Leading a pony is something we all need to feel confident doing – ponies are bigger and stronger than us, so it’s super-important to be able to handle them without a problem on the ground. There are a few simple things to remember to make sure you get it right every time.
WHAT TO WEAR
- Riding hat – it’s super-important to wear an up-to-standard riding hat when leading your pony to keep your head protected
- Gloves – these will help you keep a firm grip on the leadrope and protect your hands if your pony pulls on the rope
- Correct footwear – protect your feet and toes with safe footwear when you’re handling ponies. Riding boots are best, and trainers or sandals are a no-go
When you’re leading your pony, clip the leadrope to the bottom ring of the headcollar under his chin, instead of one of the side rings. Hold the leadrope close to the clip with one hand and carry the rest of the rope in the other.
It’s super-important to make sure the leadrope isn’t looped around your hand or fingers when you’re leading, in case your pony pulls away. Gather the excess rope up so it’s folded and hold it in your spare hand.
TOP TIP – Don’t hook your fingers through the headcollar to lead him – always hold him by the leadrope.
TOP TIP – Try not to hold the rope too tightly – your pony will be happier to walk on and stay relaxed if there’s some slack in the rope.
If your pony’s strong you can lead him in a bridle for extra control. Make sure there’s no martingale attached and take the reins over his head. With one hand hold the reins below the bit, and take up the rest of the reins in the other. Maintain an even pressure on both reins to keep him straight.
TOP TIP – If you’re leading on the road, it’s essential to lead in a bridle to make sure you’re totally in control. Remember to always wear high-vis, too!
SIDE TO SIDE
Ponies should generally be led from the left-hand-side, especially if it’s a pony you haven’t led before. But, if it’s your own pony, it’s a good idea to get him used to being led from both sides.
On the road, for example, you should position yourself between your pony and the traffic when leading him. Because you should always lead in the same direction as the traffic, you’ll be standing on the right-hand-side of your pony, so it’s important he’s used to it.
Stay at your pony’s shoulder while you’re leading. This is the best place for you to stay in control and be aware of what he’s doing.
It can be tempting, especially with a lazy pony, to walk in front while he hangs back behind you. However, this is more likely to make him reluctant to walk on, and you won’t be able to see what he’s doing. If your pony tries to hang back, carry a schooling whip in your outside hand to tap him on the flank as you ask him to move forwards.
Leading is a great opportunity to teach your pony voice cues. Say ‘walk on,’ as he moves forward, and when you ask him to stop, say ‘stand’ or ‘whoa’.
He’ll soon associate the actions with those words, and you’ll be able to ask him to walk on and halt easily without having to tug on the leadrope.
When you need to turn your pony, keep to the outside so that you’re walking the bigger circle. Remember not to rush or turn too tightly, especially on slippery surfaces, or he could become unbalanced.