Dear Abby Advice

Dear Abby - Advice Column

If you have a problem with your human, then you are welcome to ask Professor A. Pony© for advice via the Contact page. Unfortunately, not all letters can be featured and Professor Pony regrets that he is unable to enter into correspondence on an individual basis.

Disclaimer: Due to the nature of a letters advice column, any advice given can only be general in nature and as such no liability is taken or implied by the advice given here or the use or misuse of any techniques described. It is strongly recommended that you seek professional advice if you have a problem human. Submission of a problem to Professor A. Pony indicates acceptance of this disclaimer.

Professor A. Pony© is copyright to Wendy Gill. See also Professor Pony's home page and Professor Pony's CV page. Details about his book can be found on the eBooks page. Some letters are fictional - any resemblance to any real human or horse/pony, living or dead, is purely coincidental. Advice that has been sought by real humans on behalf of their horse or pony should be interpreted in the spirit of a lighthearted spoof.

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A Pony Wants to Know Why Humans Aren't Normal...

50. Dear Professor,
hy do humans do such weird things?

There i was ambling around the arena when suddenly the human on top of me threw themselves onto the ground at my feet! Gave me SUCH a fright. And then they said it was because I was green. Green?

What's that all about - i looked at my reflection in a puddle and as far as i can tell i am still the same brown colour i was born with. Well, maybe a bit browner as I had been rolling in the mud, but definitely not green.

Can you help explain why humans aren't normal?

Signed: BROWN pony from The Paddock


Dear BROWN pony from The Paddock,
You have realised one of the GREAT TRUTH's of life - humans are NOT NORMAL.

Don't take offence if i am wrong, but I am guessing that you are quite inexperienced with humans. They do take a lot of study and understanding and even with years of experience they can baffle us.

However, I think I can help in this instance. Humans have very poor balance and often 'fall off'. It is unlikely that your human deliberately threw themselves onto the ground (as they are very precious about that sort of thing) and more than likely that they did it by accident. Even if you are very experienced you won't be able to prevent this happening on occasion.

The main thing is not to dwell on it because otherwise you will not be able to do a circle without worrying about your human departing the saddle, and then you will end up tense and nervous (which will make your human’s balance even WORSE). Instead, just do a big sigh and wait patiently for your human to get to its feet. However, if the human is doing a lot of thrashing and wailing then it might be advisable to head back to the stable yourself, or find some grass to eat to fill in the time as they could be a while and your session might even be over for the day.

As to being ‘green’ this is what humans call a pony that doesn’t know a lot about humans. Although it is mainly used by humans, it was a term originally used by the well-known poet and artist “Connie-Stable” who was a pony that lived many many generations ago. She meant it to mean that other ponies were jealous of a pony that hadn’t had to put up with humans, as in ‘green with envy’, but it has been shortened to just being green and then was stolen by humans to mean an inexperienced horse.

Don’t worry, the humans will become less baffling the more time you spend with them and although you might not always understand why they do some things, at least you will become used to them!
Yours, Professor A. Pony

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The Problem with Ideas...

49. Hi there Prof.
I have read your book and follow your column and in general my human is doing well. However, I have been training her for years now and yet she STILL looks down.

Now we all know how much the weight of a human's head can affect our balance so not sure why I can’t get this through to my human.

I have heard that human heads are heavy because they are full of IDEAS and DEEP THOUGHTS. However, my human brought horse and hound out to the stable yesterday and I noticed that all of the pictures of other ponies’ humans had their head up in the proper place.

Does this mean that my human has more ideas than theirs do?

Should I be worried?

My stable-mate says I should whack my human on the nose with my neck but I don’t want to hurt her, especially if it results in her having no idea. What do you think?

Yours respectfully: Forehand Filly


Dear Forehand Filly,
Firstly, although humans can be very frustrating to train at times, please don’t whack yours on the head. Humans are very fragile emotionally as well as physically and even if you don’t give them a nasty injury it can do long-lasting damage to your bond with your human. Also: it may hurt your neck, and: it doesn’t work!

Secondly, don't forget that the pictures are specially chosen for Horse and Hound in order to look great. For some reason humans would rather feel inferior by looking at photos of those going really well than of those that are more normal. Don't ask me why. (Note – this isn’t just a horsey thing: all their magazines are full of ‘beautiful people’ rather than more normal ones).

The only way to cure heavy head syndrome is by continuous nagging, but you need help from a human trainer for this one. I know it sounds silly, but sometimes humans don't listen to their own horses!

If you have no choice but to train on your own, then keep aiming at things (like fences, mounting blocks, etc.). Don’t hurt yourself, but a few near misses and sudden swerves will soon have your rider at least thinking about looking up.

And lastly, you are correct that humans’ heads gets filled up with ideas. These aren’t always good ideas so don’t worry about interrupting them, but remember that humans have more difficulty controlling bits of their bodies than we do so endless patience is needed when schooling.

Good luck,
Professor A. Pony

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Are Humans Gods? Find out below...

48. Dear Professor Pony,
I know you’ve answered questions before about horse Gods, but I have become confused about the role of humans.

I overheard a conversation the other day about God being the one that brings light (Let there be light) and that he/she can make food rain down from above. Well, my human frequently creates light (which can be annoying if it is early and I am having a snooze) and also causes hay to fall down from above into my hay rack on a daily basis.

Are humans Gods?

Yours, Puzzled Theological Pony


Dear Theological Pony,
I don’t know much about the human Gods, but I do know that humans themselves aren’t Gods.

Yes they can bring light and food (the food doesn’t always come from above – that depends on what sort of hayrack you have), but these are tricks they have developed to mimic their own Gods (they do say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery). They call these tricks “science” and are for ever inventing new tricks (monkey tricks?).

Us ponies don’t go in for science in the same way, as our ‘scientists’ (yes we DO have them) focus on things like biology (especially our digestive systems) and biomechanics (such as calculating that ‘perfect’ angle and power for jumping or piaffe).

However, we can use human tricks too. Next time your human comes out in the dark have a look and see whereabouts on the wall they put their hand just before the light comes on (of course it is not dark for us, as we have better eyes than humans, but you know the time of day I mean). There will be a knob or button there that they will move (you will also hear the click). If you can reach the knob/button yourself, then you too can turn the light on or off.

Getting into the food storage can be a lot harder and involves numerous manipulations to exit your stable and enter the feed room, however some ponies are quite skilled at this and humans really enjoy the game of trying to outwit the escaping pony.

PLEASE NOTE: being able to turn the light on or off yourself does NOT make you a God. Do not get ideas above your station. It is also advisable not to keep turning the light on and off repeatedly as this seems to annoy the humans for some reason - although humans used to worship horses in the past, they now like to think of bringing light as their own god-like trick and get jealous easily.

Hope this enlightens you,
(Pardon the pun but I couldn’t resist)
Professor A. Pony

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Overheard on the yard...

Horse A
= "They said I was stunning today!"

Horse B = "Is that good?"

A = "It's better than what they called me the other day when I jumped the fence."

B = "I thought they liked your jumping?"

A = "Apparently they only want me to do it when one of them is riding me, not when I’m by myself."

B = "Perhaps they're jealous. They're such slow ungainly creatures without us."

A = "Yes, I think you're right!”


Professor Pony’s Comment
That is why we need to be kind to them and not laugh at them too much. It's not their fault that we are superior in so many ways.

Professor A. Pony

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Magic boxes...

46. Dear PP,
I don’t understand how the human’s magic boxes work (I’m talking about the big ones that we go inside, not the small ones that produce an endless supply of oats and chaff).

So, we walk inside the big box and a human shuts the door. Then they make a horrendous noise with burning/gassy smells and they shake and rattle like the world is going to end (I’m beginning to think that humans are quite deaf and nose-blind).

Anyway, after a while they open the door opens again and we are in a completely different place!

Sometimes we get to places and the humans are highly stressed and nervous, so I know we have reached a dangerous place (this mostly happens when they tie my mane up in those knots they call plaits, so I do have SOME warning this is going to happen).

Is this what they call ‘teleportation’, or is it just Magic. And is there any way they could make it NOT smelly and noisy? Also, is there any way I can control where it goes as I would prefer to avoid the dangerous places and just go to ones with grass.

Puzzled Pony from Potter-world


Dear Puzzled Pony,
I can understand your confusion. Humans have many types of boxes that appear magic to us, but really it is just because they are more scientifically advanced. On a side note, I have been trying to get mares to teach their foals more about science to help them understand the human world, but there has been little interest (except for advanced biomechanics of course).

But back to your topic.  It’s not teleportation either, which I am assured would be quiet, instant and non-smelly (not sure why humans haven’t invented THAT yet) but they are machines called horse trailers or boxes (depending on the version) and some are less noisy and smelly than others. Unfortunately you have to put up with the type that your human has chosen, but I do assure you that we horses get used to it in time.

Each box has only one set of controls, which sadly they don’t make suitable for US to use, so we also have to put up with the destination chosen by our human.

However, I can reassure you on the stressed/nervous human plus plaits combination. This means the human is going to a show (horse party) and there is nothing for YOU to worry about – the only danger is from them falling off or embarrassing themselves in some other way (I won’t go into detail here, because human embarrassment is an enormous topic).

Next time you are in this situation look carefully at what the experienced ponies are doing. You will see that other than chatting with old friends and giving their humans a whirl round for some exercise, they spend all their time either dozing or eating. There is nothing to worry about and you will soon get used to it if you go to parties regularly.

You usually only have to worry if you arrive at your destination and SMELL VET, but even then (although you might not like it) it is usually for your own good!]

Happy partying,
Professor A. Pony

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And a Reader's Theory...

45. Dear Mr. Pony,
I just read your last letter and think I have an idea why human's always want to change things. Dissatisfied with being stuck up trees and in caves, they only really seem happy when they are cantering about on us, or talking to animals (even though they can't really understand what we say).

So it is obvious they have a massive inferiority complex because of their short legs and poor communication skills.



Dear Oats-and-all,
You could be right on that one!

Professor A. Pony

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When a Rose by any Other Name is just a Smell...

44.Dear Professor Pony,
Why do humans smell so much? They are always covering themselves with different pongy smells (I think they call it perfume) and changing it.

I don't like it. Why can't they just smell like themselves?
And its even worse when they doll me up for a show- sure i want to look nice, but i still want to be a horse!

Oh, just had a thought - is there some nasty predator that eats humans that they are trying to hide from? And if so, does it eat horses?
Is it commonly found at horse shows? I have heard rumours ...

Yours Horse-scents

Dear Horse-scents,
I'm not sure on this one. Maybe it's because when they were monkeys up trees they used to be surrounded by different flowers and now they miss the smell?

Their incessant urge to change things is unfortunately something we can do little about - they don't seem to just enjoy having a good life, but have to keep seeking more.
I would suggest that if everything else is fine (good home, food etc.) then you just grit your teeth and bear it, even if your hooves curl at the smell!

Please note: the rumour that horse-eating monsters can be found at shows is greatly exaggerated. Although it is believed that some horses can see Pokemons...

Yours, Professor A. Pony

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When "Hacking Alone" isn't alone...

43.Dear Professor Pony,
I’ll never understand humans and their human language, but I know that you have done special studies so I thought I’d ask you about this. Why is it that when a human says that a horse “hacks out on its own” they don’t really mean it? I am of course perfectly capable of hacking out by myself, but instead I ALWAYS have to take a human with me! So I’m not actually on my own at all.

Of course, I could have much more fun hacking without one. If I went on my own then I could choose when I wanted to canter, I could stop for a graze or to admire the view without someone thumping their heels on my side, and what is it with walking home anyway – sometimes I just want to run.

Also, I wouldn’t stop to do circles! What is it with humans and circles, I mean the track is obvious, the way home is the same route we always take; surely they can’t get that lost?

Anyway, just thought I would drop you a line for your opinion,

“Hacks Alone”


Dear Hacks Alone,
I wish I could say I understand humans fully, but I don’t. They are peculiar beasts.

However, on this occasion I can enlighten you. Our ancestors signed the Magna Cart (the Great Cart), which governs many of our rights when dealing with the human species. One of the conditions is that we help humans to get out and about and enjoy the countryside in a way that they would not manage on their own (due to having only two working legs and not wanting to use them much). This was part of our ancestors plan to get humans out of  their caves and see the beauties of nature, in the hope that they would preserve it instead of destroying it in their greed to have better and better caves.

Of course all of us animals realise this campaign has been only partly successful, probably because we cannot breed fast enough for each horse to train one human, but we must not give up this project.

In a more specific answer to your question, humans use the term ‘hacks alone’ to refer to the time when they are brave enough to go out without other humans (i.e. just with you) – this is to be encouraged by being on your best behaviour, so that your human can have maximum countryside exposure (BUT NOTE – you must insist your human leaves their facebook device at home for this to work).

