Coming off a recent roundtable discussion on pony play, it seemed appropriate to revisit the differences (or lack thereof) between sexual and non-sexual pony play since several of the questions touched on this topic either directly or tangentially.
If this is your first time to cpony.com, you may not know that I'm a fan of sexual, "forced" pony play (forced does not mean non-consensual, rather it refers to my headspace as remaining that of a human and imagining/fantasizing that I have been captured and forced to become a human equine).
I'll confess to grossly misusing the term "sexual" as it relates to pony play, and I sincerely apologize for any confusion this has caused.
While many of my pony play scenes have ended in sexual contact, these only account for about one third of my scenes. Thus, when I say "sexual" pony play, what I really mean is erotic pony play.
That is, I find the experience of wearing pony tack and being treated like a horse sexually arousing whether or not the scene involves sexual contact.
This is in contrast to non-sexual, or more correctly, non-erotic pony play, what I term "animal role-play."
Essentially (if you'll indulge me the use of this verbal crutch), the difference between the two lies in the mindset of the pony. In the aforementioned erotic, forced pony play, the pony is a human, knows it's a human, but is treated, and is compelled to act, like a horse.
In the animal role-play variety, the pony willingly acts and is treated like a horse. Often, in this type of play, the pony tries to get into the headspace of a horse and/or views itself as a horse.
Yes, I realize that there are exceptions to my ham-handed attempt to group a large number of diverse individuals into two loosely defined categories (e.g. some animal role-players finding the experience erotic), but it provides a rough metric to differentiate between two common styles of play.
Outside of porn, the non-erotic animal role-play tends to get more publicity, to the point that there are people who believe that forced pony play, namely pony play that incorporates elements of erotic humiliation or derives much of its appeal from bondage and dehumanization only exists in porn.
I get a fair number of questions from people interested in forced ponyplay. Many are reluctant to attend munches or events or, worse still, have been to a munch or event and not returned because they felt the type of play they enjoy was, while perhaps not unwelcomed, at the very least not understood, resulting in something of a disconnect between them and other pony players.
Compounding the issue is the fact that some individuals who engage in the erotic aspects of pony play choose not to attend events and munches simply because pony play is more of a private activity between their partner and them, and thus they don't feel a need to become involved in the animal role-play community.
Ultimately, this results in the unintentional segregation of pony players by mindset and serves to underrepresent forced pony players, perpetuating the notion that forced pony play is not practiced by "real" pony players.
This underrepresentation in turn further reduces the likelihood that erotic pony players will attend events and take an active role in the community because they see themselves as outliers, believing they share little in common with other pony players.
What I want to get across today is twofold: one, forced pony play is not uncommon.
It is, in my opinion, merely less visible at public events and within the community for the reasons mentioned above.
But equally important, I want to stress that the mindset of the pony, be it forced or animal role-play or something completely different, is completely irrelevant to pretty much any pony scene.
I'm going to use myself as an example.
Pony play is erotic for me. However, that doesn't mean I want to have sex with the person handling me just because they have taken that role.
I only want to act on the erotic nature of the play if I have a prior sexual relationship with my handler. Even then I don't necessarily want sex in every scene.
I'm completely fine with, and enjoy, being handled by someone who is not a sexual partner. I'm just not going to have, or even want, sexual contact with them.
However, I am, gasp, going to be turned on.
It's just the circumstances.
Pony play involves bondage and being treated like an animal...it's going to turn me on. I can't help it. But like I said, that doesn't mean I expect - or even want - sex with whoever happens to be handling me, and it's most certainly not an invitation for them to initiate sexual contact.
I don't expect a handler to treat me any differently than if I were not sexually aroused.
Indeed, I argue that a human pony's sexual arousal is of no concern to his handler unless the handler specifically wants to have sexual contact with the pony. Aside from that special case, there is no reason for a human pony's handler to treat a pony differently based on his state of sexual arousal.
Why would she?
What does it matter if a pony gets into a pony headspace or is imagining himself being used as a beast of burden against his will?
The external result is the same: a human dressed up as a horse being led around by the reins.
Who knows, or cares, what the pony is thinking?
Who cares if the pony is turned on or not?
If the pony is resisting the bit or struggling in the bondage of his harness, how can you tell if it's a person in the mindset of a spirited horse or a person in the mindset of a human, struggling to resist his fate as a reluctant equine?
Is there even a difference to anyone but the pony?
I realize I've slipped into playing devil's advocate, but honestly, for most purposes it doesn't matter what the pony is experiencing. Let the pony think whatever it wants. If it's not listening, discipline it, otherwise continue leading/training/examining it.
Regardless of how the pony interprets your actions as a handler or what meaning, if any, it ascribes to them, it wants to be treated like a horse, so oblige it and treat it the same way you would a horse.
When you tell it "good pony," it can take that as a form of endearment if it's an animal role-player, or a form of humiliation if it's into forced pony play. It shouldn't matter to the handler what emotions are invoked in the pony's mind at those words.
Nor should it matter if the pony chooses to toss its head because it's trying to emulate equine behavior or because it's trying to get comfortable with a harsh bit in its mouth. Either way, you see a human pony tossing his head. His motivations are not relevant.
Admittedly, I'm over-simplifying some of the dynamics to make a point, but really the two types of play are not dissimilar. There's a huge amount of overlap between the two, so much so that for most casual play, the mindset of the pony is truly irrelevant.
Training a pony that finds the experience erotic should be little different from training a pony that gets no erotic pleasure from his training.
Pretending that erotic and non-erotic pony play are on opposite ends of some imaginary spectrum with the attitude that never the twain shall meet is beyond ludicrous and doesn't serve any purpose except to artificially divide the pony play community, which is the last thing we need. Our community is small enough as it is.
I think we need to be cognizant of the fact that the differences between those styles of pony play are far more minor than we might initially believe when we are first introduced to the "dichotomy" of forced vs. animal role-play.
Moreover, any differences between the two variants lie primarily in the minds of the ponies themselves. Thus, during most scenes, the vast majority of ponies will, for all practical purposes, be indistinguishable to their trainer, handler, and to any outside observer solely on the basis of their reasons for enjoying pony play.
We as a community should try to be accepting of all forms of pony play. There is no wrong way to play. Enjoying the erotic aspects of pony play is no more or less valid than getting into the mindset of a horse and having a light, playful trot around outside on a spring morning.
Play the way you want to and don't ever change the way you play to conform to what others (be it a club, event, whatever) believe pony play should be. Trying other styles of play is great, but denying your own interests to fit into a group is rarely a good idea.