I’d like to share that these are findings I’ve gathered from experiences with my own pony, and they may not work on or apply to others. I hope this information is helpful, but know I am not an expert, and I am just contributing my experiential knowledge to the giant horse library that is the internet [[[besides the part that is just “My Little Pony” fan art; I am in no way in cahoots with all that.]]]
Back the the point!
There is something I discovered about riding Comfort that I could barely find ANY information about on the web: How to ride/stay on narrow, medium sized ponies. Firstly, most information on the internet about ponies is from the UK. Secondly, since most people writing articles and posting on forums are adults, these UK adult riders typically ride large ponies. I have a medium sized pony and I swear she has bird bones and the fitness and flexibility of an olympic gymnast. If she becomes fearful and jumps sideways, good luck! If she wants to drop a shoulder or turn on a dime, have fun staying on! All of this is to say – there’s almost no advice out there about how to stick with a pony like Comfort.
Comfort is a POA, and most POA’s have a little bulk to them. Comfort, on the other hand, looks like someone took a shrink ray to an actual thoroughbred and just hit the miniaturize button and then sprinkled on spots.
Grand champion POA stallion KS’s Pony Farm: And then there’s Comfort:
So Comfort obviously doesn’t look precisely like a typical POA, but hey, she’s cute and is bonafide! But in her all-around “mediumness” Comfort poses a lot of challenges to an adult rider.
Comfort is a narrow pony, in the sense that when you sit on her, the V created by your legs is not quite as broad and stable as it would be on an equine with a bigger rib cage. Riding her bareback is CRAAAAZY feeling. It’s not that the pony is too small for me to ride, it’s just that her build is atypical from the average lesson horse. You will not feel a big bulging rib cage and belly supporting your legs. This is a major benefit of big horses and rotund ponies (bless their hearts :). When I mount a horse and I feel my legs stretch around either side of the horse’s body, the last thing I think about is falling off. I’m extra-super secure feeling. With a pony like Comfort, you immediately notice that big blob of support is missing. It’s up to you to stay balanced, and everything you do is going to require a tad more work on your part. One particularly awesome rider on an airplane once sympathized with me saying riding Comfort sounds like you are “riding an envelope.” I completely agreed!
Comfort can move fast, and you can get unseated pretty quickly. Your weight has a huge influence over a pony her size. Sitting up tall and sticking with her is crucial. BELIEVING you can stick with her is the absolute most important thing you can do. You have to trust the connection. Mentally relax and feel yourself completely give over your weight to the pony. Be in the saddle, not on the saddle. Don’t be an half empty sack of rice, but make sure you are actually sinking your weight into the saddle. I think I got that concept from Mary Wanless, but don’t quote me. I think it was she that said your center can’t be floppy. I love Mary Wanless, check out these awesome before and after photos from people who have worked with her! Wow!
Anyway . . . Next topic:
NEVER LET GO!
At some point when you get on, your seat has to say to the pony- Hey, I trust you and I am not going anywhere. Here I am, don’t expect any changes, know you can always feel me here.
I think so much of good riding comes down to attitude. At first I didn’t realize it, but for a while I was distrustingly tensing my muscles ever so slightly when I rode Comfort. I didn’t know it about myself until I was on Comfort when she was totally relaxed and on a trail ride. As she remained loose and her body shifted over obstacles, hills, and dips in the trail, I realized I wasn’t letting her carry me; I was still carrying me. I think (and I could totally be wrong!!) that’s what people mean when they say to “be deep in the saddle” or “let your weight sink into the saddle.” My decision to stop carrying myself was 10% feel/muscle and 90% awareness/trust. I think many issues with riding come down to your mindset and trust. Ever since I felt that sensation, I’ve been able to recreate it in our rides, but it’s very easy when your pony is in a flat arena for this to go unnoticed. I really think trail riding is a great tool for bringing your attention to things you might not notice in the arena.
So I hope that’s all helpful and useful or at least interesting. I would love to hear stories from other riders who have ridden medium sized ponies like Comfort. Do please feel free to ask me questions or comment and share any more ideas/experiences if you feel compelled. Thanks for reading!