Last year I shared a post on our Facebook page about Pony Access Tours which is run by Simon Mulholland. It was wildly popular and for a good reason. Nobody likes to feel limited by mobility restrictions and Simon’s aim is to ensure that people can experience the outdoors including rugged terrain through his Pony Access Tours – have pony will travel. Today Simon shares his story and a look at how the pony tours work.
PONY ACCESS TOURS – by Simon
Wheelchairs are brilliant, they provide freedom to millions of people…………. on the right surface. Just because you use a wheelchair doesn’t mean that you want to spend the rest of your life on smooth surfaces. You may be a birdwatcher, fisherman, geologist, wildlife photographer or just like the countryside. Now you can get off the smooth surfaces. Beaches, mountain and moorland, rocky tracks, gravel and mud are no barrier to Pony Access.
Pony Access takes anyone, in any wheelchair, across any terrain.
Pony Access is odd. The name is pony access but I spend most of my time pointing out that this isn’t a pony or horse based business. We provide access. I want Pony Access to be seen as providing access, whether that is to the beach, or to a walk you used to take years ago, or to see a stunning view, or just to join a family picnic or walk the dog. Access is what matters. The pony is just the most awesome power plant.
Pony Access will take people who use wheelchairs to places that no mechanical system can handle. Traction is unbeatable. A pony will out manoeuvre anything that hasn’t got tracks, and crosses surfaces that tracks rip to shreds, without a mark. Ground clearance isn’t an issue. While the wheels are on the ground, it’s a wheeled vehicle, when it bottoms out, it’s a sledge. Either way, a pony can pull it.
I will happily challenge any mechanically powered wheelchair enabled vehicle to try taking people across the range of terrain Pony Access finds easy. And then I point out that not only can we cope with more variety, we do it quietly, no emissions, no damage, no disturbance and with free en route refuelling.
Of course if you like ponies, that is a bonus. Over 15 years inventing, designing and building pony and horse drawn vehicles, I have learned loads about ponies. My particular interest is safety. Traditional horse activities are notoriously, insanely dangerous. Pony Access is safe.
As a coward, the traditional equestrian approach of never showing fear, and just hitting and kicking the animal till it does what you want, seemed a high risk approach. I have always believed that if you hit and kick an animal, it is highly likely to return the compliment. So Pony Access takes the cowards way. We say “please” and give the pony a reward if it does what we want. Actually, I give my pony a reward if he doesn’t do what I want, but that is because he has trained me to give him rewards. Occasionally he rewards me by doing what I want.
If this sounds an odd training method, it is. But it works. Obama, my pony has taken over a hundred people for their first trip on the beach. He has taken Greg up Hound Tor in the snow, Salim on the South Downs Way, Bex round West Town Farm, Ari to the Double Locks pub. I judge a training system on how it works, and this way works.
Pony Access uses the iBex Saddlechariot vehicle. This has a unique instant pony release system that lets ponies run without endangering anyone else should it get a fright. If the pony is scared by something and runs, I just release the pony, and the person on the vehicle is safe. The pony will run to open space, which makes it and any spectators safe.
Just a little invention and modern engineering makes Pony Access safe, and safety matters. Pony Access wants to take everyone, everywhere. In 2016, dangerous businesses don’t survive and we intend to survive by keeping our people, and our ponies, totally safe.
Way back when I first started, I took Bex (a passenger) round the farm where I was developing Pony Access. Everything went wrong, the lambs weren’t where they should have been, the cattle were out of sight, it rained…….. I apologised to Bex but she replied, “That’s the first time I’ve seen a rabbit hole for 9 years.” Some comments burn into your brain. That is one of them.
Thanks to Simon for sharing his story and more about Pony Access. If you’d like to read more or contact Simon check out the Pony Access website here.
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