Question about pony/outrider horses

Kind of an odd question - who typically owns the pony horses and outriders’ horses at a racetrack? Does the racing venue typically in own and provide them?

I ask because I attended what is expected to be the final Arlington Million Day today and a friend asked me who owned those horses and what will happen to them when/if the track is shut down. I didn’t know and couldn’t find the answer by googling, so I thought someone here might have an answer.

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Around here the trainers own them. Sometimes retired race horses. Broke for general riding and generally seem to be valued and loved. Sometimes grooms adopt them.


The trainers own the pony horses and the outriders own their own horses for the most part. Lots of them do other things in their time off-- trail ride, play polocrosse, hunter pace, show, event.


Thanks for the responses! They all seemed like lovely horses and were impeccably well turned out, it was clear that someone cared about them.

When a trainer owns a lead pony, it’s a “barn pony”… that is, it normally works for that trainer only, in the morning and often in the afternoon too (at the races). Other ponies are owned by people running a “lead pony business”, who will contract out to many different trainers, and it is their full time employment, and work both in the morning and at the races for those trainers. Those people will likely own several ponies, some being “morning ponies” only, others being “afternoon ponies”, who are those that you see working practically every race in the afternoon’s card. It often takes a different sort of pony to do each type of work. Lead ponies who work the races often do not work in the morning, or if they do, it’s light work, a break off for a worker, etc. Afternoon ponies are those who are very reliable, and know their job well, very sensible. Morning ponies are “tough” ones, “very sound” galloping machines, as they may pony many horses in the morning, exercise for the racehorses without a rider on their back (for some reason). But they may not be ponies who are suitable to work the races in the afternoon. Not all lead ponies will tolerate the jockey’s foot being crammed into their flank, so not all are not suitable to work the races. Not all afternoon ponies can take the amount of galloping required to be true morning ponies. Green ponies usually start out being morning ponies, and may or may not turn into afternoon ponies in time, with training and experience.
“Outrider” ponies work for the racetrack, sheparding post parade, picking up loose horses, and dealing with accidents both in the morning and at the races. They are usually owned by their riders, who hold the job for the track operator.


Interesting! I’ve always loved horse racing and really enjoy learning more about it. Thanks for the reply!

Here is an interesting article about a well known pony.


@NancyM explained it very well, but in case you had any question left, the owners and their ponies will just move on to another racetrack. The majority are all ready moving from track to track several times a year, unless based at one of the very few tracks with year round racing (Arlington isn’t one of those places). Some may decide to do something else with their horses.

When I worked at a track (admittedly about 3 years ago) the pony horses were generally owned by the trainers and/or the pony riders themselves (I know we had a few lead pony people who didn’t necessarily work for a specific trainer). Outrider horses, I don’t know but I think the outsiders most likely owned them.

Some pony horses are retired racehorses (Lava Man is a pretty famous example) others are draft crosses or quarter horses.

And yeah a lot of these people do move from track to track - I think the track I worked at had a few more who were there longer term but we also had what I think is a bit of an unusually long racing season as we ran races from late April up to early November (and the track wasn’t in some tropical climate either - Midwest, but we don’t really get our really wintry weather until January, so).

I love these majestic creatures of God myself. Wouldn’t you agree that henceforth we drop the pretense and call the horses by the title they have earned? I hope you agree Friend Horses are a more appropriate term and together we can start The Friend Horse Revolution! Smokey Forever!

Why change a perfectly understood term in the racing world for a sappy new title? They are good working horses, not pet dogs. They are doing fine as “ponies” and have been using that title for a very long time. Let us NOT rename them!! Good horses can be friends to you, but don’t need a new, confusing name for the group.

Sorry to step on your enthusiasm, but Friend Horses, sounds childish and sappy. Makes me gag!!


Why "friend horses? You say “drop the pretense” but if anything that sounds more pretentious than pony horse or outrider horse.


I guess it’s a play on the increasing use of euphemisms like the George Carlin bit on Shell Shock becoming Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Pony Horses to me doesn’t define what they actually do. I guess I just noticed that they seemed like friends.

I understand. I’m new to Horse Racing and it was just an observation that they seemed to act like good friends.

I’m not sure which term came first, but I’m geberal riding, “to pony” a horse means to ride one horse while leading a second rider less horse. Typically done to get an unbroke young horse out on the trails or to exercise your pack mule in the winter, etc. Certainly has its risks. But it’s a basic verb in horsemanship. I understand polo ponies are often exercised this way too.


Racetrackers will refer to “any” equine who is not currently in training for racing at the track as a “pony”. As in "he used to be a racehorse, but now he’s a kid’s riding pony. A “pony”, to a racetracker, is “anything that could be useful to pony a racehorse at the track”. He may have been a TB racehorse previously, or not. Has nothing to do with the size of the equine. Those fancy and expensive WBs at the horse shows are “ponies”, because they are not TBs in training at the track, but they might be OK as a lead pony someday. A “horse” is a Thoroughbred equine in training at the track (and correctly an intact male horse)… everything else is a “pony”, and may be or may become a lead pony, where it might have some value to the racing fraternity.
Just an amusing view of the mind of the racing fraternity.

They’re called lead ponies and “ponying” is a common term (I thought, anyway) for leading a horse while riding a horse - pony I would assume is just a shortening of “lead pony.” I guess in that line we could call them leaders but that sounds odd to me for no apparent reason. :laughing:

Outrider horses I don’t think get called ponies.

I’m not exactly immersed in racing myself past a season spent working security at a TB track about 4 years ago and being a casual fan.