Pony play: treat your partner like a horse.
Seems simple, right?
It really is as simple as that. But, and I'm sure you saw that "but" coming from across the arena, when you actually care about your partner, it can be hard to treat him like a barnyard animal.
When my first trainer and I were starting out in pony play, it was awkward. And I mean super awkward. As in you could cut the air with a circumcised penis awkward (I can say that because I'm circumcised, right?).
We both felt more than a little ridiculous. She was holding the reins of a 7 foot tall (in hoof boots) man who was naked except for a leather harness, and who was drooling around a rubber horse bit. To her credit, she was smartly dressed in hunter show clothing, but even though we were both aroused, neither of us was really sure what to do...sounds like being a teenager again: oh how fun.
She would lead me a few steps, then ask if I was okay. I would nod, then she would start to steer me in one direction with the reins, stop, ask if she was pulling too hard on the reins. I would shake my head, then the whole process was repeated from the start.
Yeah, super awkward.
The funny thing is that we were both horse people. She had been an equestrian for years. She knew how to lead a horse. She knew how much rein contact is acceptable. She knew when to increase rein contact and when to ease up.
So what was the problem? Simple: I was a human, not a horse. Not only that, but I was a human she cared about. It was only natural to ask how I was doing; to make sure I was not too uncomfortable (in case you were wondering, the lesson here is not to find someone you don't know and turn that person into a horse so you can abuse him - though I'll admit that scenario sounds hot in fiction).
Even after we figured out why it was awkward, it was not easy to fix. Even with a safe signal in place, she still had to fight the urge to ask me how I was doing.
This is natural. If your partner cares about you, this is bound to happen.
Fortunately, I didn't want her to stop caring about my well-being, so she didn't have to suppress that urge, but rather, I wanted her to use other (non-verbal) cues to assess how I was doing, which is exactly what you do with a horse.
Sometimes we are so used to the spoken word, that we completely forget the volumes of information that go unspoken. A horse tells you exactly how's he's feeling; he just doesn't do it with his voice.
How, then, could I help her speed up the process of reformulating her conern for me from verbal to non-verbal?
Simple: ear plugs.
If I couldn't hear her, then we were both forced to rely solely on non-verbal cues. For me that meant I had to pay close attention to the reins and crop, while she had to focus her attention on my body language.
I realize that by using ear plugs, we had to forgo the use of verbal commands used with horses (e.g. whoa, etc.), but we were so caught up in using language to communicate as human-to-human that we had to take a step back so that we could learn to communicate as human-to-horse. Once we became comfortable in that dynamic, we re-introduced language into our training sessions.
Cutting off your pony's hearing until he's better trained can work wonders if you're having a similar problem. However, I want to touch on a more general lesson: when you're starting out in pony play, things are going to be awkward. That's just how it is.
Yeah, it's going to be fun, and it's going to be hot, but it's also going to be a little weird. That's because it's something new and you're still not quite sure what to do. The first time I led a bio-horse around, it felt weird. Now it's completely natural. Don't give up because you feel a little silly. You will get over that, and when you do, you'll really start to have fun.
As a final note, one other trick that worked well for us - a little too well actually (but that's another story) - was to have me wear a hood. Once she could not see my face, and knew that I could not see her, it was easier for her to stop seeing me as a human. This dramatically reduced her urge to ask me how I was doing. Unfortunately, it also reduced her urge to care about how I was doing.
With a bondage hood, she saw me more as an object than an animal (nevermind a person), which is not what we wanted, so we scrapped that idea in favor of the ear plugs. I think if we had used a horse head mask instead of a plain bondage hood, it would have helped with the animalization (not objectification) we desired, but at the time we did not have one. So if you have a horse head mask, it is a viable alternative to ear plugs (though you could use both).