As to the circles, this remains a mystery. One theory is that when humans were monkeys they spent a lot of time swinging round and round branches in circles and still have an in-built compulsion to do this. Another theory is that humans are actually aliens, and we ALL know about crop circles don’t we.

Hope this helps,
Yours Professor A. Pony

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Advice on Making Humans More Confident...

42. Hi Professor (or are you just called Pony?),

Just wondered if you have any ideas for making my human braver, especially when it is windy outside. My human isn’t a total wooss or anything like that, but I think we could have a lot more fun together if they just stopped worrying about what might happen and got on with our ride.



Dear Fun-and-Games-Forever,

Humans aren’t as brave as horses of course, but there are many things that can help a rider build confidence. It may pay to have a word with their instructor if they have a specific problem that needs help; however here is a guaranteed-to-help tip that seems to work with just about all humans.

Firstly, get together with a group of like-minded horses and their humans. Sit your humans in a semi-circle so that they can admire you all, and make sure each human is supplied with 1-2 bottles of wine each. Then, project calming thoughts for an hour or two (having a nap yourself can be a good idea at this point, or chill out and eat some grass or hay).

By the end of this time you should find that your human is very confident and ready for a ride whatever the weather. There are only a couple of things to watch for – you may need a few sessions to work out length of time versus bottle number per human, as an imbalance can have the side-effects of either sending your human to sleep, or making them a bit too over confident (after all, you don’t want to be asked to do things that are dangerous!). Also, don’t take your human out on the road, as they are not allowed to ride in traffic with too much alcohol in their system (hacking and hunting off road is fine; just wait patiently if they fall off and start singing bawdy songs).

Have fun,
Professor A. Pony

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Stallion Not Sure He's Getting the Respect He Deserves...

41. Dear Sir,
I am writing for advice as I am having problems with the temporary staff member, who is replacing my normal groom on occasion.
Firstly, I think I should mention that I am a STALLION, and as such I expect a certain degree of respect and inspired awe in my human servants. Of course, those that know me well (like my owner and normal groom) know that I am really a gentleman but, as a stallion, I expect to get a different response from people who meet me for the first time.

My problem is that the temp just doesn’t seem to be scared of me at all. I have tried the usual effect of pinning back my ears back and pulling faces, and have even bounced on the spot and trumpeted. However, nothing seems to work. She just seems to think I am an old softy!!! (I don’t know WHERE she got that impression - I mean, really. Me! Son of Royal Blood, Conqueror of Competitions, Father of Champions).

Even worse though is an annoying habit she seems to have. When I put my ears back and look fierce she scratches my withers! Well, she seems to find JUST the right spot and of course I HAVE to put my ears forward and look goofy. This is NOT how I want to react at all, but I cannot resist!
To add insult to injury, she then tells me how nice I look. Of course, looking handsome is good, but looking imposing and majestic is much more impressive I think.

How can I get the temp to think I am both handsome AND intimidating?

I am hoping that you won’t advise more bouncing and trumpeting though, as it does waste rather a lot of energy and now that I am semi-retired I tend to be less energetic compared to my younger colleagues.

Yours faithfully,

A Full-blooded Male

Dear Full-blooded Male,

I think you are looking at this from the wrong perspective. If you intimidate the temp then it would be a bit like cutting off your whiskers to spite your nose as you then won’t get any wither scratches! I don’t know about you, but personally I am very partial to a good scratch and don’t mind

There is also the issue that some humans are never intimidated by the faces we make, and you would have to actually carry through your threats to make an impression on this one. But it sounds to me that you are too much of a gentleman to do so. Have you also thought that your own humans may have told the temp that you are really a nice guy under all that bravado?

So, overall I think you may be better off just enjoying the wither scratches and saving the really impressive and energetic stuff for other horses. I would still advise putting your ears back and pulling faces though, as it sounds like you are well on your way to training this human to respond with the wither scratches and if you keep your ears forward all the time then the human may not give you any.

Good luck and just enjoy the experience,
Professor A. Pony.

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Mare Worried About BF's Long-term Security...

40. Dear Prof Pony,
Why are guys such woosses these days? One of my boyfriends dumped his human just because he saw a white log. I mean, he used to have a career as a jumper; surely he has jumped white things before? And what harm does he think a white log would do anyway? Personally, I like to EAT logs!

I’ve told him in the past to be careful of his human, as humans are very fragile and temperamental – what will I do if his human gets rid of him and I never see him again? Sorry for swearing, but SA*E or EU**ANASIA strike me as possibilities.

 I mean, I’ve jumped the paddock fence for this guy – all I ask in return is that he does what he can to be here for me!

And it’s not just him. My brother (adopted) thinks anything new is scary, but also things that have been around the yard for months.

What can I do - Is it just us girls who are brave, or is it something to do with some boys being chopped by the vet when young?

Big sigh from Sexy Lady

Dear Sexy Lady,
I really don’t think it is just male horses (gelded or not) that can be spooky, as I have known many horses of all genders who are brave and others who are spooky. I am sure that if you really think about it you will remember seeing or living with mares who have been spooky too.

Remember that being spooky is not the horses fault, but will be something to do with either his background or the circumstances at the time. Your friend may need private counselling to overcome some of his fears, but that is rather too complex to go into here. Get him to message me if he wants more help, but in the meantime try to just be supportive and encourage him to have more trust in his human.

I really hope your fears of his disposal are not true, and hopefully his human loves him despite his issues.
Yours Professor Pony

Dear Prof,
Thanks for the reply but since I wrote to you it has now become irrelevant. My ex-boyfriend has another girl living with him now (who he claims to ‘love’) and so I have dumped him. It was hard to maintain a long-distant relationship anyway, and he was only ever a ‘friend without benefits’ type of guy, so I am going to look elsewhere next time I come into season.

Yours Sexy Lady,
P.S. Can I have your paddock address?

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Any Other Pokemon Spotters Out There?

39.Dear Professor Pony,
I think I have the ‘second-sight’ (ESP). There is this human game where they go round pointing their phones at things so they can see the creatures called Pokemons. Well, I don’t need a phone because I can see them without! They are all different colours, and pop up all over the place without warning.

Some Pokemons are green and hide in the grass, while others are purple or yellow and really stand out. Some more around, while others seem to stay in one place. For example, there is always a brightly coloured scary one wherever there is a car, yet some dark green ones mysteriously rustle in the bushes before popping out in front of me.

The humans on my yard don’t seem to carry their phones with them, but I am very careful to ALWAYS let them know whenever there is one about, as I know it is very important to some humans.

None of the other horses in my herd seem to have this ability; does this mean that I am more special than them?

Signed: Equine Spotter of Pokemons


Dear Equine Spotter of Pokemons (ESP),
I too have heard of Pokemons, but I have not seen one yet. Perhaps there aren’t any in my area, or I am not as sensitive to the other-world as you - yes of course you are special!

I checked with EI1* but they will neither confirm nor deny the presence of Pokemons. Their spokesperson did however state that:  “if Pokemons were to exist, which of course we will not comment on, we can confirm that they are completely harmless to horses in their natural state”

They also pointed out that the only danger to horses occurs if a horse is so busy looking at or for Pokemons that they do something stupid, like get themselves hit by a car, or if they make riding so unenjoyable for their human that they end up being SOLD.

So, next time you see a Pokemon it might be best to keep the knowledge under your mane. Let the humans hunt Pokemons by themselves (then they can get run over by themselves) – this could improve your relationship with humans in two ways; firstly, if you give them a nice smooth ride they are more likely to keep you; and secondly, if you find all the Pokemons before them then they will feel very inferior and many of them already have big confidence problems.

However, if you are really obsessed with Pokemons then perhaps you could give up your current career and go and work for the company instead (as one human has done).

Signed: Professor A. Pony

*EI1 = Equine Intelligence-section 1; this is a division of MI1, which was set up during WW1 as part of the equine defence and spy unit with the primary responsibility of protection and security for horses and other equine species. MI1 has since been described as a defunct section of the human MI group, of which MI5 and MI6 are the most commonly known, but this is a cover-storey to make the humans feel more secure around horses. The EI division is still very active, with branches worldwide.


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A Pony who is Not a Follower of Fashion...

38. Dear Professor Pony,

I am a boy pony (or was before the vet got to me) and I don’t think it is right that I have to wear plaits as a hair style when I go out. I have been studying humans and have noticed that only girl humans wear plaits, not boy humans.

Having already lost some masculine bits I don’t want other horses to think I am mare’ish (plus the plaits are uncomfortable). How do I convince my owner that I should not be in plaits?

Yours, Barber-seeking Boy Pony


Dear Barber-seeking Boy Pony,

It can be annoying when humans just want to follow a fashion and decorate you in ways that do not appeal to us, but I think you may be worrying a bit much about human styles for different genders compared to horses. If you watch a few videos of the Olympics, you will see some very talented and brave male horses (both with and without vet interference underneath) that wear their plaits with pride. Many racehorses of all genders also wear plaits, and it doesn’t affect their popularity and career earnings.

Make sure that your human does not do the plaits so tight that they are uncomfortable, and be pleased that the current fashion is not for hogged manes (shudder).

Enjoy your trips out and don’t worry about what others think about you – I am sure you will find that most of them are more worried about their own performance and getting their human to behave on the day rather than what other horses look like.

Hope this helps,
Professor A. Pony

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A Dog with a Different Opinon...

37.Dear Professor Pony,

I understand that your letters pages are dominated by cats, so I thought I would drop you a line. I was wondering what topic to write about when I saw the rather pathetic letter from Traumatised Terrier (letter 8) and your totally unhelpful reply.

In my experience it does not matter whether or not the cat has read the Book of Dog. In fact, I don’t think cats can read in ‘dog’ anyway, and who would want them to?

However, I digress. The fact is that the terrier, after reading the Book of Dog, should behave like a dog and not like a puppy and take control. Cats run from Dogs, end of story. Stick up for Dog’s Rights and make the cat run away, otherwise you will end up a puddling wimp of fur with its tail between its legs.

So, take back the bed and the sofa, and tell your human that the cat will have to stay OUTSIDE where it belongs or at least abide by the house rules of DOGS FIRST! (It is up to the human whether or not they want to be second or last – that is between them and the cat and has nothing to do with you).

Signed: Dogs Rule Okay

P.S. if they are running away then you won’t get got by the sprongy bits.

P.P.S. If you want proof of what status cats have, then I reference Rudyard Kipling’s “Just So” story The Cat that Walked by Himself, which states that all ‘proper’ dogs should chase the cat up a tree!!


Dear Dogs Rule Okay,

It is great to get different opinions on topics that have appeared on these pages. The terrier in question must of course make up its own mind, but I really think that on this occasion it is best that the terrier does what its human wants. After all, he or she may not want to risk the human taking away their privileges.

Although you have referred to Rudyard Kipling’s epic work (well known to all), I feel I must point out that the Woman did praise the cat on multiple occasions, and only three proper Men out of five will throw things at a cat. Your circumstances may be different, but it can be very difficult for a small dog to go against the wishes of its humans if they are pro cats.

Yours sincerely,
Professor Pony


Dear Professor Pony,

I suppose you have a point, but I still think the dog should take charge. I am a large breed and have all the cats in my neighbourhood under control, so can you pass my contact details onto the terrier in case they change their mind and want some reinforcements.

Dogs Rule Okay.

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Frustrated Horse wants to Rant...

36. Dear Professor Pony,

I overheard one of my human’s say the other day that they had ‘taught’ me how to go sideways!! Well, I was shocked. Of course I can go sideways. I can go sideways in all different sorts of ways all by myself.


I have been able to canter nicely since I was a foal a few hours old, and could go beautifully sideways with impeccable balance from not long afterwards.

My only problem is trying to get a lump of a rider to sit still and not think they can make the decisions just because they have opposable thumbs.

On the plus side though, the humans seem to be absolutely delighted if I decide to go sideways when they flap their leg back, and I don’t mind trying to keep them happy when I have nothing better to do.

So, not really a question but just felt like a rant, as humans always seem to think they’re cleverer than us.

Yours, Sideways Rules Okay


Dear Sideways Rules Okay,

I understand your frustration. Humans are quite opinionated, and therefore not easy to train. There are also many humans with balance issues, which make it difficult for us horses.

It is also annoying when anyone, whether a human or horse, takes credit for something that you can already do! I think you have to give your human a bit of leeway here though, as they can get very upset if they find out the truth. We all know that horses train humans to do dressage and jump, and not the other way round, but humans have a very delicate ego and some of them cannot cope with this knowledge.

It is best to let your human think they are wonderful and clever, and remember that humans are just monkeys that have come down from the trees with big ideas. It sounds like you are making good progress in training your human, so be proud of your achievements as it is not easy to train one and I am sure that other horses will acknowledge your success.  

