A SPECIAL POST BY ADIVA MURPHY
Question: I am having a problem with my daughter and her pony. She is only 5 years old and she has a pretty great little pony that she rides and takes lessons on. The problem we have is that the pony (Bambi) has learned that if she pulls on the reins she can rip them out of my daughter’s hands. I got on her and she tried a couple times for me but quickly realized that she couldn’t pull the same thing with me and quit trying. As soon as my daughter got back on her it was the same problem. I told her to be ready for it and hold the reins for dear life but of course she just isn’t strong enough. Can you offer any ideas on what we can try? I am just not too sure where to go next.
Answer: Two suggestions –
ONE; teach the one rein stop as soon as the pony lurches the reins – bend its head – bending is more annoying to the pony = will stop doing it. Also a 5 yr old cannot win the tug o war. So that would help cure the issue – because the pony will respect the little rider…you cannot fix the issue – same as I can make a horse understand new things and train it very well but it will only be as good as its rider…and the respect it has for that rider.
The other reason a horse pulls at the reins is because the rider is using the reins for balance – and there is inconsistent tension – the timing of the release is not there when the horse needs it. So horses with green riders frequently develop this habit. I would recommend working your daughters pony online so that it is very safe and respectful on the lunge at all gaits – then lunge your daughter riding the pony at the walk/trot and canter with no reins so that she can develop an independent seat. Until she can balance without touching the reins – the pony will always feel the need to protect itself by pulling the reins out of the rider’s hands. Rather than curing a problem – prevent the problem.
My other suggestion is – if nothing else is working – although it SHOULD – to put some side reins on the pony. Once and awhile and let it pull on the reins while your daughter rides – she can let go when the pony pulls but it will pull against itself – since the sides reins would be attached to the saddle. Only do this under extreme supervision – I would only try it on the lunge line so that you have full control of the horse.
BUT first make sure the horse is used to the feel of them and that they are on loosely – the reins are not to hold the head in but prevent it from going out to far. There is a difference. The contact should be from the reins your daughter has in her hands – if the pony pulls then the side reins would become taught.
I do not encourage using quick fixes to train a horse – so please do your best to teach your daughter how to ride lighter with her hands and to bend the pony when it takes the reins, look at it from the pony’s eyes – its
mouth hurts – does not feel like any relief is coming so he takes it.
Having a youngster myself I understand you want to keep the child safe – so if you need to attach the side reins to help the child win with the pony – do so.
I hope this helps – Keep it natural – think of it from the horse’s perspective!