I recently posted a bit about my experience of the avoidance tactics of riding school ponies. My personal favourite was the gelding who was the subject of considerable concern for about 6 months. Out of the blue, he seemed to be having difficulty when he tried to pee. He stretched and strained and even started to groan but for all his efforts rarely produced anything. His small rider's legs would be quivering trying to stand in the saddle (to reduce pressure on his kidneys) for the length of time it took him to give up and walk on. He was tested for everything the vet could think of and nothing showed up. Various treatments were administered, to no avail. His workload was reduced and eventually he was turned out for complete rest when the problem appeared to get worse. As he was carefully monitored, it quickly became apparent that being turned out to grass was a miracle cure. He could pee copious amounts effortlessly and with almost rude happiness when in the field. As soon as he was brought into the yard, he was all but crippled. It had been assumed initially that the weight of a rider was exacerbating the problem. Then, considering the joyous abandon with which he managed to relieve himself in the field, a general suspicion began to set in.
Being small for my age but strong, I was frequently nominated to school ponies that were getting too big for their boots and taking advantage of their younger riders. I was also nominated to test the theory that this particular individual might just be faking. With the aim of taking him by surprise, I was put on him and included in a regular nursery lesson. We duly walked around without incident as the kids went through the warm-up routine of stretches and settling-in exercises. He continued to walk around with no issues as we practiced starting, stopping and steering. When the kids started to trot individually, he walked on until it came to the turn of the pony in front of him. Then he promptly parked himself at the fence, stretched out his back legs and stuck his neck out. Eyeballs rolling, he began groaning in a manner perfectly suited to a Shakespearean death scene. The local pantomime would have been delighted to have him.
His first inkling that something was amiss occurred to him when I remained firmly sitting in the saddle. He stopped mid-groan to look around at me. Legs wrapped around him, I gave a firm squeeze and his head snapped up so fast it's a wonder he didn't have whiplash. As instructed, the squeeze was followed by kick then a smart rap on the rump. He took off like a scalded cat. After three circuits of the arena, much to the amusement of the kids, I managed to stop him by steering him at the wall. He then continued with the rest of the lesson as if nothing had happened, trotting enthusiastically over a few poles and even tackling a small cross pole impeccably. He showed no further symptoms whatsoever after that.