‘Build a bond with the pony before the jockey gets on’: Leading producer shares her top tips for training lead rein ponies

  • Sharn Linney is one of the best in the business when it comes to producing mini ponies for children both on and off the lead rein.

    Sharn Linney shot to fame in 2017 when she led Welsh section A Thistledown Van-Der-Vaart to the supreme pony title at Horse of the Year Show (HOYS), but she’s led and produced ponies of all types and breeds to victories at all major shows, including the Royal International (RIHS), Royal Windsor and the BSPS championships.

    When she chatted to H&H showing editor Alex Robinson on episode 101 of the Horse & Hound podcast, Sharn shared her top tips for training mini ponies for their younger riders:

    1. Deciding on the class

    When choosing if your pony is more suited to being a lead rein or a first ridden, Sharn says that you must initially look at the type:

    “Temperament comes into play,” she said. “But you do have specific types. Lead rein types are slightly smaller and typier, and more suitable for the smaller riders. Your first riddens are scopier and will carry the bigger jockey with ease.”

    2. Common mistakes to avoid

    “When it comes to handling, my main tip is to leave the pony alone,” Sharn explained. “Keep the pony flowing forward nice and fluently. Try to not interfere with the pony at all if possible. Focus on sending yourself forward and the pony will come with you. If you’re a little hesitant, then the pony is likely to be, too.”

    3. Preparing at home

    Sharn said that it’s the work you do at home which will ensure the very best picture is presented in the ring:

    “We vary all the training at home. Do little bits in the school with the pony yourself without a jockey on so you can get your confidence with the pony. You can build a bond with the pony before the jockey gets on so you can focus your attention on aiding the rider if needed. The smaller jockeys sometimes miss beats so if you have the confidence in the pony because you’ve been working with it outside the ring then everything falls into place a little better.”

    4. Leave a lasting impression

    “These classes are so strong and everyone is giving it their all,” Sharn emphasised. “You need to ensure you’re as prepared as possible while trying to keep yourself relaxed. Those little tension moments between you and jockey, or you and pony always show in the ring. Do the best you can, give it your all and keep everything as fluent as possible”

    5. Perfect the turnout

    “There are some fantastic companies who make outfits and they’re all incredible. I like to keep everything as smart as possible. It can be hard these days as there are many outfits which look the same, but if you can add some different touches that can help. But make sure it’s not too much. There are so many ponies of the same colour so try to stick out just a bit using your outfit.”

    Catch Sharn Linney, as well as discussions about the Kentucky Three-Day Event and Paris 2024 Olympics, on episode 101 of the Horse & Hound podcast, which is out now. 

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