Pony Sunday: How to Exercise Three Mules at Once
Recently, my wife Julia and I exercised our small herd of three mules and one pony all at once. I thought you might enjoy a few photos of how we did it.
Usually, when you think of saddle riding, you think of a person sitting in the saddle riding a horse or mule up the road. Or trail. Or arena. But there are times when it’s handy to ride one animal and lead another one – or many more. That’s called “ponying” – riding one horse and leading the other. In this post, I want to give you an idea of how to do this.
Why to Pony
There are lots of reasons you might want to ride a horse or mule and lead another. You might be on a long saddle voyage, like the time Julia and I rode from our farm in western North Carolina to Virginia and back.
But ponying a horse or mule isn’t just for pack trips. You might be exercising polo ponies. Or rehabing a horse that’s been injured and needs light work without a lot of weight on its back. Maybe you’re leading a young child that’s young enough to ride by not steer. Or you might be legging up a race horse.
Or it might just be a beautiful, lazy Sunday, like today, where Julia and I wanted to go for a short ride around our hay field. We could have each ridden one animal and left the rest at home. Or we could just take them all out, as we usually do. So we just saddled two (Julia rode Pie, I rode Cracker), put halters on mules Brick and Cracker and headed out.
Together or side by side?
If you’re leading two animals, you can lead them both on the same side. This is the prefered way to do it when road riding, especially if the road shoulder is narrow. That way you can lead both animals you’re leading on the side away from traffic.
Or, you can lead them on either side of your mount. For general, around the farm use, I prefer this method. It seems like the animals you’re leading have a slightly easier time walking either side of your mount.
What to do With all That Rope
Riding one animal and leading two can quickly lead to tangles. In addition to holding your reins, you’ll have to deal with one or more lead ropes. There all kinds of ways to do this. I prefer to drape the lead rope of whatever animals I’m leading over the horn and tuck the loose end under my leg. This frees up my hands for steering, photographing and reading maps (when I’m on the road).
End of the Ride
Okay, a few more pics from the end of our ride. After we got home we pulled our mounts’ gear and turned them out to graze.
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