Professor A. Pony

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Is the Grass really Greener on the other side...

35. Dear Professor Pony,
What do you do if you think you are in the wrong career?
I have spent most of my life pursuing a specialist career in dressage and, even if I say so myself, I am good at it. However, the other day I was at work when I got a bit excited and jumped over the railing at the end of the arena.

That was fun!

My human must have enjoyed it too, as they turned me around and jumped back again. And I must have been good at it as there is even a photo of me jumping on the internet! Maybe it will go viral and I will be famous!!

So, I was wondering if a career as a showjumper might be more exciting, or even an event horse (as I already have the dressage side of it covered)? How hard is it to change careers, and which do you think would be best at this time of my life?
Signed: The Grass is Greener


Dear The Grass is Greener,

I think you should spend some time in your paddock just thinking about this before rushing off and making hasty decisions you may regret later. I had a look at your photo and you do look lovely jumping, and I am sure you could be good at it, but do you really want to take up jumping as a career?

Don’t take this the wrong way, but the jump you did is not nearly as big as those you would need to do if you took on a job in either of the fields you mention. Next time you are grazing, consider if you would want to be regularly jumping higher than your paddock fence, or even higher than your own ears!

Not many horses take on eventing or showjumping as a sole career, and vacancies are often limited even for those with talent. Also, unless your rider is also interested in a career change then it would mean leaving your home and human behind, and risking the same level of care in pastures new. You need to consider the advantages and disadvantages of the job position you already have, compared to those you are thinking about. So perhaps you should just keep small jumps as a side-hobby for now, and make up your mind later?

Sorry to sound like an old fuddy-duddy, but it would be a shame to throw away a promising future without weighing up the pros and cons of what you might be doing instead.
Good luck with your decision,
Professor A. Pony

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Horse worries about overheard conversation...

34.Dear Professor Pony,

My humans have been saying that my trapezius has got bigger. I don’t know what a trapezius is but I have checked myself all over and can’t find any new lumps or bumps.

They haven’t called the pony-doctor – should I be concerned??

Signed: Sensitive from Stable-by-Sea


Dear Sensitive from Stable-by-Sea,

No you definitely don’t need to be concerned, as they are just talking about one of your muscles. ‘Trapezius’ is a fancy name for the triangular muscle that helps hold your withers up, and the term itself is taken from an ancient language called Latin.

Unfortunately, humans like to give things lots of different names in different languages and some of them like to use ancient terms that hardly anyone else understands. This makes it very hard for both human students and pony students.

We can only assume that humans do this because it makes them feel more important. There is a direct correlation between how important a human feels and how much money they charge other humans, and also a direct correlation between how many complicated words they use and how much money they charge. Therefore it is logical that they use complicated words just so they can feel important and charge more money!

However, you don’t have to worry about the psychology of humans. I am guessing you have been working out in the arena or over hills, and making sure you have the correct posture when you do so. Having a well-developed trapezius (along with other supporting muscles) just means you are strengthening up and looking more beautiful!

Best wishes,
Professor A. Pony

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Cross-species Communication Problems...

33. Dear Professor Pony,
I am having trouble getting the Stable Cat to understand me, and wondered if you could help. I have told her multiple times to wipe her paws before coming to bed, and that hogging the blankets is not polite. I would also prefer her not to make loud noises during the night (e.g. purring, meowing, and retching).

However, in the past when I have presented these (quite reasonable) requests I just get ignored. I don’t know if this is because she just doesn’t understand, or whether there is some other issue.

Can you help please,
Signed: One of the House-Humans.


Dear House-Human,
I have spoken to the stable-cat and I think there is a cultural issue here rather than a communication problem. The cat fully understands your requests, but as she owns the house she considers that you are actually being a bit unreasonable.

She is quite happy to let you use one of her beds, but thinks it irrational that you want HER to change HER ways just because YOU don’t like them. She would also like to point out that you are a little slow in responding to her requests (orders) for food and cuddles.

I did point out that you may not understand cat-language, and she is prepared to make allowances for this, but she would like you to try to understand her better so that a rift does not develop between you.

Hope this information helps, and do contact me again if an interpreter is required,
Professor A. Pony

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A Petition for a Worthy Cause ...

32. Dear Professor Pony,

I have heard that if a petition gets 100,000 signatures then it has to be debated in Parliament, and I wondered how I can get one started. I have a very worthy cause and everyone I have spoken to (including my union rep) agrees that something needs to be done.

Basically, I am appalled to find that competition dressage tests are being scheduled AT DINNER-TIME. This is not acceptable, and I even think it contravenes the Animal Welfare Act (2006) which states that we have the right to perform natural behaviour.

As any horse or pony is fully aware, competing at dinner-time is NOT natural behaviour and something must be done. Can you let me know how to start a petition and tell everyone to sign it with their hoofprint.

Signed: Hungry-Horse from Hackstown.


Dear Hungry-Horse from Hackstown,

I do sympathise with your plight and think you have a good chance of getting a lot of hoofprints. However, there are some requirements that humans have for their petitions, and you might need to consider these first. Anyone starting or signing a petition needs to be a British citizen or UK resident, so all native breeds could sign but some imported dressage horses may not be eligible as they would need to meet the requirement of residency. But you only need 5 others to get your petition started, so I am sure you can find this with ease (you can count me in).

Also, you may need a sympathetic human to gather the hoofprints and present them to parliament, but I am sure someone will come to your aid if your own human is reluctant. Note that it can be done online, but I have tried scanning my hoofprint before and it is really easy to break the stupid fragile scanners humans make).

Unfortunately, tradition is that we horses have turned our hooves to whatever humans wanted to do, when they wanted to do it. We have ancient agreements made in regards to swapping our labour in exchange for board, lodging, and health benefits (although we missed out retirement plans unfortunately). And of course we have laid down our lives time and time again for human causes. But I have checked the Magna Cart and there is no stipulation that states we have to do so-called pleasure competitions at meal-times, so I think you have a very good case here and I for one would be delighted to hear it debated in Parliament.

You have my full support,
Professor A. Pony

PS: It’s just my opinion, but I think you will have to make sure that each horse or pony only provides one hoofprint, as there would need to be signatures from 100,000 horses/ponies, rather than 25,000 stamping with each hoof. I don’t see the numbers being a problem though.

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Pre-ride Jitters ...

Horse: I get worried about canter.

Rider: I know you do. Don’t worry, it’ll be alright.

Horse: I’m not sure about the corners – I used to have to canter with my head tied down and I couldn’t manage it. They’re so hard to get round and then I feel as if I’m falling…

Rider: Yes, I know. But that was before. Now you have much better balance so you’ll be fine.

Horse: I’m not convinced. It makes me nervous just thinking about it.

Rider: Don’t worry, I’ll help you. Just listen to what I say and you’ll be okay.

       [Horse and rider canter round arena]

Horse: You smacked me!

Rider: That’s because you bucked. It’s not allowed, and if you buck then you get a smack.

Horse: I thought I was going to lose my balance.

Rider: No you didn’t, you were going nicely. That was just a fling.

Horse: Oh, okay then. I’ll try to contain myself but I was enjoying myself.

Rider: It’s alright, just don’t let it happen again.

       [Another canter, a bit later in the session]

Rider: You can’t do that either!

Horse: Yes I can.

Rider: No you can’t. You are NOT allowed to go from canter to stop in one stride just so that you can rub your head on your leg!

Horse: It was itchy.

Rider: I nearly fell off.

Horse (smugly): Seems like that’s a problem with your balance, not mine.

Rider: Well you can’t do it.

Horse: Yes I can!      You were right… my balance is so much better now!!!



30. Dear Professor Pony,

I have to confess to a fear of water. Please don’t print my name as I don’t want others to know, but I find that I don’t like crossing even the smallest of puddles (shudder!!). I usually blame it on my rider, saying that they don’t want me to get my white socks dirty, but in truth anything bigger than a water bucket and I can’t cope.

Please help me, as this is affecting my relationship with my human who wants to do lots of hacking and cross country.

Signed: Waterphobic from Puddlesville


Dear Waterphobic from Puddlesville,

A good ponyanalyst might be able to help you find out why you are afraid of water – what do you think will happen if you step into water? Have you had a bad experience in the past (such as crossing a river and falling in a sudden deep spot)? Are you also scared of water in other forms (e.g. rain or snow)? However, it is not possible to go into that sort of depth in a letter like this. We are actually made up of 60% water so water is essential for us to live and it can also be great fun to play in too.

However, our ancestors knew that visiting the watering hole could be the most dangerous part of the day. Unseen predators could be lurking in the depths, while others may be waiting in nearby bushes or rocks to pounce on us if we are unwary.

I can give you some practical advice that may help you overcome this. Firstly, you need to find a confident pony friend who doesn’t mind water, and you need some water to practise with; this must be very shallow and reasonable large so that you cannot step easily around it or jump over it (however tempting this may be!). It must also have a firm surface so that you don’t slip and frighten yourself further. A very large puddle in your own field or some other enclosed space is ideal. If you are using a water jump at a cross-country course, then pick one where the entrance is almost flat; you will find it a bit nerve-wracking to start with and having to cope with going down into water may be a little too much.

You need your pony friend to go into the water first to check the depth and footing, as this is important to give yourself confidence. This is also very important in case there ARE predators hidden under the water; it is always a good herd principal to let others check for danger first, just in case. If you are in the UK then it is unlikely that there will be anything big enough to eat a pony under the water, but better safe than sorry!

If you do not have a pony friend who can do this, then you MUST get your human to do this for you – make sure they have good waterproof boots on though, as otherwise they might catch the flu’ and then their stable-work gets a bit slack. Make them walk around until you relax; this will help convince your subconscious that the water is safe. Be aware though that if something does get them then you are only a reins-length away, so it pays to keep a distance until you are sure. You will have a bit of time to escape though, but I wouldn’t dally.

Next, make sure you can walk confidently around the edge quite close to the water, either with your pony friend or human in the water next to you (then they are also nearer to any dangers/predators that might have been slow to realise there is a meal in the water). Scared of being splashed too? Work at getting used to having your legs hosed at home. You don’t say if this is an issue, but this is something to do first if you need to.

Get one or two hooves wet on the side nearest the water, do this frequently going in and out of the edge of the water until you are confident. Reluctant to get your feet wet at all? Will food tempt you? Get your pony friend to go past you and trot off into the distance then circle round repeating this. Having more than one pony friend may help you pluck up the courage too. Easier too to pluck up courage if you edge into the water rather than face it full on.

Once you’re happy getting feet wet, try standing for long periods in the water, walking across it frequently – don’t leave long gaps between attempts – do every day if possible until you are confident, or preferably several times a day.

To trot in water; remember that it may splash your belly more too – see how you like the hose splashing your belly first – if it is cold then it can be a bit of a shock to start with. Walk into the water and trot out the last few steps, round again and repeat until happy trotting out. Then extend the period of trotting gradually until you can also trot in. make sure your rider doesn’t’ rush you as you will still want to study your entry.

Hope this helps
Professor A. Pony


Dressage Mare meets "Wolves" this Morning...

29. Overheard out hacking:

Rider - they aren't wolves, they're hounds
Mare - if they look like wolves and act like wolves then they must be wolves. I think we should go home now.
Rider - no, we're only just starting. Trust me, its perfectly safe. Anyway they're in a paddock and can't get to you.

Hounds - 'whoo-hooo-hooo' . Looky that way, there's a horse in the lane. Let's all canter over baying and say hello! hooo-hooo.

Mare - I TOLD you they were wolves!!!!
Rider - its ok. Be brave. They can't get to you and they are not really wolves.
Mare - yes they are.
Rider - how about I let you trot.
Mare - did you say piaffe? Let's get out of here!!
Rider - piaffe won't get you out of here, and your'e too fat and unfit to piaffe. Shift your butt and trot. (Rider's note - mare used to do advanced dressage so piaffe/passage steps not uncommon).
Mare - like this? (fantastic elevated collected trot, only spoiled by mare looking over hedge at hounds, and by eyes sticking out on stalks).
Rider - that'll do fine!

Mare's note to self - I'm gonna keep a good eye out for them. I still think they were wolves....

Riders note to self - I now know how to get a fantastic collected trot in the dressage arena. I just need to hire the local hunt pack!

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A Canter Conundrum...

28. Dear Professor Pony,
My human is always making a fuss about which canter lead I am on and starts fretting if I am on the ‘wrong’ lead. I think she wants me to worry about it too but I don’t understand why! I mean, I am a horse; I go into canter and canter around for a bit – if I get a bit tired and still want to keep cantering THEN I change leads. So, what is the issue?

When I was growing up I managed perfectly well with this system. As I see it, every other horse does the same. Surely if it was good enough for my dam and her dam before her then it is good enough for me.

All of this carry-on about being on the right (or left) lead is making me wring my withers!

