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Your First Pony - How to Woah & How to Go

This article is from the November 2020 Horse Deals magazine.

Going from halt to walk.

Going from the halt to walk is the first of many ‘transitions’. Regardless of the transition, it is very important to be relaxed when sitting in the saddle, with your weight evenly balanced on either side of your pony’s back. It is also important that you have a nice even contact with your reins. Your reins must not be too tight or too loose, and must be of equal length.

You influence your pony’s movement through the use of your weight, voice, legs and hands; all of these elements are often referred to as the “natural aids”.

Encouraging your pony to walk on, with the use of your “leg aids”, is the first signal for him to move forward. Begin by applying pressure with both your lower legs placed evenly just behind his girth area. This action of squeeze squeeze, should give your pony the initial signal to move forward. At the same time give slightly with your hands, thus taking the pressure off your pony’s mouth. Think of it as being a bit like taking the brake off.

Sitting balanced in the saddle

Sitting balanced in the saddle

Squeezing with both legs

Squeezing with both legs

Taking the leg off when the pony walks on

Taking the leg off when the pony walks on

Tip: Try and keep your inner thighs relaxed as well, because if they are tight this can also be restrictive to your pony’s movement.

Some ponies need a bit more leg aid pressure than others, but always start off softly with a squeeze. If he does not respond, it is only then that you can give him a sharp kick with your heels. Try not to leave your lower legs clamped against your pony’s sides, as it’s more of a pressure on and pressure off feel. Once he begins to move forward, take the pressure off and tell him that he is a good boy.

Walk to Halt (Stop)

It is always a good idea to “test your pony’s brakes” when you first get on board. If you have trouble stopping your pony, it can be quite frightening, especially when you are learning to ride, as you never like to feel out of control.

We begin by shortening our reins and then evenly drawing your hands back towards your hip area, whilst tightening your thighs and bracing our back at the same time. The opposite from trying to get your pony to move forward. Once he stops, take the pressure off his mouth and relax your body. If he does not respond to you asking nicely, try using more pressure with your reins, and if that does not work try turning him in a tight circle, using your left or right rein, until he comes to a complete halt. Make sure you have a good grip on the inside rein, whilst bringing his nose to your knee; some people call this a one rein stop.

You must always be consistent with your use of your aids, otherwise your pony will never get to understand what you are asking of him. Be patient as your pony is trying to understand you also. Many riders are quick to blame their pony instead of having a good look at themselves first.

To woah, draw the hands back to the hip <br>
and brace through the back

To woah, draw the hands back to the hip
and brace through the back

If the pony doesn’t stop after using the body and reins, bend them in a small circle

If the pony doesn’t stop after using the body and reins, bend them in a small circle

Tip: Try not to let him pull the reins out of your hands. I have seen many riders holding on to their reins with the end of their fingers which is not correct. Your hands must be closed around the reins with your thumbs on top (a bit like the roof on a house).

Finally, if you are experiencing difficulties, please go and have some professional instruction. It can become very frustrating very quickly trying to work things out on your own. Proper schooling will get the best out of both you and your pony, and before long your pony will learn to go forward by the use of your leg aid and be guided by your hands.

Until next month, happy horsing around!

with Catherine Shelley. NCAS EA SSTA/ CE Level 2 General Coach, NCAS Level 1 RDA Coach, Dip. of TB racing - Melton Equestrian accredited with EA Ready, Set, Trot program.

with Catherine Shelley. NCAS EA SSTA/ CE Level 2 General Coach, NCAS Level 1 RDA Coach, Dip. of TB racing - Melton Equestrian accredited with EA Ready, Set, Trot program.

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