In the May issue of PONY mag, we gave you the lowdown on galloping and how much fun it can be! But, if you find your pony gets a bit too strong when you up the pace on a hack or cross-country course, we’ve got some methods you can try to help keep him feeling calmer and you more stable. Although these techniques can help, they may not work for every type of pony – so, if you’re really struggling to keep your pony under control, it’s always best to ask your instructor for advice.
Bridge your reins
A good way to keep your pony under control while you’re galloping is to learn how to bridge your reins. It’s a method that can help you keep a steady contact with your pony’s mouth and encourage him not to pull against your hands. To bridge your reins, put one rein over the other to form a small loop, which you then hold between your hands. Your hands will then sit either side of your pony’s neck, either side of his withers.
Give and take the reins
If your pony’s going fast, it’s tempting to pull on his mouth until he slows down. While this may work for some ponies if you need to perform an emergency stop, for others it might encourage them to lean on your hands and become even stronger. A good way to ask your pony to ‘woah’ without giving him the chance to lean, is by giving and taking the reins. This is where you hold one rein firmly and give away the other by pushing your hand towards his ears. Then keep alternating this with both hands until your pony become lighter in the mouth and slows down. It’s a good idea to practise this method in the school first, as you have to go against your natural instincts to have the confidence to give the rein away!
Adjust your position
It’s not just your reins that tell a pony to stop – you need to send him the ‘slow down’ signal by using every part of your body. When you’re asking him to slow down from a gallop, sit up tall, bend your elbows to keep your arms and rein contact secure, and push your lower leg slightly forward to stabilise yourself. You can allow the reins to slip a little longer, too, which will release the pressure on your pony’s mouth and signal that it’s time to slow down. Practise this position in the school before you venture out to make sure you’ve got it nailed. You can do this by cantering over a pole down the long side, then asking him to come back to walk ASAP. This new-found control will come in handy if you’re tackling a combination of XC fences, too, especially on undulating ground.