My human seems to think I should spend 50% of my time using one lead and 50% on the other. What on earth is my human on about?

Signed: Tangled Hocks from Cross-in-Canter
P.S. I have noticed that my human uses their limbs mostly on one side, rather than half and half as they expect me to do. Surely if I have to do it then they should too?


Dear Tangled Hocks from Cross-in-Canter
I fully agree with you that it seems unnecessary, but there are a couple of good reasons why your human wants you to do this.

Firstly, using both sides equally will help to keep you sound for longer, rather than just wearing out one side. Spreading all that concussion and muscle effort has to be good for you, so long as you don’t overdo it while making the stiff side more supple.

Secondly, your human will not have as much natural balance as you do (they’ve never really managed since evolution took away their tails). This means that if you go round tight bends on the outside lead (instead of the more balanced inside) they have trouble coping and either fall off or grab hold of your tender mouth (or both) – neither of which is to be desired.

So, overall it is best that you canter round corners with the inside lead when you have a rider aboard. Note though that advanced riders may ask you to do the opposite deliberately (i.e. a counter canter); this is done to show off how good the partnership is between horse and human and can be fun if your rider knows enough to stay in balance and sit still. However, if they move at all then it is best to change leads so that you don’t have the issues already mentioned.

In relation to your PS – yes, humans should also try to be balanced on each side! The bane of our poor backs and mouths are humans that are one-sided and do nothing about it… but that is another story.

Best wishes,
Professor A. Pony

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Breaking News...

27. Research has shown that cats don't need owners to be happy!
Yes its true. Actual scientific research has proven that cats can be happy without humans.

Cat 1: And how much did it cost for them to work that out?
Cat 2: We’ve been telling you that for years! Can I have another saucer of milk now please. Oh, and can you light the fire and re-fill my biscuit bowl too. And while you're at it, please don't move when I'm sitting on your lap as it disturbs my rest.


Overheard on the stable yard…

CAT: Why are humans so stupid? You’d think that after all these centuries, they would have worked out what Miaow Miaow Mrroww Mrrooaow means!

HORSE: I know what you mean. But I am making some progress with training mine. If I give a little hhhiihhhnn (and flutter my nostrils with ears pricked) then I usually get a treat. Not always though – I think they have bad days and good days.

CAT: Mrrw, I don’t think it is good enough. I give my humans attention, let them stroke me (which even has medical benefits by reducing their stress), and decorate their house. I even sacrifice mice and rabbits to them on occasion! I really think they should make more of an effort!!

Professor Pony: Unfortunately not all species have the ability to communicate with others, even when they want to, and I am afraid that humans are not very good at inter-species communication at all. I am not sure why, as I once had an enlightening conversation with a monkey about the meaning of life, so it is not to do with their origins.

Sign language seems to work best for us horses, particularly for important messages where the use of teeth, hooves, and more energetic body language (such as bucking) can be used to get the message across.

The facts are:

  1. Humans have problems communicating with animals verbally, and very few can even repeat a single word of our language correctly (although it is incredibly funny when they try!)

CAT (somewhat smugly): they can’t purr either!

  1. Many humans also have problems interpreting subtle body language too (even from their own species, let alone animals).
  2. The language centres of the brain are located in the cerebral cortex, and this allows both learning and processing of the brain.

I have a theory that there has been an unfortunate mutation somewhere in their recent evolutionary past, probably when they first developed the large growths toward the front of their brains which have caused them no end of problems as a species, including over-thinking. Research on humans has shown that the thicker the layers of brain matter (with more synapses) then the worse they are at languages. This strongly suggests that over-growth of the brain has prevented them as a species from communicating properly with other animal species!!!

However, we mustn’t call them ‘dumb humans’ just because they cannot communicate with us; instead, think of them more as limited in capacity (in the same way that their senses will never be as good as ours). So, be patient with your human and praise them for any small improvement but don’t expect a lot – they are human after all!

Professor A. Pony

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More 'Strange but True'...

25. After last month's post, we have had a number of ponies wanting to add to the strange but true file. I really enjoy these, so keep them coming.
Professor Pony

*Helmets – I love eventing, but I know it is a high risk sport. My human calls me priceless, so why do they get a helmet when I don’t?

*Rugs – saw a human in shorts and a t-shirt putting a rug onto one of my stable-mates because it was going to rain; do they not realise we already have a waterproof ‘fur’ coat? Sooooo glad it wasn’t me.

*Screens and machines – can’t believe the amount of time that humans spend looking at different sorts of screens or machines. All the wonders of nature to look at, especially us, and they will even look at us horses on screens too instead of in real life.

*Sharing- why do humans give away treats? Not that I’m complaining, but if I had a polo-tree it would be all for me!!!

*I don’t see humans giving themselves a cold hose after a work-out!! And why can’t they warm up the fly spray before putting it on – gives me the shivers.

*Not at all sure why we do lots of circles without going anywhere at home, then spend ages shut up in a small box to go somewhere else and do lots of circles, then spend ages shut up in a small box to come home again! It doesn’t seem logical. Couldn’t we just go for a hack instead?

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Strange but True...

24. Dear Professor Pony,
I really don’t understand humans at all. There was some lovely long grass around our stable yard, which I get to have a pick at after exercising my human each day. Well, unbelievably, the humans came along with a machine and cut it all down!

I am turned out into a paddock with hardly any grass, and fed dry hay at night, and they go and waste perfectly good grass for no apparent reason. It’s not like they don’t know we can eat it, as we do so at times, and it has not been cut for hay (I checked).

Can you shed some light on this one for me?

Signed: Puzzled Pony from Parched Paddock.

Dear Puzzled Pony,
This is where I have to admit to not knowing everything!

It doesn’t make sense does it? Perhaps it is something to do with their evolution e.g. a fear of fire around their tree-huts due to the grass drying out and burning (although I can’t see why they won’t let you eat it instead). Or maybe one of our readers could suggest a reason.

We will just have to put this one in the “Human’s Do the Strangest Things…” file.

Best Wishes,
Professor A. Pony

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7 Tips for Bed-training your Humans...

23. Dear Professor Pony,

I just thought I would share with your feline readers some tips I have learnt about letting a human sleep in your bed.

Firstly, remember that it is your bed; the human is only there by your consideration. Therefore, assume your rightful place in the centre of the bed whenever you feel like it.

It can be disconcerting to wake up and find your face full of human. It isn’t really fair to let a human into your bed and then prevent them from sharing the pillow, but if you allow this then ensure your human brushes their teeth before bed; a face full of human with bad breath is even worse!

Research has proven that human skin is more contaminated with bacteria than cat fur. You can’t do much about this, but remember to wash regularly. It is usually more convenient to do this on top of the bedclothes rather than underneath. However, it is considered impolite to point your rear end toward your human while you are performing your ablutions.

I recommend sending your human to bed in advance of your own bedtime. This ensures that your bed is nice and warm when you get there. If your human has fallen asleep on the job, then you can nudge them over to the edge with a cold nose or a pat with a paw.

Beware of untrained humans rolling over on you; some will sleep very heavily and it can be a hazard of sharing your bed with something bigger. It pays to keep your human in a light state of sleep in order to avoid this.

Warming up cold paws: some cats like to sleep with their back to their human, for maximum warmth, but even so it is useful to know the best way to warm your paws. Try to avoid sensitive areas of skin and choose a place covered by cloth, even though this is less satisfying for you. Touching sensitive areas, such as the tummy, in a half-asleep human, can lead to an extreme reflex reaction where they throw you out of the bed. Don’t punish them for this, as it is a subconscious reaction that they cannot help; therefore it is best to avoid it. Note that it is considered very poor bed etiquette to knead your human with your claws out, whether or not you choose an area covered by cloth.

And lastly, if very wet then try to dry yourself off a little first before going under the blankets. Although it is pleasant to have a human dry your coat in a warm environment, they may fall asleep while still stroking you (thereby leaving you lying on a wet patch); some humans that are not fully awake may have unpleasant reactions (see above); and being wet can lead to a dangerous situation if the bed is fitted with an electric blanket.

Thanks for posting this on your website,
Signed: THE CAT
P.S. If you could pass my contact details onto her Majesty Queen Padpaws (who has also posted in your letters column) then I would be most grateful.



Thank you for that. We ponies rarely have the problem of sharing a bed with a human. It does happen occasionally though, so I would like to add for all ponies out there that end up with a human in their bed to watch out that they don’t tread on the human and injure them. As we need a lot less sleep than cats, it would pay to wait to sleep until daytime, after which the human should have got up and left.

I have passed your details on to Queen Padpaws, but be aware that her staff may take some time to respond to you.

Yours, Professor A. Pony

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Locked in and "starving"...

22. Dear Professor Pony,

I was wondering if you could help me with a puzzle that I cannot work out. I am not sure why, as I am considered to be a particularly intelligent horse by all that know me, but I just can’t seem to work out how to undo the latch on my stable gate.

I can assure you it is not from lack of motivation or incentive. On the other side of the gate is access to an area with lots of lovely lush long grass, while my own paddock is totally bare! (Okay, maybe not totally bare as I have to admit that my humans says I am not losing any weight). Yet no matter how many times I have seen my human open and shut the gate I still can’t manage to do it for myself.

Is it because I have hooves instead of hands?

Signed: Almost Starving from Barrenfield.


Dear Almost Starving from Barrenfield,

I realise how frustrating it is to see grass but not be able to get to it! Unfortunately it is the fate of many horses worldwide to be in your situation. Our brains don’t process things in quite the same as humans and although this is usually to our advantage (I mean have you EVER heard anyone being praised for having ‘human-sense’???), in this case it is definitely a nuisance and can even be fatal for those that are really starving.

Humans can watch another human do something and then copy them (which is why they get into so much trouble if they don’t have a sensible horse to look after them), whereas we have to work this sort of thing out by trial and error. Some horses manage to do this quite successfully, so if you keep mouthing it and pushing at the latch with your nose then you may one day work it out. You should then be able to remember what you did and repeat it. Unfortunately though, you will probably find that the humans just put a more diabolical latch onto the gate and you are back to square one!

On the other hoof, think how bad it would be for your health to gorge on all that lush grass. You could end up with pains in the gut, hooves, muscles, and all sorts of other places which would not be pleasant at all. In the long-term, unless you really are being neglected, then I would advise staying put and just putting up with your lot.

Sorry not to be of more help with this one,
Professor A. Pony

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A horse finds changing homes stressful…

21. Dear Professor Pony,

I recently had to move my stable for the 6th time in less than a year. Not only that, but each time I change stables I seem to have changed people as well, so I can only assume I have been sold. Normally I am a laid-back sort of girl, but this is getting me really down. Why does no one like me? I don’t always understand what my rider wants but I do my best, jump well, stay enthusiastic in my work, and more.

Yes I have become grumpy, but I think that is understandable under the circumstances –some of the places I have stayed have not always been kind to me and there has not always been enough food or bedding. On the plus side, the place I am in now has plenty to eat and a nice deep bed, but I don’t know how long it will last. My neighbour has just moved house too, but they have had the same human for years and years! These new humans seem ok, but I don’t know if things will work out. Any advice gratefully received, as I’d like to stay put for a while.

Signed: Anxious and Agitated

Dear Anxious and Agitated,
You are perfectly correct that moving stables and changing humans can be an anxious time. Unfortunately there are few ‘forever’ homes out there anymore. I am not sure why you have changed humans so often, but remember that it is not often the horse’s fault – either your previous humans had no choice but to let you go to another home, or they were not good enough for you in some way. Unfortunately, we cannot always choose to stay with the same human forever (although not everyone would want to), and yours is a common problem.

Of course, this does not relieve your current anxiety. However, you say that there is plenty to eat and a nice deep bed, so try to focus on these positive aspects while you wait to see how things work out. Remember too that the people in your new home chose you because they liked you! Hopefully things will now work out and you can stay where you are for a time. Let me know how you get on and if I can help with any specific issues.

Best wishes,
Professor A. Pony

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 A royal cat has staffing issues …

20. Dear Professor Pony,

I know you can’t do anything about it, but I feel the need to put paw to paper and complain about the staffing issues in modern society.

It is just so hard to get good live-in staff these days. I mean to say, I let them live in the house; they get fed and watered – I don’t think they’ve ever had to do a day’s hunting in their life! Also, I let them light the fire in winter so they’re not cold; they get plenty of free time. They are even allowed to share my bed and cuddle me, AND it’s been scientifically proven that stroking my species is good for them.

And yet they are still slow to obey instructions (often need repeating numerous times), are not always available when required, and sometimes even move when I am comfortably stretched out on a lap! I mean, the indignity of it. I know we can’t go back to the good old days of Egypt, where we were worshipped as Gods, but surely things are deteriorated beyond the realms of recovery, and I am sure we can’t blame it all on global warming as I still feel quite cold at times without a duvet.

