Ponies, and more recently, horses, have worked with men and women for at least 5,000 years. There isn’t much they haven’t done.
Most modern horsemanship concentrates on the upper class twit side of horsemanship, Polo at Smith’s lawn, wearing hats and occasionally watching horses being beaten round Ascot, Dressage on the lawn of your stately home, eventing at Burghley, hunting in the Shires and Carriage Driving round the Lowther Estate. Dress for any one of these and you won’t be far out of place.
With Obama and Henry I have collected recycling and delivered vegetables, provided a mobile, pony drawn library service, shifted logs, or to be more honest, stood to one side and encouraged Obama or Henry to shift logs, haul generators, hoe row crops, mow thistles, collect muck, spread fertiliser or collect anything that modern horsemen would use a quad bike and trailer for. Why do you think they called it horsepower in the first place?
Pony Access opens all these activities open to anyone. You don’t need a fancy wardrobe. This is all about work. Working clothes are this years fashion, and next years, and always. You don’t need skill to start, though you will pick it up as you go along, and you certainly don’t need courage.
Grocer’s boys weren’t selected for courage, they weren’t picked from a “horsey” background, didn’t have to win their spurs, just delivering the veg was all that was asked. White van man drove a pony. Courage has nothing to do with working horsemanship. It was considered vital in a cavalry officer. The men were just expected to follow blindly. Working with ponies is all about building a relationship. You don’t, or shouldn’t, bully, kick or whip your fellow workers. But if you do, courage really matters. The idea that bullies are cowards is flawed.
Watch a “good” rider dominate a horse, controlling its mouth with a lump of metal, hitting it with a whip and spiking it in the ribs with spurs. The rider has to be brave, because at the first sign of fear the horse will try to retaliate or escape. Gang leaders aren’t scared, or if they are they don’t show it. Domination needs courage. Building a working relationship needs sympathy, friendship, kindness.
But ponies like people. A treat, which may just be scratching the pony somewhere it can’t reach, works wonders. Ponies naturally follow a leader. A leader isn’t someone who hits them, or kicks them or bangs them in the mouth, a leader walks in front. That is leadership. If the pony is nervous, and you walk in front, the pony reckons that the lion, if there is a lion, will get you, not him.
Army officers know that leadership is from in front. You shout, “Come on!” to your men as you climb out of the nice safe trench, not “Go on!” as you sit back and let your men face the machine guns without you. With a pony, leadership is much safer, but you just need to be in front. You won’t have to face the machine guns. The pony may be worried about lions, but I assure you that working with ponies in England and Wales, lions are not a major risk. Pythons, on the other hand, are.
Pony Access is open ended. You start just talking to the pony, that is how you build a relationship. Where you finish is up to you. Because Pony Access is built around safety, you can do any the activities shown, if you want to learn, and what you have to learn is how to do them safely. And because they can be done safely, they are open to anyone.
Even this Working a pony between two lines of traffic on Topsham Road, Exeter, is OK, if nerve wracking because the red rope I am clutching disconnects the iBod, the hearse version of the iBex. Any problems, I only have a pony to deal with, not a pony attached to a hearse.
If you, or a group that you are involved with, want to work with ponies, doing anything at all,
Contact. Simon Mulholland on +44 7510 736518 or firstname.lastname@example.org
I deliberately haven’t mentioned the mobility access which is the point of Pony Access, but if you want to get involved in that side, it is easy to learn because it is safe. In 2012 Access is determined by Safety. This photo shows two novices learning about Pony Access.