Getting a Semi-Feral Pony

Joined
3 June 2013
Messages
18
I'm thinking about rescuing a pony through a charity as I would love to give a pony in need a home.

I have been offered one that has come off of the Welsh commons and it is still semi-feral. The end goal for her would to be become my daughter's pony (she's currently 5).

Can anyone give some tips in domesticating, handling and breaking a pony (12hh) to become a small child's pony or is this a completely stupid idea?

I am willing to be patient, not expecting anything drastic within days of collecting it, but obviously I don't want to waste my time and let my daughter get attached to something if it isn't going to work out in the long run.

Thanks
 

Red-1

Well-Known Member
Joined
7 February 2013
Messages
9,973
Location
Yorkshire
We got our companion Shetland straight off Shetland, aged 18 months. He burst into our lives, stressed and just halter broke, in high excitement after his trailer ride.

My advice would be..

1. Don't let the farrier at him until you can handle the feet well. The farrier is results focused (as in the get the feet trimmed) rather than focusing on having the pony happy to have the feet handled. This is easier for them to do in a tiny pony, but not best for the pony.

2. Be experienced! The poor pony has had a complete life change and sometimes even experienced people end up sat in the dirt after being knocked off balance. LOL.

3. Be patient. There is a lot for the little one to learn. Ours was scared of shovels, poop scoop, brushes...

4. Be determined, feral ponies are very determined little tanks.

5. Don't feed them. They live on a small amount of grass, dry hay and fresh air.

6. Enjoy. When he came round, our Shetland was a sweetheart. I taught him to lunge/long rein and he was backed at 3. Not to do any real work, he was a companion mainly, but it was nice if kids came to visit to have one to pop them on, so he had a saddle and bridle and was safe enough to let kids play. I also hopped on his back daily to ride in from the field (a couple of hundred yards) with just a halter.

Ours went off to a family as a kid's pony they loved him dearly. He even went to their school summer fair as a pony ride horse and took it all in his stride.
 
Last edited:

Patterdale

Well-Known Member
Joined
28 December 2009
Messages
5,886
Location
Wherever I lay my hat.
The quicker you do it the better it goes. The worst thing you can do is faff on inching nearer and nearer each day and taking weeks to get a headcollar on. You teach them to be wary of you.

You need them to arrive with a headcollar on with about 2-3’ of rope attached. If not then do this while they’re in the trailer. Then they need to go in a stable and be handled kindly multiple times a day. Just hold the rope and give them a bit of feed, and stroke them on the neck and head. Don’t take your hand away if they move.

Should be leading and catching easily within a week or two at most with this approach. Much kinder and quicker to just get on with it.
 

be positive

Well-Known Member
Joined
9 July 2011
Messages
19,205
I would say proceed with extreme caution, it is a lovely idea but if it is older, ie not a yearling possibly 2 year old, then it may be very hard to get away from the feral roots and become a safe reliable pony for a young child, if it was an extra or spare that you are not pinning your hopes on then I would say go for it but if it is to be her riding pony in the next year or so I would be concerned it will be a project too far and she may be disappointed with how much she can do with it.
Rehoming is a lovely idea but as an experienced instructor I would avoid for a young child, find a small safe pony for her to love that already knows it's job and look at rescues once she is older and more capable of being involved.
 

Gloi

Well-Known Member
Joined
8 May 2012
Messages
5,094
I'd also recommend the book Bo Fear No Force linked above.
I've had quite a few feral ponies in my time and it is very rewarding.
As Patterdale says get a headcollar on in the trailer with a length of rope attached and unload into a stable (work out how you are going to do this beforehand)
Good luck, they usually come round quite quickly especially if young.

You don't know though if it will end up right for your daughter. That doesn't mean it is a waste of time though, it is such a rewarding thing to do.
 

J&S

Well-Known Member
Joined
17 June 2012
Messages
973
Do you have other sensible equines at home for the new pony to learn from/be friends with? I am going to be really blunt here......... if you have to ask on a forum if it would be a good idea or ask for tips on something like this, perhaps you should not be attempting it. Especially as you will have a child involved. The people who have offered you advice on this forum are experienced and, although there is always a first time for everything, I would say they all had a fair idea of what they were doing and exactly what they wanted/need to achieve. The pony may be small but will be strong and quick, can you be quicker mentally to predict problems and set him up to succeed?
 

TPO

Well-Known Member
Joined
20 November 2008
Messages
4,204
Location
Kinross
In the nicest possible way if you have to ask how to do it then you aren't ready to take one on.

Yes everyone has to ask questions but if you dont have a solid base knowledge to have a plan yourself then perhaps now isnt the right time.

It can be tricky producing any horse never mind one that is feral/unhandled.

