Thursday, November 27, 2014

One smart pony!

Princess Fancy Pants is smart. Really smart. Too smart. I'm going to have to up it on the smartness meter myself in order to work with her!

Here's just one example. At night the horses get hay bags in their stalls to keep them munching slowly all night long. At night when I tuck her into bed, Princess Fancy Pants's hay bag is hanging from a ring on the wall of her stall. Half of the time when I come into the barn the next morning, her hay net is on the floor. There is no destruction. The ring on the wall is perfectly intact. The haybag is perfectly intact. It is even still attached to the carabiner that I use to clip it to the ring on the wall. The carabiner is intact and closed. Nothing has come loose, is broken, or otherwise undone. I don't know how that happens!

Since it was raining last week, I hadn't worked with PFP in a little while. Yesterday's horse massage therapist had to cancel because she was sick, so it was PFP's day to go to school!

She's not great about having her feet done, so I brought her to the trailer and tied her up and gave her a nice grooming and did her feet a few times. I noticed (and Mac sometimes does this, too) that when I'd pick up a front leg, she'd cock the diagonal hind leg, so really she'd be balancing on two legs! Why....????? I try to make sure she is somewhat square and balanced before picking up a front hoof, but when I pick up one, the other would come up - I'll have to observe that more and see what I can come up with.

Oh! And I introduced the clippers yesterday! I don't clip my horses, actually. But I do have little men's facial clippers that I use for under the jowls and trimming the whiskers (but not clipping them close to the skin, just taking the ends off). I turned on the clippers and she sort of looked at them, like "what is that?" but didn't seem really scared or anything. So I moved to her whiskers and took of the ends of a couple and that was a little ticklish because she shook her head around a little bit. I repeated this many times, with just trimming a tiny bit and in a few places and I'd turn the clippers off and on each time. Then I went under her jowls and did the long hairs that grow there. Again, just a little bit and in many stops and starts. She got lots of Good Girls for that!

Since she's not good with her feet I decided to get a rope and grabbed my flag for the heck of it and we went back to the arena. Lucky me there was a big puddle there from the rain, but more on that later.

I started off in the arena with her front feet with something I learned at one of Buck's clinics. I put the rope around her pastern and, in addition to still having her in hand on the halter and lead rope, "lead" her by lifting and moving a front foot and having her follow where the foot goes. She caught on to that right away.

Next I thought I'd prepare her for future ground driving by working with the lead rope on on the halter and the other rope on her back. The other rope was just loose and not attached to anything. I started by tossing it over her back and then gathering up the other end (like a makeshift girth) and walking her with that sort of tightened. Then I moved it back a few inches and did the same, then back by her flank and did the same. At first she was a little jumpy, but she actually got over that pretty quickly and accepted it. Then I tossed the rope over her back and let the end of it dangle on the other side of her, and I'd "jump" it back toward her butt a little bit. That was better on the near side than the off side. This was all at a stand still. Then I did the same while walking and that was a little exciting at times. Until I gave her a treat for calmly walking and halting. Then it became much more motivating to be a polite pony! She catches on to things so quickly that I can't stay on one exercise for too long, so once that was good we moved on.

Next was the puddle. We just walked back and forth through the puddle. There was also a cavaletti on the ground in its lowest position because I was using it to make a corner with the rail on the long side of the fence (my arena has a weird shape and at the far end there are no corners). We took advantage of that and both walked through the puddle and over the cavaletti in the puddle. That didn't take long at all.

Next up was "mounting" practice - I just want her to be okay with the height of my upper body above her. I have a wooden coop jump in the corner of the arena (one of the bona fide corners) so I led her up to it and I stood on top of it. She didn't care one bit. So then I jumped off of it. And she didn't care about that, either. I did it a few times with her on either side of the coop and she didn't care either way. Okay, so that was boring.

I then got my mounting block and put it next to her and she thought it was interesting but not really worthy of note. So I climbed on that and led her around to try to line her up. That was a little harder because there are weeds in the corners and she'd rather eat those so she didn't pay much attention to me. Keeping my weight/balance on the mounting block, I did sort of lean/lay across her back. But that didn't get much - if any - reaction, either. Oh well.

So we went back to the trailer and I had it open for her. I just stood on the ramp and she stepped on. And I just stood there and she took another step so all four feet were on the ramp. Then I stepped just inside the trailer and she had two feet in and two feet on the ramp. And then she realized there was hay to be eaten so she went in more and more. I just stood there. I didn't give any flag waving motivation to her, I just stood there. Eventually I offered a feel with my rope and asked her to go forward a bit more and she did. It was all very relaxed and calm and uninteresting.

With that we called it a day! Good job, Princess Fancy Pants!

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