Having lessons at a riding school is very different to riding on your own pony, who you know inside-out. Often you’ll know the riding school pony and will have ridden him before, but sometimes he’ll be completely new to you and you’ll have to spend a bit of time working out his quirks before you can start thinking about getting him going nicely.
To give you a head-start, here are some common problems you might have with the ponies at your riding school…
TOP TIP Ask your instructor what your pony’s like before you get on. She’ll be able to give you an idea of what to be prepared for.
There’s always one pony who likes to do everything at 100mph. He’s either too excited or he’s trying to avoid doing the task properly – a bit like you rushing to get your homework done so you can go out with your mates, it’s quicker and easier but the result is never as good as when you put in more effort.
In either situation, you need to get your pony listening to you and slow him down. Try riding some downward transitions and see how quickly you can get him to respond. Use half-halts to regain his attention and balance him, too.
“He cuts every corner”
Ponies who cut corners have worked out that it means they don’t have so far to go, so they can save a bit of energy – you’d do the same, right? It can be really tempting to allow your pony to cut the corners sometimes, especially if you’re trying to catch up.
Make sure he knows that you’re one step ahead of him from the get-go. Be firm with him from the first corner you get to – use your inside leg to push him out and aim to ride it more like a turn than a curve. Be consistent at every corner and, if you’re not happy with the way you rode it, try extra-hard at the next one.
“He likes to get way too close”
Some ponies like their personal space while others prefer to get as close as possible to the pony in front of them, and are only happy when they can rest their nose on his bottom. This is a really dangerous situation because, chances are, the pony in front may kick out, hurting you or your pony.
As you look through your pony’s ears, you should be able to see the hocks of the pony ahead of you and fit an imaginary pony in the gap. If you can’t, then you’re too close and need to circle away. Always think ahead and look for a space when you’re riding in open order.
“He’s sooo lazy”
This is one of the most common problems with riding school ponies, but often the pony is bored rather than actually lazy – don’t forget he’s probably done a similar lesson three times already this week. And just like when you stop listening to your mum when she tells you to tidy your room for the hundredth time, your pony will stop listening to you if you keep nagging him.
You need to find something that gets his attention – a small tap with a whip is nicer than a big kick in his sides. When he reacts to your aids, don’t use them again until he stops doing what you asked. Then praise him when he gets it right.
“He’s always got the grumps”
Grumpy riding school ponies are probably dreaming of all the fun things they could be doing, from zooming around a cross-country course to munching on their fave snacks. It’s your job to remind him you’re still having fun in the lesson and he can, too.
Some ponies get grumpy at other ponies they’re not so keen on or don’t know very well, so if you notice your pony giving another the evils, make sure you circle away before you get too close.
Before your lesson, remember to talk to him and give him a bit of love rather than pull him straight out of his stable. Whenever he does something well, let him know you appreciate his efforts by giving him a good scratch on his neck, too.
“Got it cracked”
When you can recognise these problems in your pony quickly and have mastered fixing them, too, you’ve got it cracked! Once you’ve smoothed out his quirks you’ll be well on your way to trying new things and learning so much more.
Riding school ponies might be annoying sometimes, but they are the best because they teach you sooo much that you’ll never forget!
TOP TIP If you’re still not sure how to deal with a problem you’re having with a riding school pony, ask your instructor.