The people who successfully take in unhandled horses dont have to ask for advice.

It's nice that you want to give a horse a chance and it's so good that you are asking BEFORE taking one on (lots of recent threads of people who've taken in unhandled horses with no clue and are in trouble). If the charity is close could you visit and see how they handle and train the horses then maybe consider one further down the line?

Especially as the pony is destined for your daughter I'd stick with something easy to handle as it is
 

paddy555

Well-Known Member
Joined
23 December 2010
Messages
5,461
The quicker you do it the better it goes. The worst thing you can do is faff on inching nearer and nearer each day and taking weeks to get a headcollar on. You teach them to be wary of you.

You need them to arrive with a headcollar on with about 2-3’ of rope attached. If not then do this while they’re in the trailer. Then they need to go in a stable and be handled kindly multiple times a day. Just hold the rope and give them a bit of feed, and stroke them on the neck and head. Don’t take your hand away if they move.

Should be leading and catching easily within a week or two at most with this approach. Much kinder and quicker to just get on with it.

I have tamed, halter broken and done basic training with several semi ferals off Dartmoor. They make lovely kids riding ponies. I don't expect Welsh ones are much different. It is not difficult to get them away from their feral roots in fact a couple of weeks of intensive work and you are well away with them.

There are ones that are kids first ponies and some are 2nd ponies as is the case with all ponies.

The main thing to remember is that semi feral ponies are not unhandled horses. The same techniques don't work. I had handled and broken my own horses but had to learn the semi feral pony training technique.

The first para of the above post is the most important. Faffing doesn't work. What works is put the pony straight into a stable and keep it there. Get it eating out of a bucket.

If it arrives with a headcollar on then great if not sit with the bucket between your knees, the headcollar opened out over the bucket, pony eats out of bucket, you pull headcollar over his head and do it up. (obviously a little more carefully than that but it is the general technique)

Sarah Weston's book no force no fear is probably the best one about these semi ferals. Why not get a copy first and see what you think?

Go into the stable many times during the day, wander around the pony, as it gets used to you (couple of days) get a garden cane and tie a stuffed glove stuffed with straw onto the end. Use that as an extension of your arm to stroke the pony, gradually go all around and over the pony with it, under the belly, down the legs etc. Gradually shorten the cane length until you can use your hand and extended arm, then move closer still.

As above in a couple of weeks you should be able to lead around the stable, catch and halter, pick up the feet, throw blankets over it, groom and move onto leading around the yard etc.

If you don't feel up to this it is well worth
getting someone in who can. It takes very little time. A couple of hours to get a bucket trained pony into a headcollar for the first time and leading. (for a trainer) Money well spent to get over the first hurdle.

Once you have got to this stage then it is just breaking a pony to ride as normal when it is old enough (usually3)
I took my most nervous one (who was a rescue and had been badly handled) and started teaching him to long rein at lunchtime, long reined him a mile down the road to some friends, had dinner there and drove him back in the dark with someone in a car protecting us. In half a day he had gone from never seeing long reins and a roller to being able to be long reined out safely. I find they progress quickly. They are not tricky.

I can't speak for Welsh ones but the ones here have been lovely ponies. Here the semi ferals see traffic on the common every day so traffic training is well progressed by the time they come. They have also seen most other things as people ride, walk, dog walk and everything else around them on the common. No idea about Wales.
 

Not_so_brave_anymore

Well-Known Member
Joined
14 January 2020
Messages
145
It will work out MUCH cheaper to just get your daughter a semi decent, proven pony when she's ready for it. I think that if you needed a companion pony, and anything more was a bonus, then you'd have less to lose, but for a main riding pony I definitely wouldn't.
 

J&S

Well-Known Member
Joined
17 June 2012
Messages
973
My friend bought a colt foal straight off the New Forest and we did exactly as has been described here. He went into a loose box and (with a little difficulty) he had a head collar put on. He was fed and watered and visited and about 2 weeks later he went out with the other ponies. He wasn't easy to catch for a while but as we came and went and caught the others he just tagged along. She had him broken in and kept him all his life till he was very late 20's and he was a super useful little chap. My friend was not particularly experienced but she had a very good support team behind her. So difference here is there were people right there on hand.
 

scruffyponies

Well-Known Member
Joined
1 March 2011
Messages
640
Location
NW Hampshire
Just how feral are we talking about OP? There is a world of difference between an unhandled, shy but inquisitive colt, just off the moor or forest and one which has had a traumatic experience, is terrified determined not to let you near.
 

