Ponyplay for me is a study in contradictions. Some days I am exclusively a bondage ponyboy: bound up tight in harness, boots, bridle, hobbles, and shock collar (and electric butt plug) such that I can barely move.
On those days my trainer spends half the time admiring my predicament and the other half asking me to perform acts that are physically impossible given the degree of bondage, and then punishing me when I cannot perform them. We like to call this unreasonable bondage.
Other days, ponyplay is much closer to bio-equine training, with me in practical boots and minimal bondage (but still some bondage; ponyplay for me always involves some physical bondage). On these days, I relish the light contact on the reins, comforted by the knowledge that an experienced horsewoman stands behind me, guiding me. There is no real punishment, just firm but fair corrections.
It is on the latter type of days that ponyplay almost becomes non-sexual, and I can slip into an extended ponyspace. These are our longer sessions, where hours can blink by.
Most often though our scenes are somewhere between the two. We use more tack than is necessary, and she is a bit more enthusiastic with the crop than she needs to be.
So where does that leave me? Is ponyplay sexual or not for me?
Well, ponyplay nearly always carries a sexual element for me, but it's not quite that simple: there are times I truly get lost in a scene, and the sexuality of the play gets toned way down, and, in very rare cases, eliminated.
However, I don't want to be forced to choose a style of play. Moreover, while ponyplay (for me) always involves some physical bondage, I don't want all my scenes to involve unreasonable bondage, nor do I want them to always be sans hoofboots, armbinder, and restrictive bit.
What I am attempting to convey here is not just that pony play means different things to different people, but that pony play can mean different things to the same person (pony) depending on the day. As a pony you do not have to commit to any particular style of play, either in the broad sexual/non-sexual (forced vs. animal role-play) sense, or even in the specific (bondage pony, show pony, etc.) sense.
You may hear people talk about the way they play as if that is the only way to play. And, I completely agree with them; their way is indeed exactly the right way to play: for them. There is only one right way to do ponyplay: the way you like. And the way you like does not have to be the same everyday.