Ponying Your Horse
- July 2, 2017
- Jolyn Young
Ponying your horse or leading a horse from the back of another horse is a useful skill for both horses and the rider. Your ability to lead a horse while riding one, as well as the horse’s ability to be led from a rider, can come in handy in unexpected ways. If another horse gets loose or a riding buddy is injured, it can be helpful to lead the horse back to the trailer or barn.
Here at the O RO Ranch in northern Arizona, my husband Jim recently led three horses back to our house from a set of corrals a few miles away. Since the ranch is rough and rocky and horse trailers aren’t commonly used, the cowboys sometimes lead a string of horses from camp to camp.
First, Jim caught and haltered the three geldings in the pole corral at a place called West Split. All three were geldings. Leading multiple horses at once might be a bit trickier if you’re leading geldings and mares at the same time, as mixed equine company sometimes has trouble getting along in close quarters. In that regard, they’re similar to mixed human company, really.
Jim tied each lead rope around the neck of another horse with a bowline knot, so that all three horses were connected. Some traditionalists tie the lead rope to the tail of the horse in front, but this could potentially pop a horse’s tail off if the horse behind it sets back. A bowline tied loosely around the neck is usually safer and more secure.
Then, Jim picked up the lead rope of the black colt (the lead horse in his string of three) and mounted his gray gelding “Sarge.” When ponying horses, you want to lead them with your right hand, so you can ride your horse with your left hand.
Here they come out of the corral in an orderly fashion. Full disclosure: the black colt set back on the lead rope a few times while he learned to be led from a mounted rider. Each time he pulled on the lead rope, Jim stopped Sarge and waited for the black colt to give to the halter’s pressure, then resumed walking.
Within a short distance of the corral, the horses had the system figured out and willingly followed the leader. Here they are, just walking along the dirt road to the Triangle N like the good ranch horses that they are.
The rest of the trip home was uneventful, which is always a good thing when working with livestock. If you’d like to practice ponying your horses at home, here are a few things to keep in mind:
1)When you step on your horse, hold your ponied horse(s) on the off side. Or, if you swing up then untie the other horse to lead off, ride up so the tied horse is on your off side. This makes it easier to hold the lead rope with your right hand, and then the ponied animals are on the correct side.
2)If your horse isn’t sure about being led from another horse, take a few minutes before starting your journey to pet him on the face and get him comfortable seeing you from the back of another horse. Five minutes of preparation can make a big difference in how the rest of the day goes.
3)If the horse you are leading pulls back, dally with extreme care. In fact, only dally if you are very experienced with dallying, because if you accidentally get a finger between the lead rope and the saddle horn before a 1,000+ pound animal sets back on it, you will lose a finger. It’s safer to stop your horse, hold steady on the lead rope until the ponied horse stops pulling back, then start again. If the ponied horse pulls the lead rope out of your hand, you can always catch him again, regroup, then try again. Plus, you’ll still have all your fingers.
About Jolyn Young
Jolyn Young lives on the O RO Ranch in northern Arizona with husband and their two small kids. To learn more, visit www.jolynyoung.com....