you who looks after him, too, and might even start to whinny when he sees you approaching!
Make the most of hacking
Hacking is a fab way to build your bond with your fave pony. It’s a time for you to get to know each other, as well as helping him to learn to trust you when you ask him to go past things he might find spooky. It gives you both the chance to chill out and relax – and there’s nothing better than having a natter with your pony on a long hack!
Keep him interested
Riding is meant to be fun for both of you, so keep it interesting. Mix up your sessions with flatwork, jumping and hacking. If you do the same thing every time, he’ll become bored and won’t try his best.
Keep his riding schedule interesting to prevent him from becoming stale, and he’ll know that he’s about to do something fun and different every time you tack him up.
Let your pony know when he’s done something well, whether you’re in the saddle or on the ground. He won’t know you’re pleased with him unless you tell him, so talking to him or giving him a pat or a wither scratch is super-important for reinforcing the good behaviour he’s shown.
He’ll also start to trust you more when it comes to asking him to try new things – he’ll be more willing to listen to you when he knows that he’ll be praised when he’s done it right.