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The fun factor with Emma Massingale

Posted in Flatwork Jumping Stable Management

Emma Massingale shows you how to build an awesome partnership with your fave pony

Emma Massingale stood on her pony's back

Emma Massingale’s a super-cool trainer who has been on some amazing adventures with her team of horses and ponies! She’s trained Connemaras from scratch while marooned on an island, and last summer she cycled round Europe pulling two mini ponies, Percy and Stanley, in a trailer behind her bike! 

Emma has an awesome partnership with her team of ponies, who seem like they would do absolutely anything for her! Want to find out how you can create such a strong bond with your own fave pony, too? Then read on for Emma’s tips…

Did you know? Emma and her ponies are super-famous and have fans all around the world!

Have fun together

If something makes you smile, it’s sure to make your pony happy, too! So make time to have fun with him. It’s a great way to build a close bond, and it’ll help him realise that spending time with you doesn’t have to be all about work! I go on a lot of picnic rides with my ponies. They love heading out to explore, then munching on some tasty grass while I eat my sandwiches.

Mix things up

Rather than just focusing on flatwork one day, then jumping the next, mix up every session so you do a little bit of everything. It’ll be waaaay more interesting for your pony, and because his work isn’t boring or predictable, he’ll look forward to it so much more. You could start with a bit of flatwork, then pop over some poles or a fence or two. Then why not get off and do 15 minutes of groundwork or play a few games with him, before hopping back on to cool him down by going for a short hack?

Hang out

It’s great to have goals, but sometimes we focus too much on getting our ponies to do stuff for us. So every now and again spend time with your pony without putting any demands on him. I’ll grab my laptop and just sit outside the stable or in the field for an hour or two while I answer emails. Better still, why not spend the whole day hanging out with him. You can find out what he gets up to and how he interacts with his fieldmates – you’ll learn loads about him!

Play a game

You’ll find it easier to reach your end goal if you break it down into lots of easy to achieve pieces. Treat each of these little steps as a game, and it’ll encourage your pony to want to learn. Take loading, for example – rather than marching a pony straight to the ramp, I’ll think how I can make things easy and fun, So, I’d show him that being in an enclosed space is OK by leading him between barrels, then I’d walk him over a tarpaulin so he’s happy stepping onto different surfaces. It’s about using your imagination and coming up with new ways of doing things.

Make him feel like a winner   

It’s great when you praise for something you’ve done right. You feel like you’re on top of the world. It’s the same for your pony, too. So, when he’s done something well, make him feel like he’s won a gold medal at the Olympics! Give him loads of fuss and tell him how wonderful he is. This’ll make him realise that trying his best is absolutely worth it.

Top top Whatever you’re working on with your pony, always make the first step super-easy.

Show him the benefits

If you think about it, why would ponies even want to do some of the things we ask them to? Especially things like loading, which go against their natural instincts. Always think about what you can do to help your pony enjoy something, so he’s eager to do it again. When you’re doing loading practice try hanging a tasty haynet inside the lorry or trailer, for example.  Let him munch on it for a few minutes and he’ll think being in there is awesome!

Keep a positive vibe

Life would be boring if everything went to plan first time! If something does go wrong, don’t feel down, but smile and laugh instead. Just look at it as another fun challenge ahead of you and your pony. You’ll get there in the end, and having a positive attitude will make all the difference. 

Top top If your pony’s not getting the hang of something, try asking for it in a more fun way.  

Go for quality over quantity

Ponies never forget anything, so you shouldn’t have to rehearse something again and again. Say you want to teach your pony leg-yield, and after a few tries he gets what you’re after. Instead of repeating it over and over, give him a pat and turn him out in the field or go for a relaxing hack. When you try leg-yield again, you’ll find he remembers what you want him to do. Obviously, if it takes a few tries to get something right, that’s fine. Keep persevering until you do, then move on.

Top top It’s important your pony stays calm and relaxed when you’re working with him. If he’s fidgety or worried, you need to stop and work out what could be bothering him.   


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Harlow riding journal

September 2024

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