Role Reversal

Henry has been ponying Presto (and Presto has been ponied) since not long after Presto first came to live with me just after his first birthday.

throwback to their first ponying session

By now, Henry has ponied Presto just about everywhere. On trail rides, out cross country schooling, on road hacks… pretty much anywhere we could pony, we did pony. I thought it was a good easy way to get Presto exposure to lots of things. Henry took to the job just fine, never seeming exactly thrilled about it (then again I’ve never seen him thrilled about anything aside from food and cross country), but he didn’t put up any actual protest either so he can’t have hated it that much.

Over the past year the ponying has pretty much tapered off, as Presto has branched out to being a riding horse himself, able to take on All The Things under saddle on his own. I think all his early ponying time served him well, as he was able to pretty much go right into trail riding and hacking out without any fanfare or overexcitement. He’d already been there and done that, to a degree.

This week the horses got their vaccinations, so they got a day off and then I was going to hack each of them. But it was hot, and I was short on time, and I thought… why not just pony one? Which very quickly morphed into “omg I should pony Henry off of Presto!”. Because why not? New challenges!

just as thrilled as they’ve always been

So I went and got both of them, tacked Presto up, stopped to laugh and take a picture, and then mounted up. I had set up my Pivo in the little courtyard area in front of the barn to get some video, figuring we’d start there to make sure they both understood their new roles. Honestly Presto seemed to get it immediately, understanding that he was the leader (he’s always thought he SHOULD be, anyway) and seemingly fine with having Henry tagging along beside him. My only real concern is that Henry would be a total jerk to him and Presto would be worried about him and not want to let him get too close. Shouldn’t have worried, even when Henry made a few rude faces Presto was 100% unperturbed. He was enjoying his power trip too much.

Henry’s like “what the actual F though…”

We made a couple laps of the courtyard and that was no problem. I mean… poor Henry’s legs are like 6″ shorter than Presto’s, so even with Presto walking slowly Henry had to walk faster than he’d typically prefer. He ended up lagging behind a bit.

Once I felt pretty confident that they both understood what we were doing, we headed out into the fields. We covered pretty much the entire property, just at a nice walk (for Presto it was a leisurely walk, for Henry it was a marching walk). At one point Presto hopped over the little natural ditch and trotted away a few steps, and Henry followed suit perfectly. I honestly think I expected him to be a bit more curmudgeonly about the whole thing. I mean… his face was VERY unamused (“who the hell decided that little anklebiter should be in charge? this is bullshit…”) but it never went beyond the grumpy face. And Presto seemed absolutely delighted by his role, never once did he even try to reach over and bite Henry or grab the lead rope or pull any of the theatrics that he loves so much when he’s the one being ponied. Who knew he just needed a leadership role to excel?

That was a fun and successful experiment! Good to know that if I want to just hack them both or take both of them for a long walk, I have the option of taking both at once and using either horse in the pony role. Plus Presto gets to officially add “lead pony” to his resume. Not bad, kid… not bad.

4 thoughts on “Role Reversal

  1. The ability to pony and be ponied is in my book as an essential life skill. I only ponied my horse a few times before I rode her, but it still taught her the necessary skills, and has come in handy: once when we parted ways and I had to be driven back to “camp”, and the easiest way to get her back was to have the safety rider pony her the mile and a half back.

    On the flip side, she often ponies my friend’s horse out on the trail because my friend hikes along and takes photos of Every Single Wildflower (despite me pointing out that she has about a million pictures of harebells already…)


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