Do you think the coming human election will make a difference? Will the new government make humans work harder?

Your thoughts required,
Her Furship, Queen Padpaws Clawhunter of the United Mau’dom of Great Britain


Your Furship,

I sympathise with your staffing issues, but I really don’t think the human election will make any difference. Unfortunately, it is true that cats are no longer worshipped as they once were and there is much confusion in human society about their current role.

I think you will find that humans no longer regard themselves as servants unless they are getting paid, and (I regret to say) may even have the opinion that they own the house! However, to get better work out of them it pays to let them have plenty of time to wake up in the morning, lots of tea and coffee, and a reasonable share of the bed at night (as they are bigger than you).

Enjoy the service you have, and think how much worse off you could be without them,

Kind regards,
Professor A. Pony


Sigh…. I knew there was little point in seeking the opinion of a herd species that allows humans to trap it in boxes and behind fences all day.

 Never mind, when the rightful place of Cats is restored in society we will still look upon you as friends and release you from your imprisonment. We WILL return to the days when we were Gods and humans were slaves, willing to do our every request instantly. I’ll get onto planning the revolution straight away.

Well maybe after my morning nap.

Or perhaps after my afternoon nap.

Oh well, I’ll definitely think about it anyway. Off to lie in the sun now.

 May all your dreams be purrfect,
Queen Padpaws Clawhunter

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Having trouble with standing still...

19. Dear Professor Pony,

My problem is that my human keeps wanting me to stand still when I just want to get on with whatever we are doing. For example,

  • My rider is slow getting on and they expect me to stand next to the mounting block for absolutely ages!
  • There we are about to go out for a nice ride, and my human expects me to stand and wait for no reason at all. Both on the way out and on the way back (which is even worse!).
  • When we’re at a show I really find it impossible to stand still due to excitement. Yet the more excited I get the more my human wants me to stand still and it is just NOT possible!

It doesn’t seem logical to me and I’m not sure if all of this is a general human thing or if it is just my human in particular?


What do you think,

Quickstep from Qwertyville


Dear Quickstep from Qwertyville

Unfortunately it is often hard to work out what your human wants, but hopefully I can shed some light on this for you as different reasoning applies to each of your examples.

In the first scenario, I’m afraid that you will need to learn to curb your enthusiasm and stand still. This is a very important part of Health and Safety for your human, as you need to ensure that they are securely inserted into the saddle (with all straps suitably adjusted for their comfort). If you move away before they are ready then it is not good manners and you can also cause your human significant injuries, so you need to be patient here.

In regards to the hacking out; there is probably a very good reason for your human asking you to stop, which often relates to something dangerous. As ponies, we can’t always work out why some things need to happen, but perhaps your human is just trying to keep you safe e.g. stopping before crossing the road so that you don’t get hit by a car. This is particularly likely if the stopping occurs on both the way out and the way back, so you will need to contain yourself and not be too pushy about this. However, horses have rights too and if you cannot see any reason for wasting time then it doesn’t hurt to make a polite suggestion that you both move on, particularly if it is getting near to dinner time (humans are not as good at telling the time as us).

The third example you give is a different bucket of oats altogether. Once we are excited we will be full of adrenaline (a chemical that floods the body) and this tells us to keep moving. This is often made worse by the human also being filled with adrenaline (yes they get excited and nervous too) but because they evolved differently to us their instinct is to stop us and cling on instead (see my book From the Other Side of the Saddle for more info on this).

As adrenaline relates to our survival instincts, there are only two options here. The first is to calm down, and experienced horses and/or those that have had a lot of training can control their excitement levels and listen to their human. However, a lot of horses have not yet reached this stage and so the best thing to do is to convince your human that small circles are safe; this will use up your adrenaline (in fact they become quite boring after a while) and help calm down your human at the same time.

Best of luck with this,
Professor A. Pony

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Have you seen a Cyclops?

18. Dear Professor Pony,

I was told about your page by my friend Happy-go-lucky, who says you know all sorts of things. Well, a very strange thing happened to me the other day and when I asked my stable mates what it was (as they experienced it too) they just rolled in the straw laughing and wouldn’t tell me.

Now I know I’m not as sophisticated and experienced in town life as them, and often get confused with living an urban life instead of the very rural one I grew up in, but I think it is a little unkind of them. But then, they are GIRLS; and girls will be girls.

So, here’s what happened. Firstly, there was a stranger on the yard, and quite a bit of fuss in the end stable. I didn’t pay much attention at first, but was quite anxious when there was a lot of machine noise. We have grills between the stables and I peered through but my friend in that stable seemed to be standing still, so after a bit I got used to the noise and went back to my hay. Well, next they were in the box beside mine and not only was the noise louder but the strange person had a bright light shining out of the centre of her head! I am wondering if this is what a Cyclops is? The light shone through the grill at me and I didn’t know what to do. Do Cyclops eat ponies?

I spun round the box a few times and snorted some warnings, but my neighbour ignored me. She too just seemed to stand still and I could see her resting her head on some stand type thing, so she was probably having a snooze. I wasn’t sure what to do, but kept an eye on everything just in case.

Next thing I knew, the Cyclops was in MY stable! She looked like an ordinary human, and smelt okay too, except for the third eye in the middle of her forehead. Anyway, it wasn’t shining brightly when it came in, and she gave me polos! So, I decided that, Cyclops or not, she didn’t want to eat me. I then had one of those needle things we get every now and again, but I didn’t mind that, then I don’t remember too much except for being relaxed and happy for a while. I do know though that my head went on the stand too, and that the noisy machine thing went into my mouth. The Cyclops even turned her third eye on! However, I didn’t seem to mind it now that I was happy. I am wondering if the polos were drugged, but then my neighbour had polos too and didn’t seem drugged, and she got to have hay while I had none!.

After a bit everyone went away, and I thought that they had forgotten my dinner as well as my hay, but it did come eventually even though it was quite late. I have since realised that the sharp bits on my teeth have gone and that the sore bits inside my mouth have healed up. Do you think these things are linked? I am wondering if they might have been magic polos after all (rather than drugged).

Have you heard anything about Cyclops and magic polos, and do you think the visit could be linked to my mouth being better? Looking forward to hearing your reply,

Signed: Just a Country Boy


Dear Just a Country Boy,
You are entirely correct in that the visit by that stranger is linked to your mouth being better. It is unlikely that the stranger was a Cyclops, who only has one eye (not three) and probably would have eaten both you and all of your friends! Instead, it is more likely to be another human with a special light on a band around their head to help them see. As you know, human eyesight is pretty hopeless compared to ours, and humans often either hold or wear extra lights to help with this. This would also explain why sometimes it was bright and sometimes not.

Judging by everything you have described, you have just had a visit from the dentist, who is a person with a special job of looking after the teeth of ponies. They have to train hard to be allowed to do this, with training approved by the Ancient Order of Ponies, so you can feel confident that you were in safe hands. They would have used a tool to file down your sharp points (which is why it was noisy) and any ulcers you had would have healed up within days. So, as you would have found, it doesn’t hurt and is good for you; this is one of the many benefits of being domesticated and living in an urban environment.

The polos may have been drugged, but it is more likely that they gave you something to make you happy via the needle you had. It sounds like your neighbour didn’t need a drug, but that was probably just because she is more experienced. It isn’t kind of your stable mates to laugh at you, but I am sure it is just gentle teasing, and next time you will know what is going on without having to worry, and if you don’t need a sedative then you can have your food sooner.

Happy eating,
Professor A. Pony
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To Eat or Not to Eat...

17. Dear Professor Pony,
I have a major problem with my human, who thinks that I should go on a diet. Now, I know that my human is getting a bit portly (as I have to carry her around) but I feel I need to keep up my own strength for this. And it is winter too, so I need to have a good layer of insulation against the cold. It is also more boring in winter, as we don’t get to play outside as much, so I think I should have something to do all the time, and I remember you saying that it is best if horses have lots and lots of forage to mimic the diet they evolved with.

So, because of all of that, I don’t think I should be dieting at all! What do you think?

Signed: Comfortable from Canter-over-hill
P.S. I have enclosed a photo of myself for your opinion, but please don’t publish it because I haven’t had a chance to get my mane and tail done with all this bad weather.

Dear Comfortable from Canter-over-hill,
Unfortunately, although we have evolved to eat for most of the day, in this modern world it is entirely possible that we can end up a little chubby too. In the wild, we used to lose weight in the winter, as bad weather, running away from predators, and breeding foals meant that we used up a lot of calories. But, now that we are domesticated, we don’t always have the same challenges.

You look lovely in your photo, and I like the way you are currently wearing your mane and tail; it suits you. However, I have respected your wishes and not put your photo on here. I notice that you are in a stable that looks nice and snug and which gets the sunshine flooding in too. I also notice that there is a rack full of hay and a good warm looking rug folded over the door; and you also commented that you aren’t getting out as much as you do in summer.

So, I am guessing that you are doing less exercise, have plenty to eat, don’t have to worry about the cold, and probably don’t have to worry about predators either? I don’t know if you are with foal or not, but even so it does seem as if you might be getting more than enough calories for your needs. I agree that it is best to have plenty to eat (particularly if stabled) as this prevents boredom and those horrible bad habits that some horses develop when bored. However, it is also really bad for our health if we get over-weight and we can end up with all sorts of issues, such as laminitis (extremely painful) or metabolic problems that make us feel really ill!

I really do think you only need to lose a very little, but this is best done before springtime when you will want to go out and enjoy the spring grass. It is of course hard to diet, but I recommend you get your human to weigh your hay ration and divide it up into a lot of meals you can have during the day (with a big portion, about half, to eat overnight). This will help relieve your boredom as well as stop you from getting hungry between rations. Try to chew your hay slowly and then it will last longer – if you find this hard to do, then perhaps your human will buy you one of those haynets with the small holes, which are great for dieters (yes, I have used one myself!).

Good luck with your diet, and I hope to see a photo of you looking fit and frisky in spring, with mane and tail flowing.

Best wishes,
Professor A. Pony
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Pegasus versus Epona ...

16. Dear Professor Pony,
I am a bit confused between the different horse religions; is it the same as with humans where people believe different things? I know there is Pegasus and Epona and lots of others, but I’m not sure how they all fit together. I am still quite young and am from a small stable where I don’t really want to ask anyone, but one of the ponies here tried to explain it to me and just confused me more!
Can you give me some info on this please?
Signed: Puzzled by Pegasus


Dear Puzzled by Pegasus,

It is very easy to get confused by this, especially if your dam wasn’t in a position to explain it to you. When we all lived in herds you would have learnt this as a foal, but now we have to rely on word-of-mouth to pass the message around. This is a big topic and too big to get into depth with here, but I can give you the basic outline which may help you understand what others are talking about. The main thing to remember is that there are many names for the same Goddess, which is where ponies normally get confused.

Firstly, in the beginning we did not originate on Earth, but came from the star-system now commonly called Equuleus. It is also known as Al Faras al Awwal (the first horse) or The Black Tortoise of the North in other cultures. It also has numerous other names depending on where and when it was seen by different cultures on Earth.

Pegasus itself is a neighbouring constellation, which a lot of horses get confused with Pegasus the flying horse, who is named after this constellation and lives on a planet that orbits one of its stars. Pegasus is not a God in himself (and doesn't claim to be), but in terms of Earth equines he is virtually immortal and so has been seen by many different cultures over the centuries (which has also led to a number of different names). He doesn’t live on Earth though, but does make flying visits occasionally when he is bored on his home planet. He also sends us a reminder of himself every year with a meteor shower (which arrives on May 30th and comes from the area near Eta Pegasi, for those into astronomy). In my opinion he is a bit of a show-off but then he does have a lot of deeds to his name so I guess he is entitled.

The one true horse Goddess is normally just called The Goddess, but the humans have given her many different names and this is where a lot of the confusion occurs. The most well-known name is the gallo-roman Epona, which translates as ‘Great Mare’, and this is the name I personally prefer for Her. This doesn’t mean however that She only arose in the time of the Gaul’s though, as the Goddess helped create Earth as a sanctuary for horses (although things haven’t always gone as She intended). She has been recognized by just about every human culture since the start of the human race, with many cultures having horses as potent symbols, statues, and drawings.

Another big confusion occurs because the human cultures many centuries ago couldn’t cope with a Goddess who was a horse (and still can’t), so they used to depict Epona as a rider who sat on a horse, usually a white mare. Although they deluded themselves in this way (after all, who would call a human rider the ‘Great Mare’), Epona the horse Goddess was the most widely worshipped being of the time, showing that even the humans recognized her as the supreme being. I should also point out that humans have incorporated horses into their own religions, even if they won’t admit the truth, and they have many Patron Saints of horses and riders too, which is nice. Some commonly known ones are St. Martin of Tours, St. Giles, and the well-known St. Francis.

