When someone hears the phrase "animal play," we automatically think of Furries or Cos Play which is a common misconception. Behind closed doors, I used to put on my K9 harness and re-emerge as Sparkles the Dog. My pet play was never sexualized; I chose to protect the purity of my innocent dog persona. The role play itself focused solely on my devotion to my Dominant. Some of my favorite moments were jumping up on the bed to wake him for his day, sitting at his feet while he watched television, or eating dinner out of a bowl at his feet. But what made this dynamic so beautiful was that we committed completely to the experience and thus learned more about one another. Pet Play allowed a freedom of expression and vulnerability that I’ve never before experienced in other forms of BDSM play.
As I sat down with three Animal Play Lifestyle enthusiasts, it made me realize just how much I miss Sparkles. I am thankful for what she gave to that relationship and what she taught me about myself.
Hudsy Hawn: Can you two share the first moments you remember discovering a love for Animal Play? Why did you both choose the roles you did?
Pepper: I've thought of myself as a pup for as long as I can remember. I think a lot of human pets can remember playing as kittens or puppies or horses even when they were a kid.
Pollux: I got introduced to pet play through Pepper. I love dogs, so finding out my best friend was a dog at heart just meant more fetch and tug-of-war for me.
Hudsy Hawn: Can you share some of the gifts or rewards you’ve personally experienced through animal play?
Pollux: Having a human pup provides love, companionship, and loyalty. You know that feeling you get like your heart is melting when a dog starts dancing with excitement when you get home? It’s just that.
Pepper: Pup headspace is the ultimate stress-relief. I've always been able to go there when I'm sad or anxious and come out of the other end feeling recharged. Having the ability to give up control and simplify your life can be liberating, and it can also do wonders for a relationship.
Hudsy Hawn: I know what you mean. For me it felt joyous, yet very healing and bonding with a partner. How should someone new get started?
Pepper: Let go of your human consciousness, the part of your brain that worries about paying bills and getting the car washed and doing the dishes, and find the part of you that just wants to play. I think for a lot of people this is way harder than it sounds. But it can be as simple as curling up on the couch and purring, or chewing on a ball. One of the other nice things about pet play is that you don't necessarily need any gear or a partner.
Hudsy Hawn: How can people find others to learn from, whether you’re a pet or a Handler?
Pollux: If you're looking for a pet it's similar to looking for most other kinds of partners in BDSM. Find a group, attend a munch, get to know people. If you've got a partner who wants you to be their handler, just ask what they're looking for.
Hudsy Hawn: What stigmas or judgements have you encountered from others?
(Photo of Pepper and Pollux by Belle Vous Studios)
Pepper: People often confuse pet play with bestiality or being a furry, but it's a separate fetish. It definitely doesn't have anything to do with real animals, and unlike furries, most pet players don't focus on or anthropomorphize their animal persona.
Hudsy Hawn: That sheds some great light on the differences, thank you. Are there listings available with resources for those curious about attending classes, events, parties and/or personal training?
Pepper: FetLife is always the best place to get started. And I will always recommend the Los Angeles Pony and Critter Club, the Equus International Pony Play Event or Woof Camp for human pups.
Hudsy Hawn: What advice would you give to someone who desires this type of relationship but can’t find a willing consensual partner?
Pepper: A lot of people worry about finding a partner because this is such a niche fetish. Many pets I know end up with a trainer who never considered doing pet play at all, and then got into it because of their pet. Many pets have separate "owners" and "trainers." It's all about good communication and negotiation.
Pollux: I'd just reiterate what she said, but with an emphasis on how foolish it is not to satisfy your partner if they ask for this. As far as kinks go, it's one of the easiest to fulfill for your partner. And if you're really unable to do so, it's a kink that you can let them explore with another person that in many cases doesn't usually require or include sex or nudity.
Hudsy Hawn: What are some of the safety concerns to be aware of when engaging in animal play?
Pepper: From the pet perspective, it's important to make your physical limitations known to your handler, since many people don't speak during pet play. If you have a bad back or bad knees or a place you don't like to be grabbed, your trainer absolutely needs to know! It's important for trainers to learn to read body language.
Pollux: Physically, a trainer often fulfills a role similar to a coach in any sport. Help them fulfill their goals, make sure they stretch, drink water and take breaks.
Hudsy Hawn: Are Animal Play interactions ever sexual? What are the parameters for engaging in sexual interaction?
Pepper: For many, sex is a hard limit. After all, they're thinking of themselves as an animal, and most animals do not want to be bred outside of heat. It's important to negotiate before you start the scene or go into headspace about what's expected.
Hudsy Hawn: How do those in animal space signal their scene partners?
Pepper: I have no way of signaling my partner if something's wrong, so it's up to him to be able to identify if I'm feeling tired or need a break. This is something we're able to do after years of being in a relationship. For new relationships, I would recommend an agreed upon gesture or sound to use. This is especially important if you're wearing a hood, a bit, or a gag and can't speak.
Hudsy Hawn: I have seen you both out in the scene for years and have observed your participation in several events. Care to share any favorite memories?
Pepper: Winning Best in Show at DomCon, two years in a row, that just floored me!
