I often ask myself what pony play means to me (silently of course, because horses don't talk, and really, what's crazier than a horse that talks to himself), and why I enjoy it so much.
In fact, I sometimes get asked that very question by other people. My response is usually that it's fun (which it is), and that it incorporates bondage, dehumanization (by definition since horses are not human), and beauty. It also doesn't hurt that the person at the other end of the reins is wearing skin tight pants, tall leather boots and carrying a whip, all in the name of authenticity.
But, the above only superficially answers the question. It's not as though there are a shortage of ways to tie someone up or put him in bondage. Similarly, dehumanization can be achieved by being put into any animal role, or through objectification, or even through types of bondage, and one only has to look at the intricate ropework showcased on bondage models to know beauty and bondage are not an uncommon pair.
Every piece of tack I have, I can imagine (and in many cases, I don't have to imagine since I already own it) a non-pony bondage equivalent, but I like the pony version more because it's for pony play. So I keep coming back to the question: why pony play?
Even if I concede that animal role play has a special appeal to me (which it does), why a horse? Why not a zebra? Or if being a domesticated animal is part of the appeal, then why not a cat or a dog?
Frankly, I would have thought puppy play would be more my style (cages, shock collars, what's not to love?), or even being a donkey (I'm a natural contrarian, so I would think that being an ass would come naturally, which I suppose it does in other parts of my life).
However, while having a leather puppy hood brought up to my face is most definitely a turn on, it just doesn't give me that flutter in my stomach, that instantly dry mouth and loss for words that a quick glance at my bridle does so effortlessly. Nor does donning a pair of paws give me that same delicious tickle up my spine that hoof boots engender with the barest of glimpses.
I pretty much ignored delving deeper into the question than the occasional mulling over at the edge of sleep until I happened across an article on the symbolism of the horse and rider in literature:
What so better symbolizes power - the power to control - than a bridle?
And what better symbolizes power, passion, and sexuality than a horse? In countless pieces of literature and art, the horse has represented each of those (and more), being bridled by the rider of reason (not always successfully). Indeed, the horse and rider are often used as a metaphor for reason exerting control over irrational, animal instincts (or failing to do so in the case of a rider on a runaway horse).
I wasn't consciously aware of the use of the horse or its tack as literary devices when I had my first tingly feeling from holding the simple network of leather and metal that is a bridle (and wondering...well not wondering, it was a far more nebulous thought than that...what it would be like to wear it for myself).
Moreover, I have never been able to precisely say why I enjoy pony play most of all. I love horses and have been around and ridden them much of my life, but I don't believe that had an appreciable role in my interest in pony play. I don't doubt being a horseperson helped me a lot in my play, but I suspect I would have loved pony play regardless.
More than simply taking away speech, a bridle takes away control both physically (through the action of the reins) and psychologically (for what it represents). For me, the bridle's true power to control has always been (even if I could not have previously worded it as such) the fact that it symbolizes control. From that perspective, I see my fetish for bits as a further manifestation of my love of the bondage and control aspects of pony play.
Although I'd love to say that playing the horse is about elegance and being revered, it's safe to say I'm not feeling elegant and I'm definitely not looking for reverence when I'm bound and bridled. So perhaps being the horse is about letting go and embracing all my animal desires, letting someone else be the voice of reason and restraint.
Perhaps my preference for being "forced" into pony role serves to exculpate me from my yearning to embrace those desires. Or perhaps it really all does come back down to control: taking it or relinquishing it, wearing the bridle or holding the reins.
I honestly don't know. Hopefully one day I'll figure myself out :)
This only represents what pony play means to me. As always, there's no wrong way to play.