I won’t confuse you with all the names the Goddess was known by, either before or since, but be assured that equids of all types only have the one Goddess; she just has many human names that have caught on in the human languages.

I hope this clears up a lot of the confusion for you, but please contact me again if you need more information,
Professor A. Pony

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Sometime, you are just in the wrong career...

15. Dear Professor Pony,
I fear I am a bit chicken-hearted (no offence to chickens; it is just a saying). My rider on the other hoof is not and unfortunately likes to jump big fences that have me quaking in my horseshoes.
I am sure that there are a lot of ponies out there that positively relish throwing themselves over enormous solid fences, gaping ditches the size of burial pits, and into water of unknown depth (it is well known that a horse can drown in even a few inches of water); however, I am not one of them.

I get on with my rider fine in all other respects, as they are a terrific owner always seeing to my needs and keeping me in horsey comfort. My stable-mates are great too, and I have a particular bond with the horse next door, who is the same colour as me. I just don’t like those great big scary jumps – the solid ones, that is. I don’t really mind the coloured ones that fall down because it doesn’t matter so much if I make a mistake, but those ones that don’t fall down HURT!

Have you any advice about how I can keep this home but not jump cross country? I know it is a long-shot, but I am willing to give anything (well most things) a go.
Signed: Glossy Coat Sharp Hooves


Dear Glossy Coat Sharp Hooves,

You are facing a dilemma that many of us have had to face at one point or another in our careers, and that is being in the wrong job!

In some instances, it is easier if your living conditions and work-colleagues are not pleasant, as then it is simple to make the choice to risk SALE (apologies for swearing) and try to find a more compatible stable and rider. However there are many cases like yours where everything is great except for one aspect of the job; yet that one thing can be so upsetting as to outweigh the good parts.

As you say, many ponies love jumping cross country and for some brave souls it is ‘the bigger the better’, but this career is not for everyone and there is no shame in admitting it.

So, how can you convince your rider that cross-country jumping is not for you? The quickest (and safest) way is to just stop jumping fences. A firm refusal to approach from some distance away is much more effective than a last minute duck-out (which also has the unwanted side-effect of sometimes causing your rider to fall off). Be aware that this method does risk a visit from the VET, but if you can continue to jump the coloured knock-down fences then they will realise that you are healthy and willing but just not keen on the cross-country.

A harder alternative is to refuse to jump just one type of fence (e.g. a trakhener), but this can back-fire and lead to intensive extra schooling over this type of jump and similar jumps in order to ‘restore your confidence’. Another option is to set a firm height limit and only jump up to that height; this works for some horses, but its success depends on how ambitious your rider is (and can also trigger VET unless you jump higher over the knock-down jumps). Both of these latter two options have the disadvantage that you will still need to jump some fixed fences, so it depends on whether you are prepared to compromise to keep your living conditions the same (unfortunately there are no contracts to prevent you being turfed out of your accommodation if you are no longer ‘up to the job’).

Once you have convinced your human that you no longer want to do cross-country you just have to wait to see what happens. Sometimes a new role within the stable can be organised so that you can continue with other aspects of your job (I am presuming you enjoy the dressage and hacking parts of your life), either with the same rider or a different one.

However, this is not always possible, particularly if you are the sole work-horse for this rider and they only keep you for the job of eventing. In this case you have to decide if jumping the scary jumps is better in the long run than risking SALE. In my experience it is nearly always better to move on rather than live in fear on a daily basis, but it will depend on what you are willing to risk.

Sorry I cannot be of further help, as humans are completely unpredictable in these situations and your future is literally in the hooves of the Goddess.

Best wishes in finding a new career and/or adapting your human to meet your needs,
Professor A. Pony

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Where there's muck there's brass...

14. Dear Professor Pony,

In the current financial crisis, I thought I would pass on to your readers a useful money-making scheme that my stable mate and I are involved with. We are both bedded on straw, and have taken to heart the old saying that was common among Yorkshire Coach Horse breed (before the poor things became extinct): “Where there’s muck there’s brass”.

We know that humans are very into organic-everything these days, and of course what better can you do for vegetables then some really good horse manure! Between the two of us, we now have production up to five wheelbarrows-full per morning, and can sometimes add another barrow-full or two between us each day depending on how long we spend out in the paddock (we don’t count droppings in the paddock as they are picked up and put elsewhere rather than on the muckheap).

Of course, we can’t do more droppings than any other horse, so how do we get a good production level? Firstly, spread your droppings evenly around the stable, this makes mixing easier; you get a better spread if you do lots of piles of small droppings rather than fewer larger ones. The same principle applies to urination; make sure you don’t just do this in one spot, as it won’t spread far enough to get all the straw wet, and if possible make lots of smaller efforts rather than larger puddles (especially easy for mares in season).

Mixing is performed by walking round the stable, but you can get a better mix if you change direction frequently, which has the advantage of tangling the straw together. This means that some of the otherwise clean straw is also dirtied. We haven’t yet worked out how to do the corners, so there will still be a little bit of clean straw left in those, but we will give you an update when we come up with something.

We tried to get the other horses in the stable yard to join in, but some of them are a bit stingy and will only do one wheelbarrow-full per night. Still, it is an ongoing campaign and I am sure many horses will become involved and help their owners make money.

Signed: Equine Entrepreneur


Dear Equine Entrepreneur,

It is always great to hear from horses that are willing to help their humans out. However, are you sure that your humans want large amounts of manure? Don’t forget too that your human will have to buy the straw in the first place, so this must be factored in when looking at how much manure can sell for (though I fully agree that everyone should be using horse manure for their veges rather than the artificial stuff).

In my experience, humans tend to like having less work and using less straw, rather than having a lot of manure for sale.

Just a thought,
Professor A. Pony


Dear Professor Pony,

I fear you may be right!

There has been a rearrangement of horses at the stables, and now that my neighbours have changed my production rate (and my friend’s) is way down. We just don’t seem to have the same motivation to keep it up, yet our humans seem very pleased about this. I also looked at the muckheap the other day and sales are not going as well as I hoped, as it is getting quite big, so maybe there is a glut in the market and it is not the right time to have high production.

However, I am sure I will come up with something else soon.

Signed: Equine Entrepreneur

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Life isn't always fair...

13. Dear Professor Pony,

I understand that my stable mate wrote to you about the lack of apples (see letter 11). I would firstly just like to reassure your readers that we are well looked after and do get alternative treats.

However, what I would like to complain about is the unevenness of treat distribution at our yard. I know that some humans give more treats than others, and I can accept this. However, the naughtiest pony on the yard gets the most treats! And he is also the smallest. I have seen him being given treats for all sorts of reasons, including not going into his stable or not wanting to walk toward the arena to do a bit of work (he is by no means overworked, as he does the least work in the stable anyway).

To me, this does not seem fair. I would never dream of not following my human when asked, and will follow obediently even if I don’t really want to go somewhere. Yet I don’t get a treat for being good. Should I dig in my toes to increase the carrot count?

Signed: Justice for All


Dear Justice for All,

It doesn’t seem fair does it? What has happened is that the pony has successfully trained the humans to feed it in response to resistance. Unfortunately this may backfire in that the pony will be labelled stubborn (especially if he is little enough to only be a child’s pony).

Your behaviour is the best one to adopt long term, believe me. If you ever have to change homes then your willingness and obedient nature will be valued, whereas the reluctant pony will have issues and may be sent for re-training. Your owner really does appreciate your attitude and may be thanking you in other ways (good/scratch/pats etc.) and with good care. Remember too that too many treats aren’t good for us, so you will be healthier in the long run.

Keep up the willing attitude,
Professor A. Pony

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Games aren't always fun...

12. Dear Prof,

I thought your readers might like to know about a fun game I play with my human. They give me a treat then I trot around them in the paddock. I end up with lots of treats and they seem to enjoy it too as they do it every day. Sometimes they also run round with me and join in the fun. I don’t have to worry about getting too fat, as I use up any calories from the treats.

The only problem is when they get a bit too enthusiastic and turn it into a chasing game - sometimes even throwing the halter in joy (although their aim isn’t very good and they occasionally hit me with it). Have you heard of the game and do you know how I can explain to my human when I have had enough and that they are overdoing it?

Signed: Chase-me-Charlie

P.S. I don’t have to worry about getting too fat, as I use up any calories from the treats.


Dear Chase-me-Charlie,

Yes I have heard of the game; it is sometimes called “snatch and grab”, but it is not always regarded as a game by humans. Are you sure you have read your human’s body language correctly? Are they really wanting to run around with you, or are they trying to catch you? Look for signs of reddening of the face, shouting (which is probably not for joy), throwing things on the ground (including themselves), and swear words (whatever your dam told you, these are NOT terms of endearment). Any of these signs could mean that your human is not really enjoying the game as much as you are.

It is important to remember that human’s don’t always get the timing right when giving treats, and what might seem like a reward (given after you do something) could be a bribe instead. In this case they might be hoping that you will stand to be caught rather than run away. The throwing of the halter could be in frustration at you running away (although of course we know that this won’t help if they are trying to catch you, sometimes humans don’t always do the most sensible thing).

It is also important to remember that if we don’t read human body language correctly then they may end up resorting to SALE, or worse still the KNACKERS! Do you mind being caught normally, or is it only if you are going to do some work? Do you and your human spend time together without working e.g. just meeting up for a groom or a scratch? This can help you learn more about your human, and may help with any catching issues.

Let me know how you get on,
Professor A. Pony

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Apple shortage triggers complaint...

11. Dear Professor Pony,

I am not getting my normal apple treat in the morning, and some of the apples I do get are smaller and don’t taste so good. Lately I have had to share an apple with my stablemates instead of having one of my own! I really like apples and want to know how I can get my human to give me more. I have tried nickering when they appear and even banged my door (although I am usually polite and don’t do this); however, nothing is working. Can you help?

Signed: Appleless from Orchard Farm


Dear Appleless from Orchard Farm,

Unfortunately apples are seasonal, which means that they only occur in some parts of the year. We tend to forget that year round comforts of modern life means that this is a natural cycle of events.

I don’t recommend banging your door, as you may hurt your knee or hoof and it can also annoy humans rather than having the desired effect. Remember that humans can’t always work out what we want. And even when they do realise what we are trying to tell them, they might not be able to supply it just because we ask. Are you looked after and fed well otherwise? Are you getting other treats instead?

I am sure apple treats will be back on the menu next year, and you will be able to look forward to apple season.

Best wishes, Professor A. Pony


Dear Professor Pony,

I know all that seasonal stuff, thanks. However, I also know that humans have a way to keep apples all year round now, even if they don’t taste as good. I have even seen them in shop displays when I have been out and about in the village. Surely my human can just go and get me more? I just don’t know how to get the message across,

Signed: Appleless


Dear Appleless,

I know it can be frustrating, but maybe your human isn’t able to get you apples? (E.g. lack of money- out of season apples are more expensive). It sounds like you have apples from your own orchard, so may have more than most until the apples run out.

Do you refuse all other treats e.g. carrots, oats etc.? This may make your human buy you some apples, though remember that these are considered by some humans as extras, and too many treats can be bad for you.

Yours Professor A. Pony


Dear Professor Pony,

Sigh. No I can’t resist other treats, though they are not my favourite. We do get rather a lot of apples off the trees in the orchard, even though we aren’t allowed to help ourselves (someone said ‘tummy ache’, though I don’t really believe it!).

I guess I will just have to wait until apple season again and eat different treats in the meantime!

Signed: Appleless

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Pony needs help with human's canter work...

10. Dear Professor Pony,

I am having problems training my human. Although I have tried and tried, I don’t seem able to get them to learn the canter aids properly. I mean, it seems simple to me. When I want to canter I just canter; it is preparing my human that causes all of the problems and I have been losing marks in dressage tests because of it. They just don’t seem to be able to get the timing right to start with and then, once I start cantering, they move about and flap their arms and legs! I don’t know whether they want a flying change or change in tempo! I find it so embarrassing and I am sure that all of the other ponies are sniggering behind their hooves.

How can I improve my rider and get the sort of elegance I see in the pictures in Human and Hound magazine? Is my human a lost cause and should I just find a better one?

Signed: Perfect from Ponyvale
P.S. I have a competition next Saturday and it would be really good if I could get it all sorted before then please.


Dear Perfect from Ponyvale,

Your problem is a common one and changing your human is not the answer as you may just end up with the same problem. Instead, you can work to improve your human to get the elegance you desire. You don’t say how long you spend schooling your human each week, but this isn’t the sort of issue that can be fixed in a few days so, sorry but it won’t be possible to re-train your human before Saturday.

