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Exploring Animal Role Play or, Horsing Around with Identity

Animal role play is one of the fastest growing subsets of BDSM, says Liliane Hunt, a professional Mistress who counts pony & puppy play as part of her specialties. “There is so much one can explore thorough pony or puppy play. Bondage, fetishism, sadomasochism, exhibitionism, training, discipline, the possibilities to explore are wide.”

There are many ways to play in this world of animal identities. The journey starts with the question: what kind of animal or trainer are you? What is your breed, personality, and purpose? If the answer is a horse, to take just one possibility, a rich subculture of possibilities is ready and waiting. 

Ponymistress Rebecca Wilcox, author of The Human Pony, describes these categories of human equines: fetish, sadomasochistic, and equine-identified ponies. Fetish ponies tend to like the objectification and exhibitionism of the play. SM ponies may be drawn by the bondage of the leather and metal harnessing (the “tack”), the discipline of the training, the dominance and submission in the trainer/pony relationship, or the possibility of humiliation and punishment in the interaction. Equine-identified ponies, on the other hand, generally do not want to be roughly treated or have sex with humans while in their pony role. Their focus is on expressing the animal within (See The Human Pony, ch. 1).

What brings players into this world? Certainly kink interests in fetishism and exhibitionism, costumes and role play are big draws. But in my conversations with animal role players, I saw a hint for something more — a desire to experience affection within a clearly defined structure. Mistress Liliane notes, “There’s a structure and a freedom. We know exactly what the rules are, the rules of engagement; therefore there is a freedom to fully and safely explore our dynamic within that structure.” 

A pony training session has an inner logic and natural flow depending on its purpose. You may start by grooming and tacking up the pony, establishing your connection. Then you can move to training (repetition with reinforcement) of the desired behaviors. Maybe you are training the pony to pull the cart and take direction from long rein cues. Maybe you are training for a steeplechase-like or rodeo-like competitive event. Perhaps you are actually riding your steed. A cooling down period may follow: taking off the tack, grooming, praise and treats. Exactly what I would do with my bio-horses when I was a girl! 

In my first interaction with human ponies, I felt a surprising ease. I realized that the headspace of “trainer” felt familiar to me, even though it was a different “flavor” than what I bring to other types of BDSM scenes. Mistress Liliane embodies classic English discipline, but she says that her human pets will see a softer and more nurturing side of her. “I do admit to a little indulgence with my human animals. Their spontaneity, love, enthusiasm, the way they experience life touches me and moves me; there is much laughter.” 

The headspace of the bottom may depend partly on the animal being embodied and it’s personality. Davor, founder of the San Francisco Stampede Munch, says, “Horses are not slaves; they’re powerful animals. And sometimes they’re cranky. And sometimes they want to please. The headspace I go into during pony play is not “submissive” in the traditional way at all.”

At the human Fox Hunt last month I met a woman who was having terrific fun being a lemur. She spoke about how the lemur let her play with aspects of her personality — a certain aggressive brattiness — that she didn’t normally let out.

One of the things I find fascinating about the animal role play world is how the erotic is clearly the creative impulse, but the scenes are often not overtly sexual. It is really about power exchange, a release from the confines of humanness, and exploring a mindstate.

The animal role play community is diverse and infused with the DIY ethos. 

If you’re looking to get involved, contact me for a list of current resources.


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