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How to ride a green pony

Posted in Flatwork

Feeling green? Riding a green pony can be a really rewarding experience. Follow PONY’s top tips to get the best from him

Young pony being mounted

When a pony’s described as green, it means he’s not very experienced, usually because he’s young. A green pony may lack confidence or understanding of what he’s being asked to do. However, there’s loads you can do to help him improve and gain the experience he needs to become a superstar!

Start right

To help you mount smoothly, ask an experienced friend to hold your pony while you get on. Walk him to the mounting block and ask your helper to stand by his head and talk to him. They can also hold your stirrup to stop your saddle slipping.

Always mount slowly and carefully, then give him a scratch on his wither while he’s standing, before you ask him to move off.

Top tip Mount from a mounting block whenever possible.

Let him look

Before you begin, walk round and let him have a look at everything so he’s more relaxed and can concentrate when you start working him.

If there’s something your pony finds a bit scary, don’t tell him off. Ponies are flight animals, which means it’s natural for them to want to run away from something they think could be a threat. Let him have a look at it and reassure him, then ask him to walk past it.

Top tip Spending time with your fave pony while you’re not riding will help form a strong bond, which will also help him feel more confident and trusting in you.

Green pony looking at scary objects

Be clear

It’s important to remember that green ponies are still learning, so you’ve got to be really clear and consistent with your aids. For example, if you want him to make a turn, exaggerate your shoulder movement to help him.

Top tip Use your voice as an aid to help your pony understand what you’re asking him.

Sitting tall

Having a correct position will give your pony confidence and put you in a strong position if he spooks. You should…

  • sit up tall with your shoulders back
  • have soft wrists and a firm, even contact with his mouth
  • push your weight down into your heels

Confidence is key

Green ponies often lack confidence, but if you’re positive with your aids, they’ll take confidence from you. Ponies are very intuitive, so if you come across worried, your pony will be, too. Make sure you’re feeling happy and positive about everything you ask him to do.

Top tip Ask an experienced friend and their pony to ride with you to give your pony some extra confidence.

Little and often

With so much to learn and new things going on, avoid bombarding your pony with too much in one go – think little and often. Create small goals for you to achieve together to help track your progress.

If he’s unbalanced, he might find some exercises, such as small circles, hard work. Start with bigger shapes and build up to more difficult movements over time.

Top tip Get him used to new or spooky things in a safe place, such as in your arena. For example, you could move the jump wings to a new corner or leave a coat on a wing for him to have a look at.

PONY’s Top 3 Exercises

These exercises are great for green ponies and they’re easy to set up…

1. Simple circles

20m circles are great for improving your pony’s suppleness and balance. To ride them…

  • place a jump block or cone at the four points of your circle – at C and X, and between M and B, and E and H
  • ride your circle in trot, focusing on making a smooth shape
  • once you’re confident, try riding a smaller circle of 15m

Simple circle exercise for a green pony

2. Transitions

These are fab for getting your pony listening and concentrating on you. To ride them…

  • start at A in walk, then as you reach the next marker, ask for an upwards transition to trot
  • continue round the school riding halt, walk or trot transitions at each marker you meet
  • to make it trickier, ask for canter transitions, too

3. Polework

Poles are great for building his muscles, core strength and balance. To ride it…

  • set up four trotting poles 1.7m apart
  • ride him over the poles in both directions and on both reins, focusing on keeping him straight
  • as you both become more confident, you can make this a little more tricky by raising alternate ends of every other pole

Always end on a good note

When something doesn’t quite go as well as you’d hoped, it’s easy to feel disappointed – we’ve all been there – but it’s important that you end on something positive.

There’s always something good to focus on, and if the last exercise wasn’t perfect and you feel yourself getting frustrated, go back to something he did well and do it again to finish your session. You’ll both feel better ending on a good note.

Top tip Always praise your fave pony when he does something well – it will help him feel more confident.

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