There are a number of issues with training a good canter transition and these involve: timing of the signals; muscle development and balance of your human; using signals your human understands; preparing for the transition in advance; and then refining everything to get the elegance you want. There isn’t space to go into detail here, but some things to check are:

  • Does your human have a balanced seat at the walk and trot? If not then you may need to work on these first. Remember that it takes time for a human (and pony) to build up the correct muscles for canter, so doing a few strides at a time to start with may help (rather than cantering round and round).
  • Have you prepared for the transition? You state that when you want to canter you just canter. Do you warn your human that you are about to do this, or are you catching them by surprise? This is where the ‘half-halt’ is invaluable. Just before you do your transition, do a half-halt to let your human know that something is going to change so that they can prepare themselves.
  • Have you got the timing of your signals right and does your human understand them? If you have prepared for the transition beforehand then the human should be listening and ready to respond when you give the canter strike-off. However, check that they have been taught the same signals as you are using. Very few humans understand proper horse, therefore the signals we use are the only language we can use to communicate with them but it is no good if they have been taught a different version of the language by a different pony.
  • Refining the whole process takes time and multiple repetitions. I cannot emphasise enough that humans are slow to learn you MUST be consistent both in your training and your signals. Make sure you use exactly the same signals every time (otherwise you will confuse their small brains) and gradually train the human to respond to lighter and lighter signals until they can sit almost perfectly still during the transition, which will give you the elegance that you desire.

Do you have an experienced pony at your stable who can help? Sometimes just having another set of eyes watching can help identify what the main issues are. Could your human learn from another pony? This isn’t to say you can’t train your own rider, but sometimes having your human work on their balance or signals on another horse can help (and give your back a rest).

Remember that it is unlikely that the other ponies are sniggering at your efforts. Just about every pony has some sort of issue with their humans and they generally understand that each human is a ‘work in progress’. Even humans at the Ponylympics aren’t perfect and their ponies have to work constantly to maintain their current standard and to improve them.

Don’t be disheartened if it takes a while to achieve your goal. Remember that the photos you see of ponies and their humans in the magazines are of the top combinations, so they have already spent a long time training themselves and their humans to get that ‘look’, and some humans are definitely more trainable than others. But this doesn’t mean that you cannot achieve the same with your own human, given time and work.

Best wishes,
Professor A, Pony
P.S. Remember that the ‘aids’ are there to assist the human, because they need all the help they can get.

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Bored pony wants to take human for a ride...

9. Dear Professor Pony,
My rider takes me regularly makes me go round and round in circles! I mean, we just end up back where we started from! She says that I need to go to school – how rude!!

I am not a young horse, and have managed perfectly well with and without a human for many years. I already know how to walk, trot, canter, and stop; if anyone is off-balance, it is my human not me, though considering we have to keep doing small circles it’s not surprising I get a bit wobbly at times! We do this day after day and I don’t think my human is improving much at all, as they still want to practice the same things!

Sorry for all the exclamation marks, but I am a bit wound up. I try to contain myself, but feel like throwing up my heels with boredom. I have always been taught that it is bad manners to forcibly make your human leave the saddle but, honestly, if something doesn’t change soon I feel I will tear my mane out with frustration!

I am longing for the hills and gallops I enjoyed in my youth in Ireland, where my biggest responsibility was following the lead horse on a trek (I did have to take a human along, but so long as they didn’t fall off I didn’t mind). I realise I can’t go back in time and that I must accept my lot, but can you help me liven things up with my human? Do you think I should just jump the fence and take my human for a proper ride? I figure that a few hours over the hills would show my human what they are missing.

Signed: Happy-go-Lucky, who is too old for school!


Dear Happy-go-Lucky,
Many of us have periods in our past that we would like to return to, but as you say this is not possible. However, we can make the best of what we’ve got. I really don’t recommend jumping the fence and taking your human for a long ride. I think you will find that this back-fires on you and that you will spend even more time going round in circles (as the human will think you need to improve your manners), but this time in an area with a higher fence.

Humans often do things we don’t understand, and it may seem pointless to us to go round in a circle just to get back to where we started especially when this is repeated over and over again. However, you have to remember that humans are very slow to learn and need lots of education. There are also some humans who enjoy this and, after all, it isn’t that hard a workload in exchange for free board and lodgings and a personal servant.

I hesitate to mention it, but it sounds like you did not get a lot of education when you were younger? This may mean that your human wants you to have some now and, although some ponies think they are too old to learn, it can be fun to take your human through to the higher levels of education. Higher school equitation is an artform and it isn’t just for young ponies, but it sounds as if you are a willing and cheerful pony so should enjoy it once you get to the more interesting things. It can be lots of fun to go sideways and spin in circles with your human in perfect balance!

Of course, it does take a lot of time in school to achieve this, as your rider will need to perfect their balance and their aids; however, you can help with this by listening carefully to what your rider is trying to tell you and being responsive. Initially it may not seem as exciting as cantering across the hills, but there are lots of different things you can practise with your human to keep yourself interested too. It takes a lot of skill to train a human well, but you sound like just the sort of pony to achieve this!

Happy studying,
Yours, Professor A. Pony

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Troubled dog feels threatened by invading stable cat ...

8. Dear Professor Pony,
I have heard that the stable cat contacted you and so I thought I would too. As an official house dog, I don’t think it right that the stable cat is now taking over and becoming a house cat. It was bad enough when it just came in for the odd evening, but now it I find it on the chairs, in my own doggy bed, and even in the human bed’s! And it spronged me with its claws when I nearly landed on it – well, how was I supposed to know it was there.

It says in the BOOK of DOG that cats are meant to run away from dogs, but I can’t get this one to do that. I have read the BOOK of DOG from cover to cover looking for tips but either nothing works (the cat just looks at me) or my human stops me. When we lived in Wales, the cat would never have come into the house, as my other pack-sisters insisted that cats stayed outside. However, now I am in England and my new pack-sister (who is English) just pretends the cat doesn’t exist.

My human was watching a programme the other day and the programme said the Laws in Wales were different. Do I have to go back to Wales to be cat-free in my own home??

Signed: Traumatised Terrier
P.S. It gets fed better tasting food than I do. This must mean that my human likes the cat better than me. How can this be fair??


Dear Traumatised Terrier,
I am glad you have studied the BOOK of DOG and know it well. Unfortunately, the cat will not have read this book and therefore will not always behave as expected.

Unfortunately too, if your human has decided the cat can have access to the house then you may not have a choice. Have you considered sharing with the cat? There are some advantages and I think you should consider the following:

  • Cats rarely eat all their food, so you can clean up the plate after them. Yes their food does have more meat in it (and therefore tastes better), but this is not because your human likes the cat better. It is a matter of digestion and they can’t live without it.
  • Cat flap: your human is highly likely to install a cat flap (if they haven’t done so already) and this will allow you to go in and out of the garden as you please. Again, this is not because your human likes the cat better, but just because they get fed up with opening the door all the time.
  • Temperature: cats naturally have a higher body temperature than dogs. Many a dog has found that making friends with the cat means that they have a nice furry hot-water bottle when the fire goes out. Particularly useful if your human has gone out for the evening during winter.
  • If you can’t get out to hunt, then the cat might bring mice and rabbits back for you to play with. This can keep you amused when your humans are off doing something else.

So, you see, things might not be all bad. We can’t always change things in life, and accepting the situation is much easier in the long run. Humans will always have a special place in their hearts for dogs, who have been faithful companions for centuries (though not as useful as the horse of course; however, we are a bit big to keep them company inside the house) and I am sure your human loves you very much.

Try to focus on the positive
Yours, Professor A. Pony

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Fear of bangs has pony shaking in its fetlocks...

7. Dear Professor Pony,
I have a really big fear that I hope you can help me with. Well, there are two issues really; the first is that I don’t like loud noises like bangs. There is a gun club not far from us and every now and then when we go for rides they let off lots of really loud bangs, which frighten me! The problem is that the best hacks are on the other side of the gun club, so both my human and myself would like to be able to ride there, but I just shake in my fetlocks when I think about it.

The second issue relates to the first. I heard the other day that a horse was given a medal for being in a really big war. It would be great to have a medal, but I don’t want to go to war and be shot at or blown up. Apparently 8 million horses and mules died! The pony telling me about the medal said that at the start of the war they asked for volunteers, but then they start taking all horses and other equines that might be useful, without giving them a choice. One of my stable mates has told me to pony-up, as he wants to join the cavalry and thinks that being scared of guns is silly, but I really don’t want to be conscripted. Can you help?

Signed: Anxious Amity from Peaceful Pastures


Dear Anxious Amity from Peaceful Pastures,

Fears can be quite overwhelming at times but I can certainly reassure you straight away on your second issue. The medal you were talking about was given for a war that occurred five pony generations ago [translators note; a pony generation is 20 years] and horses and ponies are no longer conscripted to wars in this country; although spare a thought for those overseas who may not be so fortunate. Although I wasn’t personally involved, I am myself proud to be a member of the Ancient Order of Ponies which insisted on an amendment to the Human-Horse agreement so that horses were no longer forced into war against their will. Due to this insistence by the AOP, humans came up with a mechanical solution called a ‘tank’ instead which, although not nearly as nice as a horse, doesn’t mind being shot at.

In regards to your first issue, this is fixable but will take a lot of time on your part and you will need a human with patience as you will need to get used to the banging gradually (this is known as habituation). I strongly recommend that you get help from a professional pony to ensure that nothing goes wrong to make the situation worse. However, I will describe the general process here in case this is not possible.

You need to approach the area until you get to a point that you just begin to feel a little anxious; then stop. Do not approach any closer until the feeling of nerves go away, but it is also important that you do not run away; you must remain in the same area – I would try very small circles if you are quite nervous.

It may take a long time to get used to the noise, which is why you need a patient human – some ponies recommend that their human take a book to read, as it is hard for humans to cope with waiting for long periods without fidgeting. When you are relaxed enough to be interested in the nearby grass, have a bite to eat as a reward. The next stage is to move a little closer (this doesn’t have to be done all on the same day and will depend on your nerves). Repeat this process in small stages until you can graze happily near the gun club. Don’t hurry this; it may take days or weeks depending on how frequently you can practice and how nervous you are to start with.

Once you are relaxed and grazing near the gun club, then at this point, you should also be able to cope with riding past the gun club. However, be aware that you might feel nervous again once the guns are banging behind you, so I suggest that you make sure you are relaxed at that point before considering going on with your ride (riding away from the guns while you are still nervous will help to reinforce the nervousness, not the relaxation).

If you can get your human to scratch your withers then this will help you to relax, and if you could take your cavalry-minded stable-mate along as a companion then that will help too, as he will ignore the gun sounds and reassure you.

Hope this advice helps and that your fetlocks are soon steady again,
Professor A. Pony

P.S. For ponies wishing to support our colleagues who are not so fortunate and are currently trapped in war zones, please get your humans to send donations to Spana or the Brooke: or

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 Stable cat can't understand ungrateful humans ...

6. Dear Professor Pony,

I am not a pony, but the stable cat. However, I heard you like cats and I can’t find a Dear Abby Cat version so I thought I would give you a try.

My issue is with the humans at my stable. They just don’t seem to understand me when I want something. For instance, only last night I brought them a nice fat juicy mouse. Now they definitely knew it was a present from me because they woke up when I called to them in the middle of the night; and they were definitely pleased with the present, as they gave shrieks of delight and it was gone when I woke up in the morning.

All I asked in return this morning was for them to dry me off (after I had been out in the rain) and give me a nice lap to sit on while they did it. I tried each human in turn but they all pushed me off. One human even gave me milk and meat instead. Now, while I like milk and meat, I was already full of mouse so this wasn’t what I wanted at all and I had to dry myself off. (I don’t mind doing this, but I don’t see any point in having staff if they don’t do their jobs properly).

I don’t know what I am doing wrong. How can I explain what I want to my humans?

Thanks in advance,
Signed: Soft-fur Pad-paws


Dear Soft-fur Pad-paws

Thank you for writing and I am always willing to talk to a stable cat. You do a sterling service keeping down mice and rats around the stable and definitely deserve all the comforts you have earned.

The first thing you need to realise is that you are not doing anything wrong, this is just a classic species misunderstanding. Unfortunately, humans are not very bright and take a while to work things out.

One of the big issues with what you wanted them to do comes from their evolution and is really beyond their conscious control. The mechanism and reasoning is not fully understood, but due to their evolution from tree monkeys and cave dwellers they have a morbid fear of getting wet and think that other animals should also avoid getting wet. Hence many of them put too many rugs on us horses and cannot understand why a cat would want to go out hunting in the rain. You are lucky that they have not started putting rugs on cats yet! (Although I have heard a nasty rumour that some humans are perverse enough to expect their cats to wear clothes).

