Horse Guides – Ask the Expert
my 10 year old daughters pony keeps taking off with her when she rides through open fields. He is quite strong but has always been ridden in...
my 10 year old daughters pony keeps taking off with her when she rides through open fields. He is quite strong but has always been ridden in a snaffle and is 100% in every other way. Any tips as she loves him but this is really knocking her confidence.
A. This can be frightening for any body, let alone a young child. You have not said whether this behaviour is new or whether the pony has always behaved in this way, or whether he does this when alone or in company. You should always start with checking that the pony is not in any kind of pain, but if this only happens when he is in an open field it sounds more likely that it is an established behavioural pattern. Children and ponies love to gallop through fields and it sounds as if your pony thinks this is what fields are for.
To change this behaviour it is necessary to make him understand that fields are not just for galloping in. A useful start would be for your daughter to ride out with a responsible person and ensure that they only walk through fields until both pony and child are more relaxed about everything. Maybe even taking the pony ride and lead would help to relax them both. If your daughter is starting to get worried about riding through fields this will transmit to the pony who will also start to become tense. Make sure she tries her best to stay relaxed and her hands do not become tight and strong, giving the pony something to lean against.
Spending time walking next to the hedge line will help to keep things calm and if she starts to feel the pony is becoming excited then she can use the hedge/fence as a means of ensuring the pony does not take off. Not riding out in a group will also help. A group of children and ponies together is a race waiting to happen.
I would suggest that she does not consider going any faster than walk in a field until both of them are relaxed about this. Unfortunately they might not enjoy this, but until basic control and obedience are re-introduced things will not get better.
It is always better to stop the behaviour starting rather than trying to stop the pony once it has taken off. If she does lose control, however, trying to turn the pony in a large circle will help to bring it back under control. Pulling on both reins will only encourage the pony to pull more and go faster. The rider should also try to remain sitting up and not losing their balance over the pony’s withers. Using one rein to circle and staying on the circle until it slows down is a tried and tested technique for slowing down a speeding horse/pony. The circle must not be too small – there is the possibility that both pony and child could slip over if it is.
It is also necessary to check that you are not over feeding the pony. You do not mention what his feeding regime is but I suggest you review this and, if necessary, seek expert advice.
The last thing to consider is the choice of bit. If you can achieve the confidence and re-education with you current snaffle bit, then that is ideal.
The world, however, is not ideal and if a stronger bit will help your daughter’s confidence and start to break the undesired behavioural pattern then changing for a short while may help. You do not state what the pony does with his head when he takes off and the type of bit you choose is closely related to this. If you use a stronger bit, do consider this as a temporary measure to help break the behavioural cycle and work to return to your snaffle as soon as possible.
Director of Standards, Margaret Linington-Payne BHS
All answers and advices given in this section should only be taken as mere indications. To get a diagnosis always consult a professional on the specific area. Any health related issue should be treated by a veterinarian. Check out our Directory to find out one near you.
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