Here I will discuss some basic ponyplay training topics. Basic training will cover: leading the human pony, tying your pony, cross tying a human pony, and grooming your pony. Each of the topics and their implementation are covered in more depth on their individual pages, so if you are interested in learning more, follow the link to the full article. These training topics are relevant to nearly all forms of ponyplay, and it might be beneficial to ensure your ponyboy or ponygirl is familiar with each before moving on to more advanced or specialized ponyplay training.
Before starting any training, or any ponyplay activity for that matter, you should always make sure that your pony's tack fits well. It should all fit snugly since loose tack can chafe, or come out of place and trip or otherwise hurt the pony during play. However, the pony's tack should not be excessively tight especially if you are planning on an extended ponyplay session.
In ponyplay, just like in the bio-equine world, stand to the left of your pony. You will also want to stand slightly ahead of your pony: the pony should remain to your right and slightly behind at all times. Hold the pony's reins (or lead rope if the pony is in a halter) in your right hand about 12-18 inches away from where the reins attach to the bit. Hold any excess rein neatly coiled or folded in your left hand. Show your pony you trust him/her by leaving some slack in the lead rope/reins and only tighten up when he misbehaves or breaks the rules. Insist on a least a foot of space between you and your pony at all times. When your pony invades your space, whatever the reason, push him off and jab him gently in the shoulder with your elbow. You can also flick your pony with the end of the reins or with a crop if you have one. If your pony gets distracted while being led, snap the lead line/reins down sharply; this will help him focus on you again. If your pony does not listen even after you tug sharply backwards on the reins, then you should pull him sharply to the side to make him walk in a circle. Tighten the circle until he stops, then you can start walking in a straight line again. ne the other hand, if your pony does not want to move forward, you should start pulling him sharply in your direction in a tight circle. This works well because you will take him off-balance, and he cannot put all his weight into resisting you when he off balance. Finally, use the power of your voice: when you want your pony to halt, use a command in addition to your physical cue (i.e., whoa, halt, walk, back up, etc.). In addition to the word, there is also the emotional stimulus expressed in the tone and inflection of your voice. The inflection of your voice can express disappointment, anger, or warmth.
One of the most important things to train your pony is how to stand still while you are working with him. Related to this, is teaching your pony both to ground tie (where his lead rope or reins are not attached to a post or some such) and to be tied to a hitching post, ring, etc. The first thing to do is teach your pony to stand properly: the pony should stand squarely with his feet nicely under him, his weight distributed evenly on both legs and fore hooves (if not bound behind back or elsewhere) should be hanging straight down, his back should be straight, head held up, looking straight ahead. This is how a pony should look when you halt him when leading, and this is how a pony should stand in ties or when by himself unless you have otherwise indicated he may relax. You may a crop lightly to indicate which parts of the body the pony should move until the pony is standing properly.
Once the pony can stand properly, you can now teach him to ground tie. Ground tying means allowing your pony to stand by himself with his lead rope or reins not secured to a post or hitching rail. Training your pony to do this will allow you to walk away and do other things. Moreover, this will be the foundation on which you teach your pony to be tied to a rail, in a trailer, or in cross-ties. This is analogous to teaching a puppy how to "stay." For this, you will need either a lounge line or a set of long reins (such as driving reins) about 25 feet long. Lead your pony into an arena or other confined area and stop him. Make sure the pony is standing properly with his feet are nicely under him. When your pony is standing squarely, tell your pony to “stand” or "stay" (whichever term you prefer) and give the reins or lounge line a slight backward tug, then take one step forward keeping hold of the lounge line or reins, and turn to face the pony. If the pony did not move, stay standing one step away for 5 - 10 seconds, then step back toward the pony, returning to your original position (this should be the position you are in when leading the pony: on the pony's left side and slightly in front of him with both of you facing the same direction) and tell him "good pony" or "good girl/boy". If not tell him "wrong" or "bad" step back to him and give the reins or lounge line a tug. When the pony is again standing still you can try again.
Repeat this procedure 5 - 10 times. Once the pony is able to do this reliably, start increasing the distance (i.e. take 2 steps away from pony, then 4 steps, etc.) until you are at the end of the lounge line or long reins. Each time you repeat this, make sure you issue the verbal command "stay" or "stand" along with the short backward tug on the pony's reins/lounge line before stepping away.
Now that your pony can lead, stand, and ground tie, it is time to teach him to tie. Use a ring attached to something solid that the pony cannot move, such as a wall or a post. The height of ring should be around shoulder height so that the pony will not tangle himself in the long reins or lounge line. It is also a good idea to have good footing such as a rubber map or dirt floor.
Lead your pony to the tie ring; tell your pony to “stay” or "stand" followed by the quick backwards tug on the lounge line or reins (not tying your pony to the ring as yet), then take a step or two away. If your pony tries to follow you, say “bad” or "wrong," walk back and try again. If necessary, swat your pony's ass with a crop if he tries to back up. When the pony is comfortable with you stepping away and remains standing quietly, you can start walking further away. Continue with ground tying at the tie ring until you are able to walk to the end of the lounge line and your pony will remain standing.
Now it is time to simulate tying your pony to the ring: walk your pony up to the ring and tell him to "stay" or “stand” and give the reins or line a backwards tug, then thread the lounge line or long reins through the ring. However, do not tie it; keep hold of it, then start walking away keeping the line in your hands. Work at this until your pony will remain standing quietly at the ring. When you can reach the end of the lounge line, gradually increase the time you spend away from your pony. When your pony will stand quietly for 10 minutes while you’re at the end of the lounge line, your pony should now be safe to tie.
It is very convenient to cross tie your pony since it keeps your pony centered and allows easy access to both sides your pony. Prior to teaching your pony to cross tie, it is imperative that he be able to stand quietly for an extended period (e.g. 15 minutes or more) of time. That is, the pony should not be fidgeting, pulling, pawing, etc. when tied.
It is good to use verbal commands such as "whoa" to indicate to your pony that you wish for him to stand still. Make sure you have a safe place to tie your pony. Use non-slip flooring, such as rubber mats or dirt since slick surfaces, such as concrete, can be dangerous especially if your pony is wearing hoof boots or shoes with elevated heels. Make the ropes just long enough so that when attached to the posts or walls, the crosstie snaps will barely touch each other in the middle. This will reduce the risk of your pony getting tangled up or turned around when tied.
Now that you have cross ties setup in a safe area with good footing, lead your pony over to the cross-ties and stop him. Once your pony is standing nicely attach both cross tie ropes (via their snap clips) to his bit or halter and detach the lead rope/reins, or alternatively rest them around your pony's neck. Let your pony stand in the cross ties for a couple minutes while you walk around and pet or brush him. This will help calm the pony and let him know the cross ties are safe and he can relax. Reattach the lead rope or reins (if you detached them) and release pony from the cross ties and put him back in his stall. Do this a couple more times (if possible on different days) leaving the pony (make sure you stay nearby for safety) in the cross ties longer each time until he fine standing still in the cross ties for 15 - 30 minutes. Now you can groom and tack up your pony in the cross ties without having to worry about him moving around.
Grooming your pony can be a very intimate activity for both you and your pony. Moreover, it can very enjoyable for the pony to be brushed, petted, and in general have his owner's hands lightly caressing and going over his skin. This is a great activity both before and after a ponyplay session. To groom your pony, you will typically tie or cross tie him.
The first step is to lead you pony over to the cross ties, or alternatively tie him to a hitching post or the ring in his stall, and secure him to the ties (or ring). Start at pony's neck and slowly work your way lower, rubbing a rubber curry comb in a circular motion on your pony. After you have thoroughly used the curry on your pony's body, move to the stiff brush (a good rule of thumb is to start with the stiffest brush you have and progressively move to softer brushes), but instead of using a circular motion, apply the stiff brush in quick movements, flicking the brush lightly along your pony. Now you can move to the body brush.
With the body brush, you will want to apply smooth, constant pressure unlike the stiff brush. With the brushing done, you will want to move on to your pony's mane. Whether you are combing a pony's natural mane (i.e. hair) or a mane the pony might be wearing (e.g. as a mask or part of his bridle), you will want to be gentle so as not to break the pony's hair.
After you finish the mane, you can move on the pony's tail. If you used a mane comb for bio-equines, do not use this on your pony's tail; its teeth are too fine! Now, some ponies have butt-plug tails, which while definitely fun, are not always conducive to being brushed (read: heavy brushing may result in the tail popping out of the pony's ass!). So if your pony has butt plug tail, be careful when brushing. If your pony's tail is attached to his harness or through other similar attachment, you can be a bit rougher with it and get out more of the knots. Brush the pony's tail until you can run your finger through it and not encounter much if any resistance.
Finally, use the soft towel to gently wipe down you pony. Now you're done and have a clean (and grateful) pony! This is a great way to start and/or end a ponyplay session.
By now, your pony should have good ground manners. He should be familiar with the basics such that any trainer can lead, tie, cross tie, or groom him. In the next section, you will teach your pony how to behave "under saddle". He will learn how to properly respond to your rein and leg/crop commands, how to properly emulate the gaits of a bio-equine, and how to be lunged (exercised on a longe line).
So, let's move on to intermediate pony play training topics.