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The tack room

Getting pony back into work

16 replies

MrPickles73 · 20/12/2022 17:28

Usually the pony is ridden 1-2 times per week during the winter (due to dark evenings) and 2-4 times per week in the summer and 4 days a week in the holidays! We have had her for nearly 6 months.
For reasons beyond her control DD hasn't been able to ride the pony for 4 weeks. The pony is turned out with other ponies. No injury to the pony or rider. Just a combination of factors including school and frozen ground etc.
DD went to ride the pony today and she was rather 'fresh'. DD started with walk and trot in circles etc. but when she tried to canter apparently it was like the wild west. DD bucked off twice so moral a little bruised.
What would people recommend? Pony is not usually 'wild and free', aged 14, pony club experienced etc, but does tend to 'take advantage' if it can.
Many thanks.

OP posts:
DingDangMintyBells · 20/12/2022 17:47

Maybe start with a week of walk, trot, circles, lots of change of rein to keep pony listening. If she is doing anything like leg yield then this will also help get the pony to concentrate. Otherwise just challenge her to think of as many changes of rein as she can and do them all interspaced with circles of different sizes, figures of eight, serpentines etc.
when the pony no longer feels fresh start to add in canter and then jumping and any other activities.
I’m basically saying bore the pony to death. I would also add most ponies I know are better ridden everyday, if you don’t have time you could consider getting a sharer.

MrPickles73 · 20/12/2022 18:23

DingDangMintyBells thankyou that's really helpful.

OP posts:
Lastqueenofscotland2 · 20/12/2022 18:41

Horses tend to really thrive off routine so it’s not surprising that they weren’t perfectly behaved after a month off.
If your DD cans ride can you or a family member get down and lunge? If not I think a sharer is the way forward

thelobsterquadrille · 20/12/2022 22:49

I think the answer is more regular work - twice a week isn't much for a relatively young, healthy pony.

If your DD can't get there more often then I agree with others that a sharer may be best so pony is getting more regular exercise.

Then while in the school, switch things to keep the pony's attention - so once warmed up, go from walking a serpentine to trotting circles, then change rein and do something different. Basically, keep your DD in control so that the pony has to listen.

Fudgeball123 · 21/12/2022 07:52

During the winter once or twice a week is normal around here. Unless you have lighting children can't ride in the week so riding is limited to weekends until the clocks change.. currently dusk is at 4pm. Not sure a sharer would work unless you can find a home schooled child!

elastamum · 21/12/2022 07:57

Can you ride the pony? If not maybe lunge and do some in hand work a couple of times a week to keep their manners where they should be. Also, get her to do quiet controlled walk and trot work before she gets cantering.

thelobsterquadrille · 21/12/2022 08:38

Fudgeball123 · 21/12/2022 07:52

During the winter once or twice a week is normal around here. Unless you have lighting children can't ride in the week so riding is limited to weekends until the clocks change.. currently dusk is at 4pm. Not sure a sharer would work unless you can find a home schooled child!

Work doesn't need to be ridden work. You could get someone to do lunge work with them.

Or, depending on the size of the pony, a light adult could ride it during the day. Lots of children have ponies their parents can also ride occasionally.

I'm not doubting that twice a week isn't normal but it's not really ideal and is one of the reasons this pony is playing up a bit.

MrPickles73 · 21/12/2022 08:42

Thankyou for all the replies, very helpful.
Normally the pony behaves well it's just that she's been doing her own thing for 4 weeks which is not 'normal' for her.
January will be a struggle due to school and short days but February should be easier as the days will get a little longer and we have half term.
To help get her 'back into work' we can ask someone to lunge her and we know a teenager who could ride her. A friend of mine walks her ponies on a lead rope like dogs so I could try that but not sure I am ready for two at once!
Many thanks

OP posts:
maxelly · 21/12/2022 22:18

It's absolutely fine to give ponies a month or so off at this time of year - mine's been off since late November and won't be back in until after Christmas now, dark, cold etc. make it challenging to ride, so plenty of people do 'rough' off over the winter esp if they have good turnout, I think it's actually good for them to get a break and some prolonged field time, and personally I'd rather do that in winter than in summer when there's more fun to be had.

So I think where you went 'wrong' (not badly, but a bit) was not in giving the pony the month off, it was expecting to be able to get back on and ride just like normal without proper prep. Some horses can be a bit wild this time of year anyway, wind and cold air can really affect certain types, and as this is your first winter with this pony you weren't to know whether she's one of the ones who are particularly bad with it, plus your DD probably wasn't on her absolute A game either not having ridden for a month. So with those factors I would probably have done a few things:

-Built up to riding with at least a few days of groundwork, in hand or on the lunge or long rein first, partially to check how her fitness was affected by the month off and also to assess freshness lunacy levels so as to gauge when best to get back on.

-Before 1st ride would probably have lunged for 5-10 mins first to let any 'hoolies' out and get rid of the worst of the freshness, as they can have a buck and a plunge on the lunge without hurting anyone. If the horse seemed just too fresh or spooky on the day I'd planned to ride (e.g. if it was a particularly windy day or something spooky was worrying them or the arena was very busy) discretion can be the better part of valour so leave it for another day if in doubt.

-Having decided to ride I would stick a neck strap on and be well prepared to grab it if needed. Keep it low key and short for a first session (10-15 mins fine), walk and maybe a bit of trot only, lots of changes of directions and circles and transitions as others have said, insisting on the horse paying attention and staying in front of the leg. Almost certainly no cantering until I'd been riding back at least a couple of days in a row and the horse feels settled and calm. If the horse is a known bucker/spooker I would be well prepared for it in my riding (concentrating at all times!) by keeping my weight and centre of gravity well back in the saddle, heels down (maybe shorten stirrups a few holes for better balance if lower leg unstable), firm short rein contact (not tight or pulling but a good hold of their mouth) and ensure the pony isn't allowed to tip onto the forehand or take her poll down behind the vertical as this is when they can get a really good unseating buck or spin in. And like I say being not ashamed to grab the neckstrap or a handful of mane in the event of an 'emergency' gives you a much better chance of staying on!

-I try and schedule a saddle fit check, physio/back lady visit and dentist asap after a break - they can change shape a lot after just a few weeks in the field and if the pony has suddenly started bucking that to me could indicate a saddle pinching somewhere or possibly a sore back.

So I'd keep on riding but build up to it with some prep first, if a more experienced rider needs to school her for a few days to get the fizz out then that would be fine, perhaps also you could book an instructor to supervise DD's next ride as you don't want her losing confidence by getting chucked off too much, but equally this can be a great learning opportunity on what to do with a fresh horse!

Littlepuddytat · 21/12/2022 22:38

I think dd was maybe a little bit foolish to jump on after a month and try to canter. I would have stuck in walk and trot and if the pony was bucking, don't persevere with the canter/trot, take it down a level. Give the pony the best chance of success - if you're asking for canter after a month off but that's caused the pony to become over excited and thrown the rider - then save the canter for another day. Just work in walk and trot. It doesn't mean the pony has "won" or "got it's own way" as most horsey types I've ever known would say. It means your dd had learnt to listen to the pony she's got underneath her and is riding more sensitively.

Littlepuddytat · 21/12/2022 22:40

maxelly · 21/12/2022 22:18

It's absolutely fine to give ponies a month or so off at this time of year - mine's been off since late November and won't be back in until after Christmas now, dark, cold etc. make it challenging to ride, so plenty of people do 'rough' off over the winter esp if they have good turnout, I think it's actually good for them to get a break and some prolonged field time, and personally I'd rather do that in winter than in summer when there's more fun to be had.

So I think where you went 'wrong' (not badly, but a bit) was not in giving the pony the month off, it was expecting to be able to get back on and ride just like normal without proper prep. Some horses can be a bit wild this time of year anyway, wind and cold air can really affect certain types, and as this is your first winter with this pony you weren't to know whether she's one of the ones who are particularly bad with it, plus your DD probably wasn't on her absolute A game either not having ridden for a month. So with those factors I would probably have done a few things:

-Built up to riding with at least a few days of groundwork, in hand or on the lunge or long rein first, partially to check how her fitness was affected by the month off and also to assess freshness lunacy levels so as to gauge when best to get back on.

-Before 1st ride would probably have lunged for 5-10 mins first to let any 'hoolies' out and get rid of the worst of the freshness, as they can have a buck and a plunge on the lunge without hurting anyone. If the horse seemed just too fresh or spooky on the day I'd planned to ride (e.g. if it was a particularly windy day or something spooky was worrying them or the arena was very busy) discretion can be the better part of valour so leave it for another day if in doubt.

-Having decided to ride I would stick a neck strap on and be well prepared to grab it if needed. Keep it low key and short for a first session (10-15 mins fine), walk and maybe a bit of trot only, lots of changes of directions and circles and transitions as others have said, insisting on the horse paying attention and staying in front of the leg. Almost certainly no cantering until I'd been riding back at least a couple of days in a row and the horse feels settled and calm. If the horse is a known bucker/spooker I would be well prepared for it in my riding (concentrating at all times!) by keeping my weight and centre of gravity well back in the saddle, heels down (maybe shorten stirrups a few holes for better balance if lower leg unstable), firm short rein contact (not tight or pulling but a good hold of their mouth) and ensure the pony isn't allowed to tip onto the forehand or take her poll down behind the vertical as this is when they can get a really good unseating buck or spin in. And like I say being not ashamed to grab the neckstrap or a handful of mane in the event of an 'emergency' gives you a much better chance of staying on!

-I try and schedule a saddle fit check, physio/back lady visit and dentist asap after a break - they can change shape a lot after just a few weeks in the field and if the pony has suddenly started bucking that to me could indicate a saddle pinching somewhere or possibly a sore back.

So I'd keep on riding but build up to it with some prep first, if a more experienced rider needs to school her for a few days to get the fizz out then that would be fine, perhaps also you could book an instructor to supervise DD's next ride as you don't want her losing confidence by getting chucked off too much, but equally this can be a great learning opportunity on what to do with a fresh horse!

Basically all of this but put much better than i did!

MrPickles73 · 22/12/2022 14:39

Thankyou maxelly your post is helpful.
DD (12) went down there with her Dad so I wasn't there but she can see now that attempting all paces straight off was perhaps unwise.
I agree that I don't think time off for them is necessarily a bad thing and interestingly DS' pony has had the same amount of time off etc. and was absolutely fine and is only age 6 and has a reputation for being zippier than DD's pony.
We'll put a plan in place to get back on track in January with some lunging and borrowing a teenager etc,
Out of interest is walking the pony in hand any good in terms of getting it a bit defizzed? This is something I could do on my own mid week.

OP posts:
Renovated · 22/12/2022 14:52

Walking in hand is fine to get them moving about out of the stable to loosen their limbs , prevent boredom and also for handling but unless you intend to go absolutely miles it’s not really exercise suitable to tire them physically but may well put their heads in a better state of relaxation afterwards . Make sure you put on a bridle and wear hard hat and gloves the same as lunging as they may take advantage of you if they are fresh.

sanityisamyth · 22/12/2022 14:59

Fudgeball123 · 21/12/2022 07:52

During the winter once or twice a week is normal around here. Unless you have lighting children can't ride in the week so riding is limited to weekends until the clocks change.. currently dusk is at 4pm. Not sure a sharer would work unless you can find a home schooled child!

We figured a way to ride after school!



Bike lights on his hi-viz exercise sheet. No traffic on that part of the road, and he's the least spooky pony in the world!

sanityisamyth · 22/12/2022 15:01

Can't seem to attach the photo! Oh well - white bike light on his browband and the red attached to the tail flap of his hi viz sheet!

Littlepuddytat · 22/12/2022 15:47

MrPickles73 · 22/12/2022 14:39

Thankyou maxelly your post is helpful.
DD (12) went down there with her Dad so I wasn't there but she can see now that attempting all paces straight off was perhaps unwise.
I agree that I don't think time off for them is necessarily a bad thing and interestingly DS' pony has had the same amount of time off etc. and was absolutely fine and is only age 6 and has a reputation for being zippier than DD's pony.
We'll put a plan in place to get back on track in January with some lunging and borrowing a teenager etc,
Out of interest is walking the pony in hand any good in terms of getting it a bit defizzed? This is something I could do on my own mid week.

Walking in hand is great. It gives the pony some exercise and gives them something to think about, they get to go out and about having a look at stuff. It also improves their bond with you. Groundwork is a great idea.

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