In regards to the mouse. Are you 100% sure that the shrieks were those of delight? Are your human’s female? In my experience 9 out of 10 female humans are scared of mice. I am sorry to keep bringing up the lack of equine research on this, but we don’t know why a human that is relatively large should be scared of a 30g animal that cannot harm it. It must be something to do with their being no mice in trees, but you would think that after thousands and thousands of years any species could have overcome such a fear. However, this is not to be and the fear seems to be ingrained. A good alternative is to leave any presents consisting of mice and rats outside the feed room door. From observation, this seems to lead to lots of praise and stroking for the cat without any alarming shrieks in the middle of the night.

In regards to getting dried by your humans. Because the humans are afraid of getting wet, you might want to avoid leaping on their laps before you are dry. Yes, you are right in that drying you off is the least they could do in exchange for your work; however, try just rubbing against their leg to start with and meowing plaintively. If you can look bedraggled and pathetic too then this works well (I have just asked our own stable cat for more advice and she made this suggestion, saying that for her it has never failed). The humans will then dry you off to a large extent using a cloth of some sort after which they seem happy to let you sit on a lap where they can then finish the process properly with a hand-dry.

Remember, a damp cat is usually ok but a soggy moggy triggers the fight/flight reaction due to a fear response.

Hoping that this advice works for you,
Professor A. Pony

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Ponylympic hopeful wanting training and sponsorship ...

5. Dear Professor Pony,

I have decided to go to Rio and compete in the Ponylympics Dressage to get the Golden Oats medal. All I need is a bit of training for my human and an introduction to the selection committee. Will you train my human to the required standard (I’d like this done before Christmas) and can you please give me the stable number of the head horse on the selection committee. I also want some sponsorship money so I would like you to arrange some of that for me too please.

Signed: Future Golden Oat Medal Winner


Dear Future Golden Oat Medal Winner,

It is great to hear from a pony who is ambitious and knows what they want. Unfortunately I don’t do private training sessions, as my time is taken up with University work. My best advice would be to work with your human’s current instructor to improve them; or if you need a more experienced instructor then let me know what area you are from and I will send you a list of former Golden Oats winners close to you and they can provide further contacts.

In regards to personal contact details for the selectors, it doesn’t quite work that way. The selectors attend all major competitions and will approach you when they see that you are successful. If this hasn’t happened yet then I am sure it is just a matter of time. I presume that you are winning at the higher levels and competing internationally too?

Unfortunately, my contract at the University of Equus prevents me from sponsoring individuals, and the University itself only sponsors shows (as otherwise all our students would want support too). My best suggestion would be that you approach businesses whose services you use and ask them. If you are regularly appearing in publications like Human and Hound or on the Human and Country TV channel then they will get publicity in exchange, so there will be a benefit for them too.

Good luck,
Professor A. Pony


Dear Professor Pony,

I find you very discouraging. I am prepared to allow my human and myself to be available for the team to represent the United Kingdom of Ponies, and so expected more support. I keep myself fit by cantering at least every few days and I usually go out in the paddock for a walk around each day. Any pony can go sideways and change direction or pace when they feel like it, so dressage is not something I have to learn. I am sure my human is well up to standard, as I know they did a dressage test and went on a Pony Club Camp when they were young. And I take them for a hack at least once per week when the weather permits (they don’t like getting wet). I am sure we can easily win a Golden Oat Dressage award.

I don’t know why the selectors haven’t contacted me yet, but I understand why you cannot pass on their personal details on an open forum like this. I have sent my contact details to you for you to pass on to them. No I haven’t competed internationally as I haven’t got a passport and don’t like travel, but I am sure this won’t matter for Rio. I competed locally some years ago, and would have got a ribbon if my human had been better, which is why I need help for them.

Regarding sponsorship, I will start applying to local businesses straight away, as they are bound to want to invest in me for when I do get to Rio; after all, they will then be assured of a spot rather than having to fight for contracts with Nike and Coca Cola.

Thank you for your advice and, even though you haven’t been much practical use, when I am in Rio you are welcome to come up and whinny hello. I will even let you have a hoofprint for your autograph book, though you may have to queue outside my stable with the other fans.

Regards, Future Golden Oat Medal Winner


Dear Future Golden Oat Medal Winner

Many thanks for that, I will certainly go by the stables in Rio and say hello to all the ponies on the team. I hope you enjoy the Ponylympics.

Best wishes,
Professor A. Pony

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Anxious horse worried about dangers of dressage arena ...

4. Dear Professor Pony,

My human does not believe me when I tell her how dangerous it is to go into a dressage arena and how we should be avoiding anything we have not seen before. How can I convince her to help me run away from things which might kill us?

Signed: Worried of Ringmer


Dear Worried of Ringmer,

Sorry to hear about your troubles. There could be one of two issues going on here.

Firstly, do other horses regard the dressage arena as safe? Assuming yes, then it is probably an issue with nerves and trust. You don’t give your history, but is it possible that you started training humans later in life than many horses? If you have spent many years making your own decisions then this can make it hard for you to trust your rider when they say it is safe - you need to believe your rider sometimes, rather than always expecting them to believe you (remember, it is supposed to be a partnership, rather than you being in control all of the time). One of the main issues with this is that if you act as if there is danger, then your rider will become nervous too and it has a snowball effect, so you need to keep calm for the sake of your human.

My suggestion is to try to concentrate more on the work you are doing and listen for your human’s signals, rather than looking for things that might be dangerous, and this will help you build up trust in your human. Another idea to calm your nerves is to recite The Ballad of Black Beauty, which can help to relax you and your human, making work easier.

I am sure it is not the case in your situation, but take care that your human does not think that you are spooking just to try to avoid work! Some humans just like to admire us (as they should) but remember that it needs to be a partnership and that the reason most humans wait on you hand and foot is to enjoy your company. Upsetting your human too much can result in SALE (apologies for swearing).

 Secondly, what if the arena is not safe? If you are certain that there really is danger (and you must be certain due to risk of SALE, as mentioned), then there is only one choice. Remember that humans are not always the best judge of danger (as they don’t see, hear, or smell as well as we do). Therefore, if there is danger then you must save yourself and run away! If your human comes with you then all very well, but sometimes it is important to put yourself first and not get killed. Enough horses have sacrificed their lives trying to save humans during our long history with them. You can always go back and check to see if your human is still alive after the danger has passed.

Hope this advice helps,
Professor A. Pony

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Attractive mare experiences unrequited love ...

3. Dear Professor Pony,

Every time I have come into season I have spent all of my efforts trying to attract the attention of one of my stable mates. I didn’t really notice him when he came last winter, but since I came into season for the first time this spring I realised that he is a ‘hunk’ of the first order, 11 out of 10, Pegasus incarnate.

However, despite my best efforts he pretty much ignores me.

I can’t stop thinking about him and it is affecting my life (can’t eat, can’t work etc. etc.). How can I turn his unrequited love into one of passion?

Signed: Frantic for Romance
P.S. I have a good figure, a nice coat, and a long-flowing mane and tail, so it is not like I am any old nag. I am also a red-head; do you think he might have a colour preference?


Dear Frantic for Romance,

I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but your hopes are unlikely to be fulfilled. Unfortunately, in modern society most male horses no longer have the ability to reproduce and have that sort of relationship with a mare. Gelding removes both the cells that help make foals and the hormones that cause the type of behaviour you want. Don’t take this personally though, as he may still like you, but just not in the same way.

Do you also get along well with him between your seasons? If so, can you accept a platonic relationship? This would make it easier for you, as well as others on your yard.

Remember too, that owners can become frustrated with mare’s that lose concentration every few weeks throughout the spring and summer, so it can be important for your future to achieve some sort of balance in your life. Although I don’t normally recommend VET where it can be avoided, there are some things that could help you (no, I am NOT talking about injections for your potential beau!). Although not commonly done, if you are unlikely to be in the situation where you can have foals then it is always possible to get yourself speyed, which would resolve the problem long-term. It is not a decision to make lightly but one that could provide a solution that would take away your frustration.

Best wishes, Professor A. Pony.
P.S it is unlikely to be due to colour, as if he was intact and interested then colour rarely matters.


Dear Professor Pony,

I did not like your answer at all and I suppose that is because you are a male (gelded I presume) and don’t understand how frantic I am. All I wanted to know was how to get him interested in me. I am going to spend the next few days telling him I love him in a loud voice, which I am sure will work.

Signed: Frantic for Romance
P.S. You might have commented on how lovely I am. I have included a photo as proof.


Dear Frantic for Romance,

Your photo shows you are a very attractive mare. I hope it all works out for you and that you find romance soon.

Regards, Professor A. Pony (This correspondence is now closed).

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 Concerned horses witnesses abuse of another ...

2. Dear Professor Pony,

I was at a show the other day and we all seemed to be enjoying the outing except for one poor horse that was being given a hard time by its rider. The horse was quite young and was obviously finding the atmosphere too much. I think it also made its human nervous too, as they lost their temper and took it out on the horse. However, I don’t think they should have been hitting the horse for being upset. I did not know what to do though – is there somehorse I can report this to?

Signed: Civilised from Carrot Cottage


Dear Civilised from Carrot Cottage,

These are always upsetting circumstances, particularly as it goes against our instincts. Unfortunately, humans have control of situations like this and you can’t force a human to calm down. The horse in question is obviously too inexperienced to cope with this sort of situation, which needs an experienced pony to take charge and retrain the rider.

In this situations, it can seem as if there is nothing you can do. Reporting the human to the appropriate welfare group is out of the question, not least because they don’t make phones large enough for us to tap out the phone number with our hooves (perhaps for reasons such as this?), and even if you can get someone to dial, the person on the other end rarely (if ever) understands horse. Worse, you may even get an automated service, which sends you round in circles.

However, here are some practical tips that might help situations like this. Neigh very loudly and stare at the horse having the problems. This will help draw attention to the horse’s plight and, hopefully, another human will step in and calm the rider down. You should also give the youngster moral support and/or a lead where appropriate, by moving closer to him if your own rider will allow it (though be careful, as if the young horse is really upset then he might react by kicking out). The touch or proximity of another horse will often help a youngster settle, and calming the horse down will help to calm the rider down too.

Sorry I can’t be of more help on this one, but humans will be humans!

Best wishes, Professor A. Pony.

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Nervous pony trying to overcome bad experiences ...

1. Dear Professor Pony,

I really need your help. My child lost interest in me and I was sold on to another family with lots of children. I really thought I had found my forever home, as I really liked the man who came to look at me. However, the woman and children were quite inexperienced and quickly made me very nervous. They did not listen to the horsey man or the livery owner, and I had some bad experiences. I know they did not mean to upset me, and I have since returned to my previous home, where I soon calmed down again. However, I find that I have become very nervous of many things, particularly going through gateways. Can you help me?

Signed: Little Hooves but Big Heart


Dear Little Hooves but Big Heart,

I’m sorry to hear your new home didn’t work out. Changes in circumstance can be stressful for any pony, and it is difficult if you don’t have the skills yourself to train an inexperienced owner. However, I am glad you are back where you feel safe.

The problem with gateways will have been caused by you being hurt in some way, or possibly being zapped by an electric fence (that was shorting out or ‘sparking’) as you went through. Even if you don’t remember the actual incident, or it was a while ago now, your instinct will still make you want to rush forward so that you don’t get hurt again or, worse, trapped in the gate itself.

So, what you need to do is ensure that your owner opens the gate really wide before leading you through, so that you feel confident you won’t get hurt. You can achieve this by simply digging in your toes as the gate opens, and only moving freely forward when it is wide. However, you may need to repeat this a few times to get the message across (remember that humans learn by repetition).

If your owner closes the gate too quickly, and you are worried that it will clip your hocks, then dart forward to let them know they have done wrong. This must be done with head up, an anxious expression on your face, and a wide-eyed look backwards. Preferably also add in a sideways swing of the quarters away from the gate, in case it does clip your hocks, though watch out for the gatepost on the other side. If you don’t assume the right posture then your owner may not realise that you are frightened and just think you are being naughty. Be warned that some owners won’t realise you are anxious anyway, though it sounds as if your old home knows what they are doing.

Repeatedly go back and forward through the gateway until you become habituated (used to it) to the gateway. It is important that you keep going until you do not show any reaction to the gateway. Start with the gate wide open, then gradually make the gateway narrower until you are confident going through. This may need repeating in wet and windy weather too, as things will look and sound different. The tricky bit is getting your owner to go through this process. Most owners are only to willing to help you overcome a fear like this; however some are not very patient, don’t like getting cold or wet, or just don’t understand what you need (if the latter is the case, then they may need to be sent for re-training).

If you are really nervous then follow another horse through first, to make sure the gateway is safe. This advice also applies to things like stable doors and other narrow spaces, or anywhere else you have been hurt.

Good luck with finding a new child,

Yours, Professor A. Pony

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To prevent a Thoroughbred from running is like clipping the wings of an eagle
The body may have beauty but the soul has no spirit