Hudsy Hawn: The Anne Rice Claiming of Sleeping Beauty erotica books definitely created Pony Play enthusiasts. Is there other literature out there you’d recommend that highlights other animal roles?
Pollux: I recommend Sharp Teeth by Tony Barlow. It's about werewolves, which is pretty distant, but I think it's a great read.
(Pepper and Pollux at DomCon 2015 by Thomas Lyons Photography)
Pepper: Of course, subMissAnn’s Pony books are an amazing resource but for play, Woof! by Michael Daniels and Bark! by Justin St. Clair are the two biggies. If you go to GoodReads, there are over 200 titles on pet play!
Hudsy Hawn: So, let’s turn now to a Horse of a different color. Miss Ann, can you share the first
moment you remember discovering a love for Pony Play and why you chose the animal role you did?
subMissAnn: Well, it started with the book you all just mentioned. A Dom had me fill out a ten page BDSM checklist but I had zero idea what “Pony Play" was. I hadn’t heard of The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty but after reading Anne Rice’s books, I had Pony Play images tickling my mind. Fast forward later to Fetish Shoots in National Parks, Stampede Meetings, and finally, training in Golden Gate Park. I fell deeply into the role of being a Pony. “Beauty” was born and my entire life shifted.
(Photo of subMissAnn by Derek Williams Photography)
Hudsy Hawn: I remember reading those Anne Rice books and wishing I was trotting on the bridal path, too! As Pepper mentioned, your book Pony Play with subMissAnn is the perfect way for a new pony to get started. What else would you suggest for beginners?
subMissAnn: There are other books as well. Besides mine, I also recommend checking out the Pony Play shelf on GoodReads. If you are a Pony Trainer and don’t yet have a playmate, find a club or event. The learning curve is high to become a Pony Trainer but the rewards, feeling of satisfaction, are of a level I have not found in any other play I have explored.
Hudsy Hawn: What are some mistakes new Pony enthusiasts make early on?
subMissAnn: Don't start by buying all the fancy expensive tack right away. While you’re first learning your role and practicing, find an event to go to, look at what other Ponies have and then invest more money on the things that work best for you. For example, The Stockroom has some amazing gear like the Pony Head Bridle. You can start with simple basic needs and work your way up to collecting everything.
Hudsy Hawn: I would also think that observing Bio Equestrian sites would be a perfect way to observe all roles in this dynamic.
subMissAnn: Yes, go watch a Pony and their Trainer. Do and have the things they do.
Hudsy Hawn: Have you encountered any negatives from others in the BDSM scene?
subMissAnn: Pony Play is very fun but with that comes a judgement that it isn't serious BDSM play with any meaning or depth to it.
Hudsy Hawn: How can a fledgling Pony make new friends, seek mentors and find handlers?
subMissAnn: Fetlife.com has Pony Play groups and we try to make sure that everyone plays at events. I have never seen anyone left out. We are a herd. If I am there, you can introduce yourself. There is nothing that thrills me more than talking with someone new.
Hudsy Hawn: How can others be respectful around people in Pony space, and what safety concerns should newcomers be aware of?
subMissAnn: Some go very deep into Pony head space and may kick, scream, bite, butt heads, run you over, or be super gentle. Always take your movements with care, like you would around a horse. If the pony has an owner, handler, or groom, ask them for permission before you go trying to pet their pretty Pony.
Hudsy Hawn: Do Ponies have safe words?
subMissAnn: For safe words, I recommend a designated hoof plodding!
Hudsy Hawn: Aside from being a famous Pony, you’re also quite the accomplished Trainer. Can you share a favorite moment in Top role?
subMissAnn: I remember the day I was standing behind Speckles, holding his reins and taking him through his paces. His stance, body carriage and execution of each gait was perfect. He was completely listening for each non-verbal language cue I gave him. We were one, in tune with each other. I was in love with the beauty, the form, and the power of having body modified and trained this powerful stallion in my control.
Hudsy Haw: And that’s what it’s all about isn’t it? No matter what BDSM niche we are into, when practiced safely it can bring great rewards. And when you have a play partner to steer or lead you, the experience is rewarding for everyone.
(Photo of subMissAnn by Fausto Palafox Photography)
Pepper Pups and her Handler, Pollux, are active members of the L.A. Pony and Critter Club. Pepper has won two Best in Show awards and has taught several classes on pet play, specifically focusing on the puppy perspective. In addition to training Pepper, Pollux enjoys domination and roleplay. When they're not pupping out at parades, conventions, or festivals, Pollux & Pepper can be found enjoying time with their three bio-dogs. You might run into them at the L.A. Pony and Critter Club.
subMissAnn has been a longstanding member of the BDSM Community for over two decades. She became interested in Pony Play in 2006 and has participated in Folsom Fair since 2007. Exploring Pony Play led her to Pony Mistress Rebecca Wilcox, with whom she shares the North American Pony/Trainer 2009 Leather Title. SubMissAnn formed the Los Angeles Pony and Critter Club in December of 2009 and is the producer of the North American Pony/Trainer Contest. She is a published contributor to Equus Eroticus Magazine and the author of Pony Play with subMissAnn.