Gloi

Well-Known Member
Joined
8 May 2012
Messages
5,094
If it arrives with a headcollar on then great if not sit with the bucket between your knees, the headcollar opened out over the bucket, pony eats out of bucket, you pull headcollar over his head and do it up. (obviously a little more carefully than that but it is the general technique)
.
This technique may well not work on a feral pony. they may be frightened of a bucket and have no idea what feed is. Sometimes they take several days or more to eat anything but hay/grass.
 

Tiddlypom

Well-Known Member
Joined
17 July 2013
Messages
12,032
Location
In between the Midlands and the North
How experienced are you would probably be the initial question?
This.

And my suspicions are that if you need to ask advice from strangers on an Internet forum, the answer is ‘Not experienced enough’. None of us on here can teach confidence and timing, both of which are essential, and they only come with the right sort of approach and experience.
 

paddy555

Well-Known Member
Joined
23 December 2010
Messages
5,461
This technique may well not work on a feral pony. they may be frightened of a bucket and have no idea what feed is. Sometimes they take several days or more to eat anything but hay/grass.
I did say in my post to get it eating out of a bucket. I wouldn't use that technique until it was doing so. I thought people would realise you had to do the eating out of a bucket bit first. :)
 

Patterdale

Well-Known Member
Joined
28 December 2009
Messages
5,886
Location
Wherever I lay my hat.
I usually trap them behind a gate to get the headcollar on. So between wide open gate and wall in a shed, head pointing at the hinge. Squashed pony, can’t move, headcollar with rope on, let go. Done.
It’s much kinder than creeping round them for days on end making woooah there noises whilst they get progressively more wary.

Most professionals who do this kind of thing will have a way of restraining ponies to get them haltered, whether it’s behind a gate, a proper crush, in a trailer partition etc etc. Unless they are already tame enough to come and eat out of a bucket you’re holding, as Paddy555 says, but tbh I’ve never done that as first job is always haltering with rope attached.
 

DabDab

Well-Known Member
Joined
6 May 2013
Messages
9,409
You can get an unhandled/feral accepting having a headcollar on and off in 1-2 days without pinning them. And I really wouldn't recommend someone new to it to use a pinning technique because there is a pretty fine line between doing it successfully and getting into a pickle with horse and handler getting stressed out by it all.
 

J&S

Well-Known Member
Joined
17 June 2012
Messages
973
The trapping behind a gate brings back memories! I lived in Wales for while and used to help my local farmer with the quite wild ponies. This procedure was a regular necessity!
 

TPO

Well-Known Member
Joined
20 November 2008
Messages
4,204
Location
Kinross
My experience is very different and there were genuine unhandled ferals but we didnt trap or corner anything to get a halter on.

In fact there weren't even stables. There was two round yards and 3 smaller odd shaped yards(that all narrowed at one end to 5 bar gate width) and then bigger yards.

All the horses were worked loose and then haltered. They would all be ridden within a week using low stress methods. Nothing would be pinned, trapped or given no options but to submit. Patience and well timed pressure/release worked every time.

There were 3yr olds who's only human contact was being mustered in and then up a race to a crush where they were branded, castrated and vaccinated at 6mths so not a good association with humans or being in the yards!
 

paddy555

Well-Known Member
Joined
23 December 2010
Messages
5,461
You can get an unhandled/feral accepting having a headcollar on and off in 1-2 days without pinning them. And I really wouldn't recommend someone new to it to use a pinning technique because there is a pretty fine line between doing it successfully and getting into a pickle with horse and handler getting stressed out by it all.
I don't go much on the pinning technique. I worked halter breaking foals in the old days and it was drive them into the crush/gate, headcollar on and the foal comes out fighting.

Getting results by feed is bribery but I have found it works so much better with the youngster (ponies here not horses) herded into a stable and then, once he has learnt what a bucket is, he comes to you and the headcollar goes on whilst he is happily occupied. A lot less trauma and catching in the stable becomes very easy. I don't see getting a headcollar on immediately is very important. The youngster is trapped in the stable, he is going nowhere.
 
Joined
5 July 2020
Messages
12
I don't like pinning, I personally feel this just makes it harder to gain trust.

If it's in the stable and will eat from a bucket, then I have found getting a halter on quietly to never have been to much of a challenge.

As for the original poster. If this were a pony for yourself then I would say go for it. As it's for a child, I really wouldn't bother investing your time, which in reality you're going to need a lot of, on a pony which may never be what you want it to be.
 

catembi

Well-Known Member
Joined
12 March 2005
Messages
10,974
Location
N Beds
I took on a feral New Forest when she was 3. At 4.5 I have backed her, started taking her out n about to lessons & clinics & she had her first proper jump today. :) She has turned into a very bold little pony, just from kind & consistent handling. I am a lightweight adult rider though, not a child. I didn't 'do' anything in particular - just tried not to rush her or scare her, and stuck at it.
 
Top