Intermediate Training for Ponyplay



In the previous section, we discussed how to lead, tie, cross tie, and groom your pony. Here, I will talk about some more training techniques that are still generally applicable regardless of what type of pony you have (or will have). Of course, please feel to skip around and only do what you think seems interesting. Below are some of the "intermediate" topics; you can skim over the little blurbs below and follow the links to learn more:


Rein Aids

One of the most important ways a rider or trainer will communicate with a pony is through the action of the reins, which (except for side reins) facilitate communication between a trainer's hand and the pony's mouth. The action of the bit can be very gentle or exceedingly severe depending mostly on how the trainer uses her hands and, to a lesser degree, on the type of bit used.

Once your pony is wearing his bit and bridle, attach the reins to his bit if you have not already done so. You will want to begin by taking up the reins (I will assume you are on ground and behind your pony) and keeping gentle contact with the pony's mouth. Now cluck with your tongue (or tell him to "walk on") accompanied by a flick of the crop or whip, with a slight easing of rein pressure - still maintaining some light rein contact. This indicates to your pony that you wish him to move forward. He should begin walking. If not, you will want to try clucking again and apply a harder swat of crop.

Your pony is moving forward and you have some contact with his mouth! Now it's time to stop him :) After a couple steps forward, say "whoa" and start increasing the amount of rein contact. Apply the pressure evenly to both reins, and steadily increase it until he stops, at which point ease the pressure on the reins back to the amount you had before asking for the halt (do not release all contact on the reins - you should always keep some light contact). Repeat this procedure a few times for him to learn to yield to increased rein pressure and come to halt. Using the verbal command "whoa" will help with this.

Your pony now understands how to halt through rein action, so it is time to confirm that he knows how to stand properly at the halt. Ask the pony to "square up." As discussed previously, this will indicate to your pony you wish him to come to come to attention and stand properly. Make sure this is the case: take a look at how your pony is standing to ensure he is at attention with legs square, head up, etc. If not, use your hands to crop (lightly) to position his body correctly. Once you have it positioned correctly, wait a few seconds (10 - 30 seconds), then have him take a step or two forward. Repeat this until he will stand properly whenever you ask.

To steer your pony right or left, start off at the walk (from the halt, start your pony walking with a light flick of your crop and either clucking or telling him to "walk" or "walk on" with a simultaneous slight easing of rein tension) and give a gentle increase in tension in one rein or the other not both. Apply more pressure to the right rein to steer your pony right, or increase pressure on the left rein to steer your pony left.

To indicate to your pony that you wish to slow down the pace, you can increase rein pressure across both reins evenly while using a verbal cue such as "easy" (do not use "whoa" unless you are looking for a full halt, also "slow" sounds enough like "whoa" that it can confuse the pony).

If you want your pony to back up, begin by clucking your tongue and increasing the pressure on both reins evenly. You may wish to use a voice command such as "back" to reinforce this. It may be easier to alternatively apply and release pressure on the reins rather than constant pressure. Once your pony has taken a few steps back release the excess tension on the reins and let him know he was good.


Leg Aids

Most of the time in ponyplay when a pony is moving forward, especially at any gait aside from the walk, the pony is being drive from the ground either with the trainer following behind the pony, on a line, or on a cart. Thus I define leg action as equivalent to whip action for these situations. Obviously, if you are physically able to apply leg action to your pony, then use your leg when possible. However, as I mentioned, many times we cannot use our actual leg, so in those cases, I will consider the whip or crop to be a surrogate leg.

The most common use of a leg aid is to ask the pony to move forward. In this case use a flick of the crop or whip on the pony's lower back or ass. This will indicate we want impulsion from the pony. Thus, in conjunction with appropriate rein aids, this can also indicate to the pony to move backwards.

As a general rule, we want our pony to yield to the pressure of our leg or whip. So, if we want our pony to move laterally (i.e. to the side) we will flick our pony with the whip on the side we want him to move away from. It is important to apply the whip to pony's side, not back. Thus, to have the pony move to the left, flick your pony's right, near the bottom of the ribcage, side with your whip.



The gaits used in ponyplay are the pretty much the same as the natural gaits of a horse. A horse has four basic gaits: walk, trot, canter, and gallop.

The walk is slowest and easiest gait to master. It is a four beat gait, which means that, in a bio-equine, one foot will always be raised off the ground at any given moment, while the other three remain on the ground. For a two legged pony, this translates into simply walking as usual. However, many two legged ponies are trained to perform a high stepping walk (similar to a bio-equine "parade" walk) where the pony will bring his knee up higher than in normal walking, making a 90° angle with the ground. In this walk, the pony's thigh should also be parallel to the ground

The trot is a two beat gait. For a bio-equine this means that at any given moment two feet are in the air, while two feet remain on the ground. The feet move as diagonal pairs. The trot is best emulated by a four legged pony, but a two legged pony can trot by jogging at a moderate pace. The trot should be an energetic gait, but one that can be maintained for a reasonable length of time. At the trot, the pony should move freely and with good impulsion.

The canter is a three beat gait. When a bio-equine canters, one of his rear legs propels him forward. Let's assume this is the right rear leg. During this beat, the bio-equine is supported only on that single leg while the remaining three legs are moving forward. On the next beat the bio-equine catches himself on the left rear and right front legs while the other hind leg is still momentarily on the ground. On the third beat, the horse catches itself on the left front leg while the diagonal pair is momentarily still in contact with the ground. The more extended foreleg is matched by a slightly more extended hind leg on the same side. This is referred to as a "lead" (from Wikipedia).

This gait is a bit harder to emulate, but if you've ever seen a horse at a canter you'll notice it can be reasonably well mimicked by stepping forward with one foot, meeting it with the other then repeating (albeit quickly). This is similar to skipping forward. This way your pony will have a lead at the canter just like a horse. The pony's lead will be the foot he puts forward first, thus the pony should put the same foot forward every time (unless you're teaching your pony more advanced movements such as tempi, in which case the leading leg should be changed at the appropriate rate).

The gallop is very similar to the canter, but faster. The canter is a four beat gait; the only difference is that the second stage of the canter is split up into two stages so that the (in the example for the canter above) left rear would strike the ground, then the right front.

Since the gallop is the fastest gait of a horse, a ponygirl or ponyboy might choose to run full out when galloping. Obviously this will look quite different from a horse's gallop, but since the canter and gallop don't appear too dissimilar, it is useful to have a very fast gait.



Longeing a pony is the process where you stand while your pony walks, trots, or canters around you in a circle. Its simplest use is for exercise, but it is also used for training and fine-tuning your pony. The most important aspect of longeing a pony is that it teaches him to pay attention to you.

Longeing is typically done with longeing line (length varies, but 20-25 feet is most common). One end of the longeing line is attached to the pony's bit or bridle with the other end held by the trainer. It is not a bad idea to have a whip in case the pony wants to stop, or is otherwise not listening to you.

It's a good idea to start on a somewhat short length of line. Gradually, let some of the line out and step back, urging the pony to move around you in one direction or the other, and use the whip to cue him. It's a good idea to keep the longeing rein in the hand of the direction you wish your pony to go.

Indicate speed and pace with voice commands such as "walk on," "trot on," "canter," and "whoa." You can also click with your tongue to indicate to the pony you wish him to go faster. A flick of the whip on the pony's hindquarters can be used if the pony is lagging. Only a light contact should be kept on the rein. Pulling on the lunge rein is a signal to the pony to slow down or stop and face you. You can make the circle larger or smaller, by letting out or taking in the line. When you are ready to stop, move a bit forward of the line and say "whoa;" it is also a good idea to point the whip a little bit in front of the pony.