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Controlling A Pony


As always, I do not suggest that this information is the 'correct' way or the only way to control a pony, just an illustration of how it can be done. If anyone has other methods, I'll be happy to hear about it (and try it!)

One of the main attractions of Ponyplay is controlling a pony or being controlled as one. This is most obviously done with reins and a bit, either driving a cart, riding, or a lead-rein in the dressage ring, and usually takes care of direction. Drivers take note - it is not usually necessary to yank hard on the reins - a gentle pull is normally sufficient to indicate your intentions. However, that's not much good without movement, and this is where things get interesting. While verbal commands work and are often used, being able to cover a circuit without is very satisfying, particularly with the pony blindfolded!

Basic movement

The first requirement is to start moving forward, and the most common command is 'walk on'. This is sometimes accompanied by a flick of both reins or a tap on the buttocks with the crop. Then there are the drivers that simply use reins or crop with no verbal input, and I have one driver that will expect me to lead with the foot associated with the buttock that She taps (only once have I been 'hit' with the crop to get going - fun at the time and acceptable from an inexperienced driver at a demo and not to be recommended).

Next is the ability to stop. 'Whoa' is commonly used (not sure of the spelling, but sounds like 'woe'. :-) This can be accompanied with a pull with both reins, and some do this without the verbal command.

Sometimes a pony may need to move in reverse, and is normally done from standstill. Usually a pull on both reins, similar to stop, indicates to the pony to move backwards. Once moving, the normal left-right pull on the reins take over, However, similar principles as reversing a car come into play. For instance, if the driver wants to reverse in a clockwise direction, the left rein should be pulled to effectively turn the pony to turn to the left - to walk back from the direction that they are facing, Reversing can be fun and a tad confusing (did I mention Lady drivers?).

Finally in the basic section, 'Yah!', a shake of the reins, a harder tap with the crop, or a combination of some or all, means 'move faster'.


As some of you may know (and if you do, you're probably more knowledgeable than me) an event in the 'real' world that shows off ultimate control of a horse is dressage. We have an adaptation of it at De Ferre, with input from a genuine qualified Equestrian scholar and eventist, no less! The activity takes place in the 'dressage ring' (now there's a surprise). Various points are marked on the fence encircling it, and competitors must drive their steed between these points following a set of instructions set by the judges. Her are the commands that the driver may use (non-verbal) - possibly not the most exciting reading, but good fun when put into practice. The pony is usually held on a lead-rein, about 8 feet or so from the driver, and a longer whip is used instead of the crop. As always, having the pony blindfolded adds to the fun (in this situation, of course, no help can be given to the driver by the pony, so failure MUST be their fault - must'nt it?) :-)

One tap on the buttock means 'walk-on', two means 'trot-on', and three means canter (a kind of skip, used as kids to pretend they're riding a horse - in an anti-clockwise direction, the left leg goes forward and pushes upwards, the right leg comes to meet it and hits the ground behind it, while the left leg starts to move forward, etc.) To stop, the whip is held in front of the pony's waist. Turning is controlled by the lead-rein.

To move a pony left or right, a 'half-pass' is used. A tap on the left calf means pass that foot in front of the right foot, and visa-versa. If stationary, the pony moves sideways, if moving forward the pony moves in a diagonal direction.

Also included in this discipline is the 'show-jump', where the pony is guided to jump a pole. Blowing my own trumpet here, I was recently made to jump the pole blindfolded, with a command 'jump' at the appropriate moment, and made it first time! Confidence in ones driver, or what!? :-)


As mentioned before, not an exhaustive list, but 'a good starter for ten'. At Petweek a couple of year ago, my driver (happily also my wife this time) introduced two taps on the calf to indicate stop when reversing towards a log in an obstacle course (I was blindfolded - again). We won by 20 seconds, so She must have had some idea of what she was doing! Therefore the bottom line is - if there are specific commands required for the event, use them, otherwise, use what works for